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Pine Tree graduate moves from acting to producing major Disney movie

By Amy Pearson apearson@news-journal.com
July 5, 2014 at 11 p.m.


Ferrell Barron makes it quite clear that he didn't get into theater by choice.

"My mom forced me into acting one summer at Longview Community Theater," he said. "But I was bitten by the bug and off and running after that."

Despite his reluctant start, Barron's theater career has taken him from the stage at LCT to the footlights at Pine Tree High School to curtain calls at the Texas Shakespeare Theater to the lots of Burbank, California, where he just spent three years putting together Disneytoon Studios' "Planes: Fire & Rescue," which opens in theaters July 18.

Barron first joined Disney in 1998, after graduating from the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked as a production supervisor for Walt Disney Television Animation's "The Tigger Movie" before moving to Disneytoon Studios to serve as the associate producer for "Piglet's Big Movie" and producer for "The Fox and the Hound 2."

After a stint with AirshowBuzz, where he headed series development for some documentary films, he returned to Disneytoon Studios in 2011 to take the helm of the "Planes" project.

"I loved being in front of the camera," Ferrell explained, "but the business of making movies always interested me, and I love being involved in the creative process."

After he was first exposed to animation in 1998, he was hooked.

"The people we work with are such a creative force," he said.

At the time, he was still going on auditions for acting jobs, but he said that soon that process began to feel like a "nuisance."

"It was time to cut ties with acting," he said.

After that, things took off rapidly for Barron. He worked on "Fox and the Hound 2" and then moved on to documentaries.

"I love them, but I missed animation. I missed the creative people I'd worked with."

He was drawn back to Disneytoon Studios.

"It's been a dream," he said of being the executive producer of "Planes: Fire & Rescue." "I'm so proud of the project and the direction it's taken."

While this "Planes" is a follow-up to the 2013 movie, it's more a "series" than a sequel, Barron said.

"We've built a whole world that is interesting to people, and we've built a movie around that world," he said.

Dusty, the hero of the first "Planes," also is the main character in this summer's movie.

"It was a natural fit for Dusty," Barron said. "He had to retire from racing, so he had to do something else. In this movie, he's a fire plane. It was a natural world for him to go into."

Years of research and partnering with CAL FIRE and the California Smoke Jumpers went into the preparation for the movie with more than 100 consultants, including firefighters, helping to make the movie as accurate as possible. Two and a half years alone were spent just building the fire effects for the movie.

"We wanted to tell a story the fire personnel would be proud of," Barron said.

Disneytoon Studios screened the movie first for firefighters and smoke jumpers.

"The best compliment was when the real life heroes came up to us and said, 'You got it right.' "

Barron, the son of James and Julia Barron of Longview, hopes viewers become emotionally involved and connected to the characters.

"The movie makes you forget they're talking vehicles," he said.

With a theme of second chances, the movie imparts the message, "Pick yourself up and move forward," something Barron hopes his own sons, ages 3 and 5, will learn early in life.

"Life is loss; we all experience loss, it's how you deal with it that determines who you are," he said. "I want my kids to embrace that, and I want to be able to instill self-confidence and a belief in themselves."

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