Following up on the financial, if not critical, success of Planes, the Disney machine have realised they have a new potential franchise on their hands and have put more effort into this one – resulting in a much better story than before, though it’s still released by DisneyToon Studios who are relatively new at producing theatrical films and not straight to DVD sequels. Again aimed at a young family audience, parents might nevertheless find it quite enjoyable, despite being lighter on the occasional subterfuge of adult comedy compared to most of Disney’s output. The graphics are top notch as one would expect, but probably its biggest boon is the introduction of some solid voice acting from the likes of Ed Harris and Wes Studi, and a screenplay that deviates, thankfully, from regurgitating another race related contrivance and instead sees primary hero Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) effectively disabled at the beginning, forcing him to consider a change of career.
The somewhat antiquated fire department at his local airport provides him with the inspiration he needs to come to terms with his injury (his gearbox can’t handle really high speeds and conks out) as the popular terminal faces being shut down unless they can upgrade it, and thus he enlists for fire and rescue training (crop dusters were actually some of the first planes modified and used for fire fighting in the 1950s) introducing a raft of new characters, predominantly more interesting ones than in the original, and a new primary location. It’s a polished and morally strong animation for kids, with occasional moments of unexpected class, like the rescue team talking about how thunder and lightning can start forest fires as they are summoned to put one out, and then AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ playing as we watch them do just that, slightly à la ‘Iron Man 2’ (10) – although Marvel are actually owned by Disney, and indeed what is alluded to right at the end of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ also manages to sneak its way into a scene here ….