Originally intended to go straight to DVD, Disney's Cars spinoff Planes seems like anything but a natural fit for 3D. But, for better or for worse, the studio has committed to releasing all of their films in the 3D format, and this weekend parents of the young kids who can't get enough of Cars will be heading to theaters and asking themselves, "Wait, do I really need to pay extra to get 3D glasses for a four-year-old?"
That's what we're here to answer-- along with the suitability of 3D glasses for anyone, really--in the latest installment of To 3D or Not To 3D, in which we break down a film's 3D effects into all its components and help you decide whether it's worth the extra cost. Check out our analysis of Planes's 3D effects, and vote in the poll at the bottom to let us know how you'll be seeing it this weekend. You can also read our review of the movie here.
Does 3D Fit??Animated films are almost always a better fit for 3D, made by animators who have the ability to control every possible element of their worlds. And Planes even has the edge on the Cars films by being about, well, planes, and featuring lots of scenes that go soaring through the air, over giant landmarks and around hairpin turns. There's a reason that Top Gun is one of just a handful of classic films that's been remastered in the format: planes and 3D go great together.
Fit Score: 5/5
Planning & Effort??Presumably Planes went through much of its production with no plans for 3D-- none of the direct-to-DVD Disney efforts of recent years, like the many TinkerBell movies, have been released in the format-- and it's hard to find information on when the conversion happened. Planes's theatrical release was announced last December, which gives them maybe 9 months to complete the conversion. On a live-action film that might spell trouble, but with so much control already over the animation process, the Disney team likely had plenty of time to make up the difference. It's not ideal, but it's fine given the circumstances.
Planning & Effort Score: 3/5
Before the Window??The "before the window" category can be the most gimmicky part of 3D, where some movies will really take advantage of the format and shove things out in the face of the audience, or "before" the window of the movie screen. As a very goofy children's film you would think Planes would be all over this, but the before-the-window moments are pretty minimal. A few planes come to a screeching stop right out into the audience, and there are a few moments of clouds getting up in our faces, but Planes is largely a brightly lit movie with relatively naturalistic 3D. A letdown for fans of big "before the window" moments (like me), but less distracting overall.
Before the Window Score: 3/5
Beyond the Window?
I don't know how to say this about an originally direct-to-DVD film without sounding crazy, but here goes: the depth in Planes is fantastic. It's not there all the time, and there are plenty of dull little moments of a plane talking to a car or whatever. But the movie is crammed with flying sequences and some genuinely thrilling ones at that, and all of them are richly and deeply rendered. An opening fantasy sequence of our crop-duster hero Dusty racing alongside some fighter jets features action-sequence 3D as good as anything I've seen. It's like I said at the top: planes and 3D fit well together.
Beyond the Window Score: 5/5
Brightness?This is a very cheerful Disney movie, which was going to be crammed with bright colors even if there wasn't 3D. The fact that the 3D glasses are basically sunglasses worn indoors is not a problem-- the brightness here is perfect.
Brightness Score: 5/5
The Glasses Off Test?Taking your glasses off in the middle of a 3D-heavy sequence is a quick way to tell if you're actually getting your money's worth. If the image is really blurry without the glasses, it's likely to pop a lot more in 3D when you put them back on. If it looks basically the same. the 3D isn't doing much. Planes, with all that aforementioned depth, does a great job on the glasses-off score. Even scenes that don't seem like they have that much 3D going on reveal surprising amounts of blur without the glasses on. As much as they may not have planned for 3D from the start of this film, they clearly made up for it in the execution.
Glasses Off Score: 5/5
Audience Health? Planes is a movie for very small children, and we all know how small children can be about vomiting in inconvenient places. Disney doesn't want them to vomit any more than you do. The audience health when wearing the 3D glasses is not a problem.
Audience Health Score: 5/5