We all know what it’s like when our kids fall in love with a Disney film. Once that DVD comes into your home, life in the den is never the same. As a mom to three boys, Julie Bowen says she was “deeply, deeply — like intimately” familiar with the land of Cars. Signing up to be a part of Planes: Fire and Rescue was her way of being a part of that kid fandom.
I sat down with Julie in a quiet restaurant in Culver City, California a few weeks ago to talk about what it was like to be in her first animated feature film. In person, Julie is warm and talks at the speed of an espresso. She is also quick to point out that the incredible hot pink suede shoes she’s wearing do not belong to her. (A stylist had provided the footwear and wardrobe for a talk show appearance she would be making later in the afternoon.)
Julie plays the part of Dipper, a super scooper plane from Alaska and a brand new character in the Planes world. There is a great deal of humor in the new Planes film and much of that comes from Julie’s performance. Julie had a pretty funny mom fantasy moment: “I was just so excited. Do I get to be a toy?!” She says she steps on so many of her sons’ toys in the middle of the night, but if she stepped on herself, she wouldn’t mind all that much. It’d actually make her pretty happy.
Agreeing to work on Planes: Fire and Rescue was a way for Julie to be in a project she was certain her boys would love. She says they have never seen Modern Family, the show she just earned her fifth primetime Emmy nomination for (having won two of them), and they don’t really want to! But when Julie was a voice actor in a few episodes of Scooby Doo, her kids thought it was fantastic. “They were like worshiping me. So I’m genuinely excited to show off [Planes] to my children.”
Being in the booth was nerve-wracking for Julie because she had no idea what was happening or being said on the other side of the glass wall. She finally had to tell director Bobs Ganaway, “Even if you guys are just chitchatting, even if it’s about lunch, put the mic open because I’m in here dying a thousand tiny deaths.” Once she was able to know the voices on the other side of the glass were simply talking about pickles on their sandwich during a break and not her performance, she was able to relax.
Seeing her character come to life was a thrill for Julie, and she was shocked to see how specific the animators made the plane. “I mean a plane doesn’t have a lot. It doesn’t have a front grill like cars [do]. They didn’t even have a bumper to do mouths and stuff with, or hands. They were really limited. They made it look really human and kind of like me. And that, I think, is all in the mouth.”
Julie loved being part of the huge team of Planes: Fire and Rescue. “It feels so collaborative. It doesn’t feel like I am raising the ‘I am awesome flag,’ which always makes me cringe a little. I can look at this and go, ‘Wow, I was a part of something that was so awesome.'”
The high energy, super clever, and incredibly busy mom did take a moment to share a great life tip I’m considering adopting. Julie Bowen wears a jog bra every day, because one of these days she really is going to have time for a run. To prove she practiced what she preached, she thumbed the strap out of a hot pink jog bra and laughed, “To match the shoes!”
Planes: Fire and Rescue is rated PG for “action and some peril” and opens in theaters on July 18th.