'Planes: Fire & Rescue': Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen Honor Firefighters at L.A. Premiere
"We are celebrating the brave men and women that fight fires day in and day out, with a really heartwarming story to it," Cook told THR of Disney's animated sequel.
Planes, fire trucks and helicopters took over Hollywood Boulevard on Tuesday night when Disney's sequel Planes: Fire & Rescue debuted at the El Capitan Theatre.
Dane Cook reprises his role as Dusty Crophopper in the sequel to last year's surprise hit, about a crop duster who really wants to be a champion racer. In Fire & Rescue, Dusty embarks on a career in aerial firefighting after a damaged engine threatens to put an end to his racing career.
Cook said it was a "dream come true" to voice Dusty the first time around, and he was excited to step back into the role when John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and executive producer on the movies, asked him if he'd be interested.
"Getting a phone call from John Lasseter was like, in in my 24 years of performing, just like getting Willy Wonka to call you and say, 'Come in to the factory.' This is going to be unlike anything you've ever done before. It was like a dream come true," Cook told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet. "To get a second call from John Lasseter, saying, 'We'd like to do it again,' was outstanding."
Cook also noted the movie carries an important message.
"We are celebrating the brave men and women that fight fires day in and day out, with a really heartwarming story to it," he added.
Disney blocked off the street for the kid-friendly event, which featured several fire and rescue vehicles supplied by the Planes of Fame Air Museum, while the L.A. Fire Department provided coats, pants, helmets, boots and other firefighting equipment that kids could try on.
Outside the theater, director Bobs Gannaway said there was a concerted effort not to make the sequel's storyline "derivative of the previous film."
"We let our research inform our storytelling, so we went out and looked at the plane itself — that crop duster in real life is used in air attack … so Dusty sort of led us into this world," he added. "He pushed himself really hard to become a racer, and in real life his engine would be extremely stressed and potentially damaged. So we used that to explore the idea of, what if he injured himself and was never able to race again?"
In addition to Cook, other Planes voice actors reprising their roles include Teri Hatcher and Stacy Keach, while newcomers include Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Fred Willard, Erik Estrada, Curtis Armstrong, Hal Holbrook, Brad Garrett, Cedric the Entertainer, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.
For her part, Bowen said that her kids — she has a 7-year-old son and 5-year-old twin boys with husband Scott Phillips — think she is "cool" for being in a movie they can enjoy.
"They're going to think I'm cool — for one minute," quipped Bowen, dressed in a white DSquared shift dress. "They asked me on the ride over here, 'Are you gonna sit with us, or do you have to get up and go be [my character] Dipper?' There are times that I'm amazed at how young they still are — they do so much talking and then they ask a question like that. And I think, 'Yeah, that's weird, huh?' I used to think that Maxwell Smart, every night walking down the hallway, was getting his nose slammed in those doors, and I thought, 'That must hurt.' So I guess I'm not much better than they are,” she added, laughing.
Dipper, meanwhile, is a super-capacity air tanker capable of scooping up large amounts of water. Bowen's kids have already been playing with a toy figurine of her character, and watching them made her realize just how big Dipper is — something she is proud of.
"She's a big gal, and I like it — loud and proud," she said.
Willard voices the Secretary of the Interior, a rugged vehicle that oversees the national parks. He said seeing the movie — with his voice coming out of a Jeep's mouth — was surreal.
"[When] my character came off the train [in the movie], I thought, 'Is that me?' It's very strange to hear your voice and what they do with it," he said. "When you see the finished product, it's kind of like magic — that's me, but it’s not me — very strange. Usually I'm self-conscious if I see myself in a movie — I can't watch myself for like a year — but this I can watch because it's just my voice."
Estrada's character, meanwhile, is the star of a CHiPs-like TV show within the movie. Estrada, of course, starred in the hit 1977-83 series about California highway patrolmen.
"Some of the [filmmakers] who grew up watching CHiPs stuck this whole episode in the movie," he said. "It's a television show within the movie that's very important to the character played by Ed Harris. I'm his partner, this crazy, gregarious helicopter. That was a thrill for me."
Holbrook, who plays an old fire engine, said he was delighted when he first saw what his character looked like.
"I loved him! I loved the look of him," he said.
He also noted one extra benefit of starring in an animated movie.
"These Disney people are unbelievable; they'll stop at nothing," he said. "They just go all the way. They gave us a little toy, like a little car of who we were, and I got a little fire engine. I sent one to my grandson in Brooklyn, and he just loves it. I love it too. I used to love little cars when I was a boy."
Planes: Fire & Rescue, which was produced by Ferrell Barron, hits theaters Friday in 3D.