This weekend is the opening of DisneyToon Studios’ Planes directed by TV animation veteran Klay Hall (King of the Hill, Father of the Pride and the D2V release Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure). The Pixar-inspired film has been poorly received by both critics and audiences; it owns a 25% critics’ grade on Rotten Tomatoes and a 62% audience grade. The film does have an A- CinemaScore grade, but I find CinemaScore’s ratings to be entirely useless since almost every family film that they report grades for has an A of some sort. According to them, audiences gave Smurfs 2 and Planes A- grades, and Turbo, Monsters University, Epic and Despicable Me 2 all received A grades. Were the audiences that CinemaScore polled truly that undiscerning about the quality of this year’s animated films? I find that hard to believe.
Numerous film critics have complained about Planes’ sloppy incessant ethnic stereotyping, among its many flaws. Justin Chang wrote in Variety that, “Planes is so overrun with broad cultural stereotypes that it should come with free ethnic-sensitivity training for especially impressionable kids.” The other common criticism is that Planes feels tired, and that it’s nothing more than a cashgrab like the toy-driven films of the dreaded 1980s animation world. Neil Genzlinger said in the NY Times: “Planes is for the most part content to imitate rather than innovate, presumably hoping to reap a respectable fraction of the box office numbers of Cars and Cars 2, which together made hundreds of millions of dollars (not to mention the ubiquitous product tie-ins).”