Seeking Military Authenticity in Disney’s Planes

Now in theatres, “Disney’s Planes” sports a bevy of military references, including a crew of characters that reflect the look and demeanor of service men and women. Filmmakers ensured authenticity by enlisting the U.S. Navy and other retired and former military personnel during the making of the film.

Director Klay Hall said his personal connections with aviation and the military made the collaboration extra special. “Being the son of a Navy pilot, I was beyond honored to have the opportunity to work with the military on our film,” said Hall. “They opened their doors to our team, provided incredible insight and made a personal dream come true when they welcomed us onto the decks of the awe-inspiring USS Carl Vinson earlier this year.”

Aboard the USS Carl Vinson

Members of the production team visited the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, which boasts a rich history dating back to its launch in 1980, proved to be great reference for a scene in the film that’s set on an aircraft carrier. Producer Traci Balthazor-Flynn joined Hall and a few other members of the team, observing target practice, plus a number of takeoffs, including a Hornet, helicopters and C-2 Greyhound cargo planes. “Landing on the aircraft carrier, then riding it into the harbor ranks right up there among the top 10 things I’ve done in my life,” said Balthazor-Flynn. “It was fantastic speaking to the crew—we even ran some of the film’s dialogue by a few of the officers.”

Said Capt. Paul Spedero, executive officer, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), “When we host guests at sea, it’s our sincere hope that in providing access to the ship, crew and daily operations of an aircraft carrier, it will provide them a unique and authentic perspective on what it means to be a Sailor in the U.S. Navy. We answered all of the questions the team had about different aspects of ship operations because we had a common goal—an accurate portrayal of the U.S. Navy.”

Aboard the USS Carl Vinson

Added Hall, “There’s a crew of about 5,000 men and women—many are 18-19 years old. It made me truly proud to witness part of how our Navy works. We were able to fly in and tail hook on the deck, which is pretty cool.”

The team met with the ship’s officers, including the admiral, and was invited to record fighter jets while on board. The experience not only served as reference for a scene in the film, but for a character, too: USS Dwight D. Flysenhower (CVN 81), a revered aircraft carrier, who joins reclusive Navy Corsair Skipper Riley and fighter jets Echo and Bravo among the ranks of characters with military backgrounds.

Aboard the USS Carl Vinson

Additionally, the production team garnered special insights from the Blue Angels during the Reno Air Show. Capt. Tyson Dunkelberger, USMC, met with the team, showcasing the Blue Angel F/A-18 jets to provide visual reference for planes in the film and sharing information about the Blue Angels, aerobatic flying, their training and techniques.

Filmmakers sought a number of resources to perfect the jargon utilized between fighter jets Echo and Bravo. Among them were Lt. Cmdr. Jim “Fanus” Mittag from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron THREE-ZERO (VX-30) at Naval Base Ventura County, and longtime pilot Sean Bautista, a former Air Force top gunner in the 194th Squadron with 16 years of military flying experience (including F16 and F4 fighter jets) and 27 years as a professional pilot for the major airlines. Filmmakers also received support from 194th Fighter Squadron “The Griffins” and paid a visit to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, among other endeavors.

Aboard the USS Carl Vinson

Celebrating all service men and women, the Walt Disney Studios rolled out a series of special screenings of “Disney’s Planes” for military families coast to coast, and offered first-run availability of the film in several AAFES theaters within the continental U.S. for the first time ever. Special screenings for military families were launched in early August in the following locations:



LACKLAND AFB, San Antonio, Texas

HANSCOM AFB, Bedford, Mass.

FT MEADE, Baltimore, Md.

KEESLER AFB, Biloxi, Miss.

TRAVIS AFB, Fairfield, Calif.

FT JACKSON, Columbia, S.C.

FT HOOD, Killeen, Texas

FT STEWART, Hinesville, Ga.

FT WARREN, Cheyenne, Wyo.

FT LEWIS, Tacoma, Wash.

FT. SILL, Lawton, Okla.



SUBASE, Bangor, Wash.

NAS NORTH ISLAND, San Diego, Calif.


NAF EL CENTRO, El Centro, Calif.

NAS PATUXENT RIVER, Patuxent River, Md.




MCB YUMA, Yuma, Ariz.

MCAS MIRAMAR, San Diego, Calif.


Interested in reading more about Disney’s Planes? Take a look at The Story Behind the Story of Planes, featuring more about the research process behind the film, plus lots of great original concept art.

Posted 7 years Ago
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