Disney has announced plans to release Planes, a direct-to-video spin-off of Cars, in Spring 2013. This confirms most of the story we first heard in July of last year.
According to the official press release, the feature length film will follow "Dusty, a small town dreamer who longs to enter the most epic around-the-world air race, despite his fear of heights."
Planes is not being produced at Pixar Canada in Vancouver as previously believed, but at DisneyToon Studios in Burbank. Pixar publicity tells me that the movie is "not a Pixar project". Although based on Pixar's franchise, it will apparently not be branded as "Disney•Pixar".
This isn't the first time that Pixar characters have been 'borrowed' by an outside creative team at Disney. Beginning in 2000, Walt Disney Television produced the animated series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command that aired on ABC.
Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter explains the reasons for this spin-off:
"We had such a great time exploring the world of Cars over the course of two films, so it seemed only natural for us to see where our imaginations would take us in a film where planes were the main characters.
By expanding the Cars world, Planes gave us a whole new set of fun-filled situations and a great opportunity to introduce some fantastic new characters
The team at DisneyToon Studios has done such an amazing job creating a heartfelt story filled with great comedy, adventure, and emotion."
Speaking at a Walt Disney Company investors conference this morning, Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross said that Planes would be followed by other projects "that kids absolutely love".
That wording could suggest that, like previous DisneyToon Studios projects, Planes will be geared towards a younger audience.
Variety reports that Ross also spoke about the pair of Toy Story toons coming this year. That's right—the Toy Story "Hawaiian Vacation" short attached to Cars 2 will be followed by a second! That one will be attached to Disney's The Muppets, which opens on November 23.
This is, for sure, the biggest news to come out of Disney/Pixar in a while. I know everybody's going to have an opinion, especially about Planes. Please share yours in comments; I might put in my two cents worth as well.