Flying high with ‘Planes’: Grass Valley air base inspiration for Disney film |

Flying high with ‘Planes’: Grass Valley air base inspiration for Disney film

Know & go

The U.S. Forest Service’s Smokey Bear will be at Sierra Cinemas on Friday for the matinee premiere of Disney’s “Planes: Fire & Rescue.”

Smokey will greet moviegoers before the 12:30 p.m., 2:35 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. showings.

On Saturday, USFS, along with Cal Fire, will host visitors at the Grass Valley Interagency Air Attack Base. There will be guided air base tours and firefighting aircraft on display. In addition, a Helitack crew, smoke jumpers and other firefighting professionals will be on hand to answer questions.

Friday, 12:15-5 p.m.: Smokey Bear at Sierra Cinemas, 840 E. Main St., Grass Valley

Saturday, 10 a.m.–noon: Grass Valley Air Attack Base, 13120 Loma Rica Drive, Grass Valley

Friday, “Planes: Fire & Rescue” opens nationwide with hopes of being another successful release in Disney’s stable of animated films.

The motion picture follows hero Dusty Crophopper, a former crop-dusting plane, as he attempts to transition toward being an aerial firefighter.

Seeking to steep the film in accuracy, producers at Disney worked in tandem with Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service to make sure all of the elements of the film were as accurate as possible.

One of these fact-finding missions found the crew at Disney taking a trip up to this neck of the woods, as the Grass Valley Air Attack base was used as inspiration for some of the architecture in the film.

“About four years ago, Disney came along and they were doing a sequel to their “Planes” movie. They wanted to get some research done and our department agreed with them that we would help them out on trying to get the right information out that they needed,” said Cal Fire Capt. Richard Cordova.

“Chief (Travis) Alexander helped Disney out by taking them out to certain air bases, one being … out at Grass Valley. We showed them the facility, showed them what our aviation program is all about.”

To celebrate the release, the Nevada County Airport is collaborating with Sierra Cinemas, the U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire personnel in offering a variety of events over two days.

While Sierra Cinemas plays matinees of the film Friday, representatives from the partnering organizations will be in attendance at the reception area to provide educational information on their respective occupations and duties.

Smokey Bear will also make an appearance, greeting moviegoers before the film starts.

On Saturday, the airport will host tours for those interested in seeing the facilities that acted as a model for “Planes: Fire & Rescue.”

“We’re going to be offering some tours, we’re going to guide people around the air base and show them around,” said Michael Woodbridge, the public affairs officer for the Tahoe National Forest.

“We’re going to have some aircraft there. We’re going to have a Helitack crew, which is a firefighting crew that works off a helicopter. We’re going to have smoke jumpers there. So, some real cool stuff there for people to come see.”

Also in attendance during the premiere will be the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association. Chapter members will be offering information on their Young Eagles program, which seeks to give young people the opportunity to experience the life of pilots. This coincides with a Young Eagles rally the following day, which will also be held at the airport.

“We have a Young Eagles rally once a year, where the pilots in our chapter give free rides to children from 8 years old up to 17 years old. The idea is just to introduce them to aviation,” says chapter president Frank Jackson.

“It’s totally free, there are no obligations. It’ll be first come, first served. We’ll be doing it from 9 a.m. until noon and they’ll need the consent of a parent or guardian in order to participate.”

According to Jackson, the attraction of aviation is not as strong as it once was, and films like Disney’s are conducive to cultivating kids’ interest.

“We’ve found one way to stimulate interest in aviation is to introduce it to children at a young age,” Jackson says.

“Hopefully there will be a few kids who’ll decide they’d like to pursue that some day, not necessarily as a career … but maybe for personal pleasure or recreation. A movie like ‘Planes: Fire & Rescue’ is really beneficial to stimulate young people’s interest, (as well as) adults.”

“In my eyes … what Disney and Cal Fire have done to make a movie, especially an animated movie, so accurate is amazing,” said Cordova of the film.

“It’s amazing how much time Disney took to make sure they weren’t making aerial firefighters look hokey. They wanted to get it right, and I think they hit the nail on the head.”

Spencer Kellar is an intern with The Union. He can be reached at

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