CS Interview: John C. Reilly on what makes Ralph so relatable
ComingSoon.net was fortunate enough to sit down with the cast and filmmakers behind the highly anticipated upcoming Disney sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet. Check out the whole chat below!
ComingSoon.net: You have a strong hat game.
John C. Reilly: Thank you! I try. I haven’t seen this movie yet but I hear it’s very good.
CS: You haven’t seen it yet?
John: No! I’m going to the premiere on Monday with Sarah [Silverman]. As we got closer and closer to the premiere there were a couple of moments where I could’ve seen it, but I thought, I want to see it with the audience and everybody on the big night at the El Capitan. But I’ve seen little chunks of it here and there as we went along and of course I recorded all of it so I know it’s there.
CS: Yeah and it’s been about six years since the original film, which is crazy. It feels like it just came out! When you got the notification about a possible sequel, did you hesitate? Did you always feel there was more material to explore?
John: I was completely on board! The first movie was such a personal experience for me, I put a lot of my heart into this guy. There’s a funny thing that happens over time, the animators start to pick up on your facial expressions and your gestures, and it all kind of melds into this interesting place, so I feel really close to Ralph and have an amazing connection with kids all over the world because of it, so there’s that, and then the fact that I improvised so much not her first one, you end up putting your own heart into stuff when you improvise because rather than just interpreting a line, something’s coming from inside you, so I shared a lot with Ralph by the time we finished that first film. So, when the offer came to do the second one, I was thrilled. I was drumming my fingers hoping it would happen. I was thrilled it was the same team and it was generally the same family of people, with some new characters of course, but behind the scenes, Phil [Johnston] and Rich [Moore] directing, and Sarah [Silverman] and Clark [Spencer] producing.
It’s funny, because you look at the credits for these movies and it’s like two thousand people and the credits go on for ten minutes, but when we’re making it, from my perspective, it’s only about five people in a room. And I go and I engage with the animators sometimes because they like it when you come in, most actors don’t do that, but I really wanted to be a part of the process of finding physically how he moved and all that kind of stuff, so I would go in and talk with people so I have an awareness of what’s going on in terms of the actual creative moments when I’m recording, it’s really just a few people that love and trust each other a lot, so I think that gives us a lot of courage to try things and be more vulnerable. Also, we do a lot of talking about what does it mean if we say this? What does it mean for their relationship? Should Ralph be scared of this right now? Should he be really into it and mischievous like she is, so we end up talking a lot about the intentions of things while we record.
CS: A lot of voice actors will just show up on the day and read what’s written, but you actually have story writing credits on the first film. How involved were you with the crafting of the sequel?
John: I was very involved! Even more involved, I’d say. Do I have story writing credit on the sequel?
CS: I didn’t see them but they might still be added before the movie hits theaters.
John: All right. Fingers crossed! I came in for many story meetings on this movie and I was really involved, because the people working on the film who are putting together the whole story, you know, I’m playing the guy, I know what it feels like to be him and I know what the process was like as we discovered the relationship, and what works between Sarah and I, so I could be kind of an advocate for the character as these decisions are being made and our stories are being shaped. I came in a lot on this one, even more than the first one.
CS: I love that the character of Ralph is not only enjoyable to be around, but that he has flaws. It’s really refreshing to see an animated character feel so relatable.
John: I think the kids especially, little boys really relate to the idea of ‘I don’t want to do bad things but sometimes I do stuff that’s bad and I don’t know why I did it!’ Like, for little boys especially, that’s a really relatable thing. It’s been a really beautiful thing, all the interactions that I’ve had with kids about the movie. Sometimes friends of mine will have trouble with their kids not brushing their teeth or something, and I’ll say ‘Hey, you want me to make a voicemail as Ralph?’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh my god, yes! Would you?’ So I’ll go, ‘Hey there, Dennis, it’s your old pal Ralph! I hear you’re having trouble brushing those teeth! Well, you don’t wanna get cavities! All right, see you buddy, listen to your mom!’ and then hang up the parents are like ‘Thank you!’ It has this magical effect, because little kids especially, don’t understand that it’s a cartoon. Younger than seven, that’s the wonderful thing about kids at that age, they just think cartoons are real! So sometimes I’ll meet kids in a. supermarket and the parents will say, “Honey look! It’s Wreck It Ralph!” and the kids will look at me like, “No it isn’t. That doesn’t look anything like Wreck It Ralph”. And then I’ll open my mouth and start talking and the kids will be like, “Wait a minute!” And they’ll get these big smiles on their faces.
CS: That’s really special.
John: It’s really cool! It’s a big responsibility to be in a beloved kids movie because you go right into the heart of kids. Adults understand that a movie is make believe and it’s fictional and they understand the artifice of making movies, but kids don’t really. So, when kids connect with the character, it’s very deep and it’s very meaningful and I’m aware of that. I’mm aware of how much impact I have on kids’ lives. That’s why, on the original and with the sequel, I’m always pushing for a humanist point of view. Let’s not just entertain and dazzle them, let’s take them to an emotional place. Let’s acknowledge what human beings are like. We’re not just making some fantasy, let’s make stuff that’s really relatable. I’m not the only one, there’s other people on the team that feel the same way as I do, of course. But there’s a main theme I keep in mind. Once a kid lets you in their heart, you have to treat their heart with care. Once you’ve been in there, you have to make sure your’e doing right by them.
CS: I like how the movie takes this child-like approach to the internet. How does the movie use the intimidation of the world wide web to explore the insecurities brewing within Ralph and Vanellope’s relationship?
John: From the last movie, Ralph had this kind of very lonely, misunderstood life, and then he finally met this girl who is going to be his friend and his whole life changed. He realized the important things in life and made this beautiful friendship. So in the second movie, that friendship is a really strong thing and it’s been going on for a while, and Vanelope starts to have growing pains and the internet in a way, becomes a metaphor for the larger world. When you’re a kid and you have your best friend in high school, and then towards the end of high school, people start looking like, maybe we won’t be best friends forever. Maybe you’ll go to a different school than me and I’ll miss you and it’s all so scary. All those things are really relatable. Some of the first comments I’ve seen on the movie are people are saying like, “It really made me realize those friends I had from college, I thought I’d be friends with forever, and I haven’t seen or talked to them in a long time, it made me want to reach out to them”. It’s actually having a resonance on people in terms of the way that relationships go as people grow up, so there’s that whole emotional world. The kind of metaphor of leaving the arcade is a way of saying you’re leaving your childhood, moving out into the larger world and becoming a more mature person.
Then there’s the actual reality of the internet, where we get to comment on, I mean, the internet is such a powerful thing. it’s such an all encompassing thing, I don’t think any of us really understand what’s going on. We understand its power, but I don’t think any of us really understand what the end result is going to be. Where is this taking us? So that’s a really interesting thing to look at, and on such a big scale, a Disney movie no less. The platform which we’re talking about is worldwide, so it was a really cool moment to be able to say, What does the internet mean to people? What is this seeking of anonymous love? What does that mean? What are we doing? Why do we want that? These are all the questions I think every person in the whole world who is aware of the internet is dealing with, so for a kids movie, that’s pretty cool to be able to talk about some of that stuff.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is now playing in theaters.