It’s time to talk about what none of us wants to talk about.
It’s a question that I’ve been asked daily for months now, so I’ve decided to give my official opinion on the matter.
The fact is that Planes was not developed by Disney Pixar. It was actually animated by DisneyToon Studios, Disney’s production company for straight-to-DVD releases that include the infamous Tinkerbell spin-offs from Peter Pan.
At that point, most people write the movie off and declare that it cannot fit into the Pixar Theory Timeline because it is not actually Pixar. I can’t argue with that logic, but there is something else that is important to consider: John Lasseter.
He wrote the story, and as most Pixar movie fans know, Lasseter is basically the guy in charge of everything creative in Pixar. The trouble is that Pixar and Disney have become much less distinct in recent years, as evidenced by Pixar’s creative decisions revolving around sequels.
That’s all to say that while Planes may not technically be a Pixar production, it is a Pixar movie. It clearly exists in the same world, and I have no choice but to include it in the theory, no matter how much I don’t want to.
Now, I watched the movie, and I have to admit that it was almost enjoyable, if only because I’ve always been charmed by the Cars aesthetic. It may not come anywhere near a true Pixar movie, but it does fit into the barely decent Cars universe well.
If you have not yet read the Pixar Theory, read that before going further, since we’re about to discuss events and story elements that won’t make much sense otherwise.
Done? Good! Let’s begin.
Some time after the events of Up, BNL exiled all humans to space in order to quell the natural imbalance being stirred by the increasingly intelligent animal populations. While humans were gone, the machines became the dominant species on Earth, as we see in Cars, Cars 2 and Planes.
In Cars, we see a world with human landmarks and cities that are now being populated by machines. We know humans had to be there at some point because things like sidewalks still exist. In Planes, the Statue of Liberty looks like a machine, but John F. Kennedy airport still exists.
What about animals? You can see the birds from the short, For the Birds, in Cars while Mack is on the highway. There are also references to animals throughout the Cars movies via posters, plastic flamingos and other symbols. It’s reasonable to conclude that animals existed at one point and are not as prevalent anymore.
One of the main takeaways from Cars 2 is that resources have become scarce. The machines are seeking alternatives to oil, and the story revolves around an evil corporation using dangerous fuel to suit their own needs.
This brings us to Planes, which I firmly believe takes place a long time after Cars 2. One of the major story elements of Planes is that the main character, Dusty, learns to race under his mentor, Skipper. We learn that Skipper fought in a war that took place in the Pacific, reminiscent of World War II.
Throughout the movie, there is a map that shows the “World Race” (or Piston something, I forget) and all 7 continents. One continent is noticeably missing: Europe. Asia is blanketed over that entire continent, but we know that Europe does exist in this world.
It was one of the settings in Cars 2, and a few characters in Planes come from European countries. The race cuts through Europe, so it makes no sense that this map would exclude it. But we do know that some major war took place between what may have been Asia and Europe.
What would this war be about? Resources. Early in Planes, it’s established that corn is now a sought-after fuel source for the machines. This is probably because the resources for fuel are beginning to fade completely.
There’s more evidence. During Planes, we’re introduced to a British plane who competed in the European Cup (so Europe does still have to exist). Initially, he is reluctant to trusting anyone and is the only major racer from Europe.
This is odd since there are multiple Americans and Asians competing in the race, which you can see if you watch the flags closely on the racing stats. At the very least, this all points to a scenario that hints at what may have doomed the machines that disappeared before the events of Wall-e.
I believe that these movies hint at a combination of pollution and resource scarcity that resulted in endless in-fighting between the machines until there was nothing left. That’s not much of a stretch when you consider that humans were away from Earth for 700-800 years.
Planes will have two more sequels, one of which is coming out next year. Planes: Fire & Rescue will be about a raging wildfire that is being combated by Dusty and, well, more planes. My guess is that this will shed more light on how the environment was decimated while the machines dominated the planet.
Hopefully, more information surrounding Planes and your feedback will lead to more updates on this post, so feel free to correct me or add something you think is interesting.
Ready for more?
The conspiring doesn’t end here. Check out my other Pixar Theory posts from infinity to beyond:
- The Pixar Theory – the full book available on paperback and ebook via Kindle, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, or just a PDF. This will cover the entire theory and every movie in the Pixar universe, updated from what you just read.