Does ‘Planes’ Fit Into the Pixar Theory?

planes pixar theory

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.

planes pixar theory

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 CarsCars 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.


206 thoughts on “Does ‘Planes’ Fit Into the Pixar Theory?

  1. If you include Planes, then what about Meet the Robinson’s, John definitely had his hands all mixed up in that one too.

    • That was probably when they were getting smarter as humans and animals, because they were able to time travel as well (which could have been how the monsters traveled, but back to what I was saying) it was probably in the next few hundred years

      • Luis’ mom could be boo but he never saw her again because she went either back in time or further in the future. That could be why he’s so interested in time travel.

    • Meet the Robinsons is not Pixar

    • I don’t know. TECHNETLY it’s not a Pixar movie,even if John Lasseter did do some work on it. Plus,it wouldn’t work in the Pixar Theory. Figure it out.

    • and lasseter worked on zootopia, too, which semms it could go before monsters inc

  2. While I don’t like to pretend an element doesn’t exist just because it is difficult to explain (finding an in-universe explanation is much more fun than saying it’s not technically Pixar), I do think I have a way to generally disregard Planes and its’ sequels, if need be, while using an in-universe answer.
    Your theory works, given what we currently know from the films released thus far, but until the sequels are released, we won’t know for sure whether they will be workable. My idea also works for people who want to stick with only official Pixar releases being actual representations of the Pixar Universe:

    Planes is a movie in the Pixar universe.

    That is, a movie that the machines on earth, at or sometime after, the time of the Cars storylines, watch. They watch TV and movies, so why can’t Planes be one of those movies?

    What supports this?

    The Pixar Wikia points out two so-called “goofs” from the movie Planes. I argue they are not goofs but an example that the Planes universe is fictional, not the actual Cars universe (which would mean it’s not the Pixar universe).

    Goof 1:“In one of the stories in the World of Cars book, the Statue of Liberty is a Ford Model T. But in this film, it’s a forklift.” If the World of Cars books is an accurate representation of the Pixar universe at this time, then you could assume the Statue of Liberty has been made over as a Model T Ford. Maybe the machines view the Model T as a significant point in their history. The Model T would have come before Syndrome’s AI developments, but if he merely harnessed an energy that already existed, there could have been inklings and stirrings that machines hadn’t been able to yet control right? Or maybe there was some later machine, designed in the style of a Model T and this particular ‘person’ was the inspiration for the revision of the statue. For some stylistic reason, when the machines made the movie Planes, they made the statue a forklift. Maybe it was some in-joke or reference we do not understand because we are outsiders.

    Goof 2: “The designs of the world landmarks (such as the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China) do not resemble how they do in the credits at the end of Cars 2, as they were car-ified in that film. But here, they’re plane-ified.” Well in the Pixar universe, machines are, at the time of the Cars movies, now in power. So we’ll accept that they have modified, or else destroyed and rebuilt, monuments to be more reflective of their culture. But since they are making a fictional movie focused on Planes, they are showing things to be more plane-themed in the movie, just for stylistic reasons.

    Additionally, In the Air Mater short (and all the Cars Toons are officially Pixar, right? They are on Pixar’s website), Mater claims “they should make a whole movie about planes!” The short also has some characters and locations from Planes. Now that does mean we have to explain the overall existence and meaning of the Cars Toons in general.

    One of two explanations is possible. One is that within the Pixar universe, the Cars Toons are fictional TV shorts, just like they are for us, only their intended audience is the machines, not us. So Mater smiling in our direction really is him making a meta reference to an upcoming movie – it’s just directed towards the machines watching. If this is the case, it is not problematic that Mater actually exists in the Cars/Pixar universe as well as being in TV/entertainment shorts. People in our real world appear as themselves, or fictionalized versions based on themselves in movies and TV all the time.

    The other possibility is that the action of Mater telling stories is real – he really is telling stories to McQueen and other cars. The actual Tall Tales are not real though – they are just Mater making stuff up. Even when something seems to be proved real at the end of the story, it’s not. I’s just a continuation of Mater’s fantasy. ie, in the case of Air Mater, he doesn’t really fly off at the end, he just drives off, while imagining he’s flying, just as kids ride a bike and pretend it’s a horse. That places and people in Mater’s fantasy are in the movie would not be problematic either. Either he has already seen the movie and it was the basis or inspiration for his fantasy, or there are some real places and machines that were fictionalized in the movie (again, we fictionalize people, places, and events in movies. Why can’t the machines do the same?)

    And while this is different from your proposed theory, it doesn’t completely reject it either. The movie Planes may well be fictionalizing current events and issues the machines are facing or that they fear will come to pass. It could also borrow elements from Pre–AI history (the War images are then reminiscent of WW2 because they are based on information the machines have about that time period) either for stylistic reasons or as a warning (the infighting for resources has begun and the moviemakers are reminding the viewers of a time when the humans fought among themselves).

    • This comment doesn’t get much attention. It deserves more.
      This theory was beautifully crafted, with PLENTY of evidence to back it up.
      Shelly, I salute you.

    • It’s Pixar-creption!!

    • I always thought that Mater’s Tall Tales were actually him recalling events from his and Lightning McQueen’s past. Notice in the first tall tale – Mater the Greater – at the end, Lightning jumps the canyon and “didn’t make it” – according to Mater. This happened AFTER all of the other tall tales, many years before the events of CARS. Lightning was, in fact, destroyed by the fall, and rebuilt by Doc Hudson, but with none of his memories. Hence why Mater is so friendly to him right off the bat, and why Doc wants him gone – to not force Mater relive the old memories of him and Lightning before his destruction. Doc is using the race car thing as an excuse to cover up the fact that Mater’s stunt career essentially cost Lightning his life. Mater pretends to not know Lightning because he understands that this is not the Lightning he once knew and befriended, and doesn’t want their friendship to become reckless and lead down the same path it did before that led to Lightning’s fall down the grand canyon…

      • Uh……. That’s kinda depressing.

        • Yeah, ever notice a LOT of stuff in the Pixar theory is really depressing? Unfortunately, it works really well…

      • Ok, I think your reading way to much into that. I agree more with Shelly and the tall tales are all in Maters head. I’m pretty sure that if lighting McQueen actually was rebuilt and lose some of his memory, his attitude wouldn’t be affected to much. He’s be a whole lot nicer to Mater even if he doesn’t remember him

      • That would explain why at the end Lightning always says ‘that never happened.’

        • I think that theory is baloney. Mater is just making stuff up. His stories did not happen. At least I hope they didn’t. McQueen falling to his death is a bit too depressing for my liking.

        • If Mater wasn’t lying, then wouldn’t that mean a UFO existed, indicating alien life (or somehow connected to human civilization in space).

    • so you’re saying that planes is just a fictional movie in the cars universe?

  3. kllllllllllllllllllllkllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll

  4. Planes takes place at the same time as cars (I think) because one of the very first trailers for planes on Disney Channel showed mater and lightning talking and then the plane flying above them and the logo that says planes appeared

  5. Couldn’t the world of Cars and Planes be a mirror universe to the human world? Since cars copy pretty much everything human. Something that I always thought that Cars is a mirror universe. For the record, Cars is one of my favorite movies. Most people don’t like Cars because that don’t slow down and listen to what the moral of Cars was: To slow down every now and then and enjoy what you have around you.

  6. Sorry to burst your bubble but the latest Planes movie has a picture of the firetruck next to Sarge, indicating they are at least within the same lifetime of one another.

    • And Mater met Skipper and Sparky in an episode of Cars Toons. I’d say that the movies take place around the same time period, but that does not mean you theory isn’t true. It just means they are closer together.

    • Not only that but skipper and sparky appeared in the 10th episode of cartoons called ‘air mater’ in which they taught mater to fly. Which means car and planes did not have a huge time gap.

  7. Brent Mustangbeger – announcer at the World Grand Prix in Cars 2 and at the Wings Around the Globe race in Planes. The above theory about Planes being an in-universe movie isn’t discredited by this, but it hurts the idea of Planes being long after the Cars films. We also saw sentient boats (Crabby Boat and the big ones used by Professor Z) and planes in Cars 2 (Siddely), adding to the idea that these exist during Lightning McQueen’s era.

    I prefer to think of the movies as parallels or at least within similar ranges of time. I would be unsurprised if the next Cars sequel or the about to launch Radiator Springs series doesn’t make some more references to the Planes characters, just like someone pointed out happened in Mater’s Tall Tales.

      • Jon telling to Jon, Jonception. Also, don’t know if this proves anything but in this trailer to planes: it starts out with Mater and McQueen, impossible to miss, being the only thing the camera focuses on.

        • How did this stupid tablet make replying to into telling to?

      • We can assume that machines last longer than people so maybe it probably is a long time after, but some of the characters are still around since the machine’s are able to repair themselves

  8. If skipper fought in ww2 around 1940, how could have planes existed before brave(Around 1950) if planes happened sometime after cars which happened after wall-e?
    Someone please help me

    • Planes didn’t exist before Brave. Brave happened way back in the Middle Ages. Planes presumably goes on around the same time as Cars, centuries after WALL-E and maybe around 1000 years after Brave.

  9. Jon Negroni, when are you updating this project? You should mention that the movies are more like parallels,
    due to;
    1. Mater meeting Skipper in Cars Toons.
    2. The World Grand Prix announcer announcing Wings Around the Globe
    3. A photo of Sarge in Planes 2

    Also, could the planned upcoming episode of Sofia the First featuring Merida disprove the Pixar Theory?

  10. I never under stude what happened to doc in cars 2

      • The guy who voiced him died, so they implied the character himself died, smart, if you ask me. Though I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

  11. I’d like to point out something: There is a scene in Planes where Ned and Zed were referencing movies such as Rocky and Old Yeller. One of them (can’t remember which) complained that his SkyPad was broken, which is an obvious reference to iPad and, to a further extent, Apple. This means the machines are aware of famous companies and parodied them (they’re also aware of movies, as said above). However, that begs the question of how they knew about it when that was way behind their time. There is the possibility they know because the machines rose to power in the time period that these were released. Does anyone have any other theories/answers/ideas?

  12. I think I know how planes fit into the Pixar theory. So one day when boo was traveling through the doors see went into the future and saw planes and let a Easter egg into cars. A car saw this Easter egg and decided to create a working version but couldn’t. So he enlisted the help of a forklift, they created a plane and soon there was many planes. But soon they would run out of stuff to make fuel. So the forklifts (THATS WHY FORKLIFTS ARE STILL IN THE PLANES WORLD) and half the planes stayed and the cars and other half of the planes went to Europe to find more Resources. When the Cars got their the claimed Europe as their own. ( THAT’S WHY EUROPE IS NOT ON THE PLANES MAP CAUSE ITS NOT THEIR LAND ITS THE CARS) Then the cars wanted the land to them selves so the had a war (THE WAR THAT SKIPPER FOUGHT IN)with the panes that were there. The cars won the fight. The other planes moved to Asia. The reason skipper says he from Europe is because is (HE WAS BUT NOT FOR LONG) This also explains why skipper doesn’t trust any plane.

  13. Ok, so if you argue that because its written by John Lasseter it has to be included, what about The Brave Little Toaster? Most of the original members of Pixar worked on this, with Joe Ranft especially being credited as a main writer and character creator.

  14. Further more, what about The Black Cauldron? This is another movie with several of the Pixar crew in their early days. It would also tie in with a theory regarding magic. Brave Little Toaster clearly emphasizes inanimate objects coming to life and becoming depressed without human interaction, just like Toy Story, their “Master” even leaves them behind on the way to college, just like Andy in Toy Story 3. The appliances go on a dangerous journey to get to the master, again, like the toys in the Toy Story movies.

  15. Really great article. But what about tangled frozen and zootopia?are they not also pixar movies?

    • Zootopia, Tangled and Frozen are not Pixar movies, only Disney. I have heard there is reference to Buy N Large in Zootopia but I haven’t noticed that part for sure.

  16. I really like your theory and most of it fits really well, but this part about Cars and Planes happening while the humans were gone is objectively wrong. The city WALL-E is in is completely untouched. The big holographic billboard for the Axiom is still there at the start of the movie. If machines did rule the world and inhabit it like they do in Cars why was that city not touched in the slightest.

    • I see Cars and Planes as the same series with a different cast. Any time I mention Cars I’m really referring to both.

      Personally I think Cars is the result of humans coming back to Earth. Cars definitely can’t come before WALL-E, there isn’t really a place that it could fit. But WALL-E has better tech so we need a reason why Cars has worse tech. Cars also deform their bodies to move in human like ways. Lastly we need a reason why their society mirrors our own so much.

      The humans couldn’t physically do all the labor required to get the planet back in shape so they made machines to help them. Fearful of artificial intelligence, cuz ya know basically held hostage by an overzealous auto pilot, they made machines that required a driver, hence the doors and windshields in Cars. They would also be lacking resources, especially energy, so they’d need to design them to be less power hungry then whats on board the Axiom (wheels and combustion engines instead of hover chairs and rockets).

      This is where things get tricky. You can’t just kill off or remove humans from the planet. We know from Toy Story that inanimate objects lose their personification when they don’t interact with humans. There’s no evidence that Cars have any sort of A.I. or robotic technology. Even if they did they wouldn’t be able to deform their shape like they do to do things like smile or frown. But toys from Toy Story can, like the piggy bank. If he couldn’t, he wouldn’t be able to move as his only moving part is the stopper in his belly.

      Humans need to be there in some kind of capacity while never being seen. There are a few ways to do this but lets stick with the most kid friendly version. Magically infusing human essence or souls or whatever it is that objects get from being around humans, into the machines. They would then be able to get that energy from each other just as humans do. A lack of social interaction can really mess you up. I have no idea why or how they would do this. Maybe Boo stops there on her way to the future and does it, or aliens do it or they themselves do it. Who knows? Maybe there’s a missing movie that will fill that gap. I don’t really have an explanation for it.

      In WALL-E the captain has a massive database covering everything about earth. It’s not much of a stretch to think that the humans would use it to try and rebuild earth how it was in its “prime”. Keeping places named the same and rebuilding monuments and cultures. Because Cars are “part” human (or at least human like) with the same cultures and attitudes they’re going to end up repeating the same mistakes that we made, like World War 2.

  17. Skipper from planes was in Air Mater in Cars Toons

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