According to Disney, there is an alternate reality where cars and planes are the dominant life-forms where they have vehicular versions of everything from our world. And that includes our cheesy late ’70s cop shows.
In this clip from Planes: Fire and Rescue, Dusty (voiced again by Dane Cook) and his new aerial firefighting comrades get together to watch a rerun of an old TV show that looks and sounds a lot like CHiPs. But since the stars of the series are helicopters, not guys on motorcycles, it’s called CHoPs (as in “choppers,” get it?). Dusty is shocked to discover that his team’s tough-as-nails commander, Blade Ranger (voiced by Ed Harris) was once a television actor. And Blade’s on-screen partner, Nick “Loopin’” Lopez, is voiced by none other than the original CHiPs star, Erik Estrada.
In a recent conversation with Yahoo Movies, Estrada — who played California Highway Patrol officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello from 1977 to 1983 (plus a 1999 TV movie) — said the filmmakers behind the Planes sequel were fans of his show. “A lot of them grew up with it,” Estrada said. “Others were younger and caught it in syndication.” The crew made sure to get all the details right, even giving Estrada’s character the same call-sign as Ponch: Seven Mary Four. Estrada said, “It gave me perspective on the impact the show had.”
The animated film also provided a reunion of sorts for Estrada and Harris, who was young struggling actor when he made a guest appearance on a fifth-season episode of CHiPs back in 1981. Estrada recalls Harris having even less experience as a motorcyclist than he did as an actor: “He had to ride a motorcycle, and asked me for advice. So I gave him a few pointers. Luckily, he didn’t crash, which I always did.” Estrada remembers that Harris’s star power was evident two years before his big break in The Right Stuff. “You could tell he was a serious talent, but aside from that, he was just a really cool guy.”
The segments in Planes: Fire and Rescue really capture the feeling of the old show, right down to the disco-flavored theme song, but it might be the closest thing to CHiPs on the big screen you’re likely to see. While it seems like every other hit show from the ’70s and ’80s have had movie adaptations, Estrada revealed that CHiPs has hit a speed bump. “There was talk about it, and Wilmer Valderama was going to play Ponch,” Estrada said. “But the scripts that they kept writing were ‘inappropriate’ for the California Highway Patrol, so they wouldn’t authorize it.”