Sure, Disney's Planes animated movie - manufactured by the direct-to-video entertainment specialist DisneyToon Studios - was an obvious attempt to cash-in on the popularity of the Cars franchise with toddlers (and kids going through the vehicle craze stage of puberty), but did it pay off? Quite handsomely, in fact, as it brought in $207 million worldwide ($89 million within the U.S.) against a $50 million cost.
Good thing, too, because the first installment concluded with an Avengers movie-style end credits tag, stating that protagonist Dusty Cropphopper (voiced by Dane Cook) would return in a sequel in Summer 2014, titled Planes: Fire and Rescue. Planes director Klay Hall was replaced by Roberts Gannaway - director on the House of Mouse cartoon series and two of the Lilo & Stitch direct-to-DVD spinoffs (Stitch! The Movie, Leroy & Stitch) - on Fire & Rescue, probably in large part because pre-production on the latter would've needed to have gotten underway well before the animation process was done on Planes number uno (in order for the sequel to reach theaters a year afterwards).
Fire and Rescue picks up with Dusty, as engine problems force him to leave the world of air racing (until further notice, anyway), in favor of helping to fight the battle against raging wildfires. (If there's not a Smokey the Bearcat vehicle character in the sequel, I'll be deeply disappointed.) As the trailer shows, Dusty meets new bright-eyed anthropomorphized flying/driving vehicles along the way, giving rise to many a one-note character and bad pun that the juice box crowd will appreciate - even as parents/adult guardians bemoan the fact that there's no new Pixar movie in theaters in 2014 that they could've taken their kids to see instead (and, unfortunately, the Despicable Me spinoff, Minions, doesn't arrive until 2015 either).
Complaints about Planes aside, the sequel does have a reasonable chance of improving ever so slightly on its predecessor. For instance, its craftsmanship ought to be more on par with a full-blooded theatrical release and not the cheap home release look of the first movie (with more sophisticated 3D shots added as a spicing). Faint hope, for sure, but when it comes to this 'toon franchise, we'll take whatever good omens we can get.
Planes: Fire & Rescue flies into U.S. theaters on July 18th, 2014.