How the Disney Princesses Assembled for Ralph Breaks the Internet
The creative team at Walt Disney Animation Studios take us behind the scenes of the iconic Disney Princess scenes in the Academy Award-nominated feature Ralph Breaks the Internet.
ComingSoon.net recently got to visit the Disney Animation Studios in Burbank to celebrate the release of Ralph Breaks the Internet on Blu-Ray and Digital, available now! The special features include a look behind the scenes of the making of the film and those amazing Disney Princess sequences. At the studio, we got to talk to filmmakers Rich Moore, Phil Johnston, head of animation Kira Lethomaki and The Little Mermaid herself Jodi Benson about the stories behind the now iconic Disney moments from the movie.
Princess Vanellope Von Schweetz of the Sugar Rush Von Schweetzes
In Ralph Breaks the Internet, Ralph (John C. Reily) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) discover a whole new world when they find a WiFi router in their arcade after an accident causes the wheel of Vanellope’s game to break. Together they journey into the internet to find a replacement on eBay and go on big adventures that test their bond.
For the second film about the friendship between Ralph and Vanellope the filmmakers wanted to shift the focus to Vanellope’s wants when she breaks out of her game and sees there could be more out there for her. Co-director Phil Johnston told CS, “We knew in many ways it was about Vanellope. Her arc is huge, its a film of self-discovery for her” In the first Ralph, Vanellope is introduced as an outcast in a world where the film’s villain King Candy erased her royal lineage and even when restored to the throne of her world as we see at the start of Ralph Breaks the Internet, she’s growing out of her Arcade Kingdom. Moore and Johnston were excited to show how Vanellope’s desire to learn more about herself outside of Sugar Rush mirrored how real girls look to one another for guidance. “Having female mentors, strong women along the way for her to meet and be influenced by from Shank to Yesss to the Princesses–for her to truly pursue her dreams and things she wants to do for her life it would be very useful and reflect the real world more if there were strong women who had had their own experience who could kind of influence hers,” Johnston described their process for the storyline as influenced by their creative team of women at the Studio, “Without saying this is a feminist film, this is a feminist film. We have a lot of strong women with strong voices on our crew from Josie Trinidad to Kira to Pam Ribbon—all of whom were really pushing us to be true to that.”
The Disney Princess Legacy
Head of Animation on Ralph Breaks the Internet, Kira Lethomaki is a HUGE Disney Princess fangirl living her dream at Walt Disney Studios, who started her major work on films like Tangled. During the presentations, she showed us how she used her desk’s princess doll collection to figure out blocking for the Green Room scenes where Vanellope meets them and afterward she chatted with us about her reaction to finding out that they were going to be in the movie.
“I went in as the co-head of animation and we have these screenings that are in storyboard format and we’re in the theater watching this for the first time and I’m sitting there thinking, I’m gonna watch a cute story about Ralph and Vanellope going into the internet, and then all of a sudden they go into Oh My Disney and you get a glimpse of all the princesses walking by and I was like, Oh that was a funny cameo! And then all of a sudden we’re in the room with all of them and it was as much of a shock to me as it was to the outside world. It was a loving homage to them. It was a side of them that we never really exposed before. We weren’t making fun of them. We were sort of reveling. It was so great. Its how I felt about these ladies for so long.”
Faithfully bringing their Heroines back to the big screen was a huge undertaking for the animators who even enlisted Mark Henn to come back and provide guidance on the princesses he worked on. Lethomaki described their process based on a note that the archives had from artist Glen Keane about his early work on Ariel, which read: “When you’re animating Ariel pay close attention to who it is you’re animating. Ask yourself am I animating Ariel in this scene or could I be animating any girl? What is uniquely Ariel in the way that I’m animating her?” Having these indispensable resources from the making of past Disney Princess films was truly the cornerstone philosophy for the animators working on their scenes in Ralph Breaks the Internet which includes all 15 of them when counting Vanellope.
“I wanted every pose, every movement like they weren’t some generic princess. Each of them are unique individuals…” Lethomaki shared enthusiastically, “Like Rapunzel–Glen Keane would always talk about Rapunzel’s irrepressible spirit and that manifested itself in her brows. She never gets super worried brows cause that’s a weaker kind of thing. She’s cannot be contained like her seventy feet of golden hair. For Ariel, it was very much studying Jodi Benson and her gestures and just getting the spirit of all of these ladies. We had so many of the original actresses come in. You find with each one of them you can feel like you’re talking to them right in front of you because their mannerisms-they just exude these characters.”
The Little Mermaid is the Tony Stark of the Disney Princesses.
The OG Renaissance Disney Princess Ariel is brought into the forefront in a big way. She’s the one who gave all the princesses a voice, including the ones that came before her in incarnations those that followed, giving them more agency. As the first princess to save a big strong man, her moment with Vanellope is the heart of the film. During a Skype Q&A hosted by, the voice of Ariel, Jodi Benson revealed her thoughts about stepping back into the role alongside the rest of the Princesses in Ralph Breaks the Internet.
“It’s a brilliant idea to put us all in the room and still hold true to their characters and individual personalities and respect who they are as princesses–taking them out of their element and mixing them up altogether is GENIUS,” she shared with immense pride. “I hadn’t met everybody. I knew their names but I hadn’t met all the girls. At D23 I was freaking out in the green room. Paige and I are the oldest ones and Ariel is the oldest princess after Sleeping Beauty…” and added laughing, “Age wise Paige and I are old ladies! We were jumping to meet everyone. I had so much fun in that room. It’s a really special club to be a part of. It was like walking back in history being able to work in the studio as Ariel again. To be able to bring her to the big screen for a new generation was special.”
Yes, it’s funny when Ariel encourages Vanellope to look at Important Water to figure out what world she wants to be a part of but it’s also so true to the spirit of Ariel and the rest of the Disney Princesses. The whole musical sequence of A Place Called Slaughter Race, is an amazingly hilarious homage to the Disney Princesses by giving Vanellope her want song with a bit of synchronicity as the number includes Gal Gadot as the voice of another of Vanellope’s mentors: Slaughter Race’s kick-ass Shank. What makes that totally crazy is that Gadot plays Wonder Woman and director Patty Jenkins was inspired by The Little Mermaid for her take on the DC Heroine’s cinematic debut. And here we got Gal in an Alan Menken number?!?! And the ending involved all the Disney Princesses assembling Avengers-style?
This is the superhero feminine energy we want in our movies always.
The Disney Princesses will return?
And it’s no wonder that all the Disney Princess scenes elicit the big reactions they have since the big D23 Expo reveal of their appearance in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Kira shared what it was like, “I was in the room with about 8,000 people which was nuts. I was sort of in the center section with others who had worked on it. It was like we were in the eye of the storm, it was calm and quiet but then you just heard the roar from either side of the room and then I saw people getting up for a standing ovation! One lady was crying and another lady was practically fainting! You’re just hearing the reactions cause you’re nervous like these characters are more than characters. They mean so much to so many of us, myself included and so you want to do them justice. That was incredible.” she said thrilled with the love their work has received and added, “This was a joy from start to finish. Getting to do this. Of course, if any of our directors ever saw fit to make a movie that included this ensemble again, I am a hundred percent on board.”
When asked if creating a new Disney Princess Universe (THE DPU!!) using their friendship with Vanellope as a jumping off point, director Rich Moore smiled, “I love the characters and I think there are lots of stories that could be told with them. We’ve been on the road with this film all over the world and that’s something that always comes up, the conversation of What about a Princess movie? They should have their own movie with Vanellope! It’s stirring the imagination, where it leads I’m not sure right now but there is something there.”