One of the more fascinating movies showcased during Disney’s lengthy CinemaCon presentation was for the latest CG-animated movie from Disney Animation, Wreck-It Ralph, directed by Rich Moore, who has been involved with “The Simpsons” and “Futurama.” It’s a movie that delves into the world of video games and shows the lives of the characters in them.
You really can’t get a better spokesperson to talk about your animated movie than Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios chief creative officer John Lasseter, and he brought as much enthusiasm and joy to talking about the latest movie from Disney Animation as he would anything produced by Pixar.
The star of the movie is Wreck-It Ralph, the bad guy in an 8-bit video game from the ’80s called “Fix-It Felix, Jr.” whose star, Fix-It Felix, is voiced by Jack McBrayer. Ralph is sick of being a bad guy so he goes off on a journey to become a hero by traveling into other video games. One of the first games he visits is a very modern sci-fi military shooter game ala “Mass Effect” where he encounters a tough female soldier named Sgt. Calhoun, but Ralph finds he’s just not up to the task of being a hero in this world. The next game he enters is a racing game called “Sugar Rush” where he meets his perfect counterpart in Vanellope von Schweet, voiced by Sarah Silverman.
Some probably are wondering how characters from one video game can go into other video games, and Lasseter explained this by showing a graphic of a large power outlet where all of the video games are plugged into, but inside that outlet is something called “Game Central Station” where video game characters can travel between games, and they showed a great graphic of what looked like a huge train station with portals going to different games.
Lasseter then brought out John C. Reilly, the voice of Ralph, to talk about the character and how he gave the animators some ideas for Ralph’s physicality by imitating his hulking football-playing uncles. Although most voiceover animation sessions are done with each actor individually, they mentioned that Reilly did a lot of sessions with Silverman, so that the two of them could improvise and play off each other.
They then showed the first six minutes of Wreck -It Ralph in unfinished form, which introduces Ralph’s life via a voiceover where we see that he lives in a video game that’s very much like “Donkey Kong.” This opens in an 8-bit format inside the game and we see Ralph’s stump (where he lives) being moved to a trash heap. He gets mad and starts terrorizing a nearby building. Using the “Donkey Kong” reference, Ralph would be the Kong character, as he climbs up the building, knocks out windows and terrorizes the people who live inside, which was especially amusing if you were familiar with the video game reference. Fix-It Felix Jr. then shows up with his magic hammer and he starts fixing up the building Ralph destroyed. When he gets to the top, the people of the building cheer and they toss Ralph off the building to the ground below.
It then switches to 3D animation and we see Ralph sulking over on his trash heap while Felix is socializing with the happy building inhabitants, who love their hero. Ralph, meanwhile, is all alone.
We then go outside the game to the arcade where Ralph’s arcade console resides and, as the camera pulls back, we see how all the games around him are being removed and changed over the course of 30 years while his video game from the 80s remains in place. He is clearly in a rut, having had to do the same thing over and over for all that time and he’s ready for a change.
We then cut to Ralph in a support group for video game bad guys called “Bad-Anon,” where they can talk about the issues that come with the job, and there were lots of familiar faces from other classic video games. We recognized Bowser from “Super Mario Bros,” Kano from “Mortal Kombat,” and Doctor Eggman from “Sonic the Hedgehog,” but the funniest one was definitely a Ghost from “Pac-Man,” which got a huge laugh when he first appeared on-screen. There was also a zombie-type character from a “House of the Dead” game. When Ralph tells them that he wants to be a good guy, they’re absolutely shocked that one of them might not accept their place in the world and, after reciting their motto, they end the meeting and leave the room they were in, which we then see is Ghost’s place, right in the middle of a rather familiar-looking video game. Very clever indeed.
From what we saw and were told about the movie, it looks very funny and more in line with the movies Pixar has made over the past few years. If the rest of the movie is as good as those first six minutes, then Wreck-It Ralph could do for video game characters what the “Toy Story” movies did for toys.
Wreck-It Ralph opens on November 2.