From time immemorial (not quite), Disney has been putting a human face on fuzzy animals. And inanimate objects. And — a la “Cars” — modes of transportation. But maybe because he’s an aviation buff himself, director Klay Hall said that finding the personalities in “Planes” — his new DisneyToon Studios adventure that opened Friday — wasn’t such a stretch.
“If you start out with each of the basic forms of aircraft,” he said by phone from the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, Calif., “you can see within them visual characteristics that suggest certain traits. Some seem more timid; some suggest strength. And there’s everything in between.”
To develop their hangar-load of flying machines, Hall and his production team would go out, grab pictures of aircraft, match them up with performances by different actors, cut the dialogue with the airplane, and “go back and forth to see if the performance could resonate from that aircraft’s character.”
“That’s how we narrowed it down,” he said of the casting. “Plus, I’m a huge fan of standup comedians, and had made up a wish list of people who I wanted for this movie. In the end, I got everyone I asked for.”
“Everyone” includes Dane Cook, who voices Dusty Crop hopper, the tiny flyer with big dreams (who also happens to be afraid of heights); John Cleese, as the veddy British Bulldog; Brad Garrett (“Everybody Loves Raymond,” “How to Live With Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life”) as the fuel truck Chug; Cedric the Entertainer as the fertilizer-spraying tanker Leadbottom; Julia Louis-Dreyfus as ex-Canadian mail plane Rochelle, and Carlos Alazraqui (“Reno 911”) as Rochelle’s ardent pursuer El Chupacabra, a flamboyant racing plane in a lucha libre Mexican wrestling mask.
Others in the cast include Teri Hatcher, Stacy Keach and Roger Craig Smith, all of whom bring more to their vocal performances than name recognition.