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New Disney film ‘Planes’ isn’t Pixar, and the numbers show it

Published: Monday, Aug. 12 2013 7:28 p.m. MDT

The new Disney film “Planes” may be a “Cars” spinoff, but Pixar it ain’t.

First, some data: “Planes” just earned $22.5 million in its opening weekend, but since 2000 no Pixar film has ever pulled in less than $60 million in its first weekend. Also, “Planes” is riding a stinky Rotten Tomatoes score of 23 percent critical approval — still considerably below “Cars 2,” which at 39 percent remains the only Pixar flick to dip below 74 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

At this point you may be reminding yourself that Disney owns Pixar and wondering how “Planes” can be branded Disney and considered a spinoff of the Pixar “Cars” franchise without actually being a Pixar production. If so, “mistakenly believing 'Planes' is a Pixar flick is forgivable,” Mike P. Williams wrote for Yahoo Movies.

“But it's also sneaky the way Disney (and their in-house animation studio DisneyToons) have gone about it," Williams wrote. "Firstly, who are DisneyToons? Well, they're responsible for straight-to-DVD releases such as 'Bambi II' and 'The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning.' Secondly, the film was originally intended as a home release, but in a dubious attempt to latch onto existing 'Cars' and, indeed, Pixar fans, the decision for a summer theatrical release was agreed upon. … A lot of Disney-produced sequels over the past decade have been mediocre at best, and not worthy of cinema releases. But this is different. This has the nondirect backing of Pixar (and) by association can attempt to coast on (Pixar’s) success.”

In reviewing the film for the Christian Science Monitor, veteran critic Peter Rainer wrote, “‘Planes’ is an animated 3-D feature from Disney, but it’s not produced by Pixar, and therein lies the rub. Although Pixar itself has been on a creative slide as of late, you could always count on them for a fairly high level of wit and vroom and sometimes for a lot more than that.

"‘Planes,’ directed by Klay Hall, is a modest little squiggle about Dusty, a crop-duster who yearns to be a high-flying air racer. He finds the courage to succeed, which should surprise no one — not even the toddlers in the audience (most of whom, at the screening I attended, were pretty stone-faced throughout).”

Granted, nobody is suggesting “Planes” is inappropriate fare for children or families. But the Rotten Tomatoes one-sentence summary of Disney’s latest foray into feature-length animation capably encapsulates prevalent perception: “‘Planes’ has enough bright colors, goofy voices and slick animation to distract some young viewers for 92 minutes — and probably sell plenty of toys in the bargain — but on nearly every other level, it's a Disney disappointment.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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