Thanks to the musings of my 6-year old niece Maggie, I found myself sitting in the front row of a local movie theatre this weekend watching the new Disney movie, "Planes."
After adjusting to the booming sounds in the front of the theatre and the extreme angle (looking straight up at the big screen), I settled into the wonderful animated story filled with themes of sportsmanship, friendship and "being more than you're made for."
The story, a spinoff of the Pixar Cars franchise, revolves around the lowly plane, Dusty Crophopper, who is not satisfied with his crop-dusting lot in life. The film appeals to children with its colorful characters and images, catchy music and action-packed animation. Adults will enjoy the clever dialogue (like a play-by-play announcer named Brent Mustangburger.) For all who watch, the movie embraces lessons for athletes on the playing field and in life.
Dusty sets the goal of competing in an around-the-world stage race, practicing flight maneuvers over corn fields and through pairs of trees before barely making the field.
Like many great sports stories, the animated cast of Planes features a gruff mentor (Navy war plane Skipper Riley), faithful friends (mechanic and forklift Dottie and Chug the fuel truck), and an arch enemy prone to cheating (Ripslinger.) Our hero, Dusty, overcomes a myriad of obstacles, including taunting from his rivals and the crowd over his farming roots, an inconvenient fear of heights, and the need to shed the baggage of his past (i.e. the weight of his sprayer) to increase his speed and allow him to literally achieve new heights.
What real-life athlete has not been inspired by a hard-nosed coach, faced the stress of competition and let go of bad habits to ultimately achieve success?
Through his series of challenges, Crophopper's noble character is revealed: he helps a crippled foe safely land, sacrificing his own standing in the race, and is duly rewarded by fellow competitors who offer parts from their own teams when Dusty suffers a late-stage crash. In the end, the obstacles he overcomes leads Dusty to become better, and ultimately "more than what he was made for."
Maggie may not realize it, but by watching "Planes" she and many other children were exposed to key life lessons. Hopefully someday they will push themselves beyond perceived limits, overcome fear and become more than they ever thought they could be.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org