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Disney's Planes: Fire & Rescue lands on Blu-ray on November 4 and offers a surprisingly entertaining package given the less-than-stellar reputation of the brand it fronts. This sequel comes just a year after the disappointingly dull Planes, which Disney had originally intended to send straight to disc. Hence, it hardly seems likely to elevate the reputation of a franchise that appears to be designed principally to sell backpacks and pencil cases.
Thankfully, Planes: Fire & Rescue benefits from a story that is more original than its predecessor's and plenty of colorful and action-packed animation. These do enough to suggest that creative minds as well as merchandisers are charting the flight path of the Cars universe.
Given the anticipated audience, it isn't surprising that Disney hasn't provided much in the way of special features on the Blu-ray disc. Nonetheless, each of the few items that accompany the main feature will probably be worth the three to five minutes of your kid's time it will take to watch once.
Outstanding among the extras is the exclusive cartoon titled "Vitaminamulch: Air Spectacular." This short features principal characters from Planes putting on a display at an air show that is promoting the spray-on fertilizer named in the title. Unsurprisingly, not everything goes according to plan. The combination of an amusing plot and likeable characters in this mini-movie is what Planes and Cars both need more of.
Most of the rest of the special features are little more than fluff in the form of repackaged clips from the movie, a music video and a TV promo. It is nice to see two unfinished scenes introduced by the director and producer, however, along with the short featurette titled "Air Attack: Firefighters From The Sky." The latter provides an all-too-brief insight into the work of real fire fighters in California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Given that Planes: Fire & Rescue is dedicated to firefighters everywhere, it would have been nice if this feature had been long enough to provide a detailed look at how these people do their dangerous job. Instead, it's just a self-congratulatory nod to the level of detail the filmmakers commendably invested in creating an authentic animated world.
Planes: Fire & Rescue is not classic Disney but the Blu-ray package suggests that this series could be here for the long haul. At the very least, this release deserves better than to be dismissed as a nothing more than a cash cow.
The Planes: Fire & Rescue Blu-ray previewed here is the United States version and comes in a Combo-Pack that includes the film on 2D HD Blu-ray and SD DVD as well as digital formats for Disney Movies Anywhere and iTunes.