Sky-High Hopes

Planes director Klay Hall talks about creating a world above the clouds

Aug 09, 2013 | By Cameron Keady
©2013 DISNEY ENTERPRISES

Dusty Crophopper takes to the sky in hopes of becoming a worldwide racing champion.

For Dusty Crophopper, a small-town plane, life on the farm feels a bit too slow. He dreams of becoming a world-famous racing champion. But Dusty isn’t built for speed, and he’s afraid of heights. When he gets the opportunity of a lifetime, Dusty must face his fears head on.

Disney’s Planes is a 3-D adventure set in the same world as Cars. It’s a tale of friendship, bravery, and determination. The film’s director, Klay Hall, has worked on other animated features, including The Simpsons and Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure. Hall spoke with TFK about his love of aviation and animation, and how he took those passions to new heights.

TFK:

What's the basic story line?

KLAY HALL:

In many respects, it’s a universal story. It is about Dusty Crophopper, who is a small, crop-dusting plane living in rural America. Deep down, he has a desire to do something bigger than what he was built for, yet he is fearful of trying. But with the help of friends, he learns that if you’re able to challenge yourself, you may be surprised at the results. 

Director Klay Hall visits the Taj Mahal in India, one of the many sites featured in the film.
©2013 DISNEY ENTERPRISES
Director Klay Hall visits the Taj Mahal in India, one of the many sites featured in the film.

TFK:

How did you create the story of Planes in the world of Cars?

HALL:

As I was finishing my last film, executive producer John Lasseter and I began talking about future projects. We discovered we were both geeks with passions about airplanes, trains, and cars, and decided to expand the universe of Cars. John was aware I had some aviation background, so he came up with the broad concept and we sat down and cracked open the story. 

TFK:

This is a very colorful cast. Can you tell us about some of the key characters?

HALL:

One of the most important characters in the film is Dusty’s mentor, Skipper. Skipper is an old school, World War II veteran—he’s been there, he’s seen it, and acts kind of like the tough football coach. He sees ability and potential in Dusty and helps him reach his goal.

Then there is Ripslinger, the antagonist, who doesn’t think Dusty belongs on the race circuit at all.

Back home, Dusty has Chug, a fuel truck and his best friend, and Dottie, the mechanic. They are a great support team and are always hoping for the best for Dus

TFK:

What was the process for choosing the plane types and countries to be represented in the film?

HALL:

Working with Disney/Pixar, it’s all about research. To create these characters, we needed to see different parts of the world and talk to the people that live it and breathe it. Once we obtained all that information, we weaved it back into the film. 

TFK:

Do you have a favorite character?

HALL:

They all have moments where they shine. I really love El Chupacabra, the Mexican champion. He has such a sincere warmth and humanity. When he meets Dusty, he hasn’t flown around the world either. This places the two planes on common ground, and for that, he embraces Dusty.

Chug (pictured left) and Skipper (right) are Dusty's support team back home.
©2013 DISNEY ENTERPRISES
Chug (pictured left) and Skipper (right) are Dusty's support team back home.

TFK:

Can you relate to Dusty’s fears and reservations?

HALL:

I channeled a lot of my earlier fears in life through Dusty’s character, like my first opportunity to direct a movie. During that time, I had to just say to myself, “I’ve got a support team, I have people who believe in me, I have to go for it.” 

TFK:

You come from a family of aviators. What was it like working on a film about airplanes?

HALL:

The whole production has been a dream come true. It has been amazing to see aviation history firsthand during our travels for the film.

My father was a pilot, his dad was a pilot, and they passed that love of aviation on to me. I grew up loving airplanes and started sketching them at an early age. I then became infatuated with animation. Planes was the perfect opportunity for these worlds to collide.

TFK:

Did you ever want to be a pilot?

HALL:

I am not a certified pilot, but I have flown planes. Although, I haven’t taken off or landed myself yet – that I need to work on.  When I was 12 years old, my dad gave me flying lessons for Christmas, so I started flying at an early age. But working on this film for the past four years has been a labor of love and I haven’t been able to fly much. When I have more time, I’m going to try and finish my lessons.

TFK:

Do you have a favorite scene from the movie?

HALL:

Skipper’s flashback scene is emotionally and action-wise one of the coolest. I also love when the Pan-Asian champion, Ishani, befriends Dusty and takes him on a tour around the Taj Mahal. In this scene, we see the landscapes of India and its vibrant colors. There are times you really feel like you’re flying.

TFK:

Why should kids see Planes?

HALL:

It teaches viewers that it’s okay to be fearful or hesitant about certain things. It’s not about always trying to win but about being respectful, about honor, and about truth. Planes is an amazing, fun adventure that embraces different cultures and ethnicities around the world. You really experience what it’s like to fly.

Planes lands in theaters on August 9.