Disney’s Planes: Fire and Rescue is the fourth animated feature, after Cars (2006), Cars 2 (2011) and Planes (2013), to be set in that strange alternate reality in which there seemingly are no people, but the vehicles are sentient and anthropomorphic.
The conceit leads back, presumably, through Knight Rider and The Love Bug and My Mother, The Car through the early Hollywood cartoons with their rampant anthropomorphism to the habit of children—boys especially—to endow their toy cars and trucks and planes with personalities.
This time the hero of Planes, cropduster-turned-racer Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) learns that he needs a replacement part that’s no longer in production, without which he can no longer safely race. He ends up, like many other planes, finding a second career in wildland firefighting in the forests of northern California. There he gradually earns the respect of his fellow aircraft, a motley band of retardant-carriers and transport planes and helicopters voiced by the likes of Ed Harris, Julie Bowen and Wes Studi. The fearless smokejumpers which they drop into battle against huge forest fires are earth-movers, and the members of ground crew are forklifts.
Despite a respectful tone toward firefighting, a lot of wit goes speeding buy in the rapid-fire dialogue (“She left me for a hybrid. I didn’t hear it coming”) and the aerial action scenes have a sense of soaring grandeur. It’s all likely to make perfect sense to you if you’re under ten, but adults may find themselves wondering about literal matters—like exactly who, for instance, the corn is being grown for, unless perhaps it’s for ethanol subsidies.