In “Ralph Breaks the Internet” Disney welcomes back to the big screen video-game bad guy Ralph and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz. This time, they leave Litwak’s video arcade behind, venturing into the uncharted, expansive and fast-paced world of the internet—which can be both incredibly exciting and overwhelming, depending on who you ask.
“Ralph and Vanellope are imperfect characters,” says Academy Award®-winning director Rich Moore, who directed the original film. “But we love them because of their flaws. Their friendship is so genuine—the chemistry between them so engaging—that I think we were all anxious to know more about these characters.”
Phil Johnston was one of the screenwriters on “Wreck-It Ralph” and is back as a writer and also a director. “Ralph and Vanellope had only known each other for a short time, yet they became best friends and we love them for that,” says Johnston. “But it didn’t feel like their story was over—there were more adventures to be had. And Vanellope, in particular, was starting to come into her own.”
During a recent visit to Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, we heard from the filmmakers on what it took to bring “Ralph Breaks the Internet” to the screen.
Phil Johnson and Rich Moore discussed how they went back to the original Wreck-it-Ralph to explore the characters and wondered if there were more stories with Ralph and Venellope. They saw the opportunities for comedy, the conflict between the two main characters. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” features both fresh and familiar faces with an extraordinary voice cast that brings humor and emotional depth to the all-new story.
One of the new characters YESSS, which is an algorithm, is important to Ralph and Venellope on their journey in the internet. She’s cool and trendy.
The filmmakers were tasked with creating the world of the Internet. According to director Rich Moore, the possibilities were both exciting and overwhelming. “We were too naïve to realize how overwhelming it would be,” he says. “It was the perfect setting for the story we wanted to tell, but we had to figure out what this place would look like and who would live and work there.
“We ultimately had to make it feel huge, but also specific,” continues Moore. “Narrowing it down to a simple, cohesive world that served the story was the hardest thing for me to get my head around.”
To create an expansive and bustling environment, artists looked to big cities like Manhattan, Shanghai and Dubai for inspiration. “We wanted to include really big buildings that towered over the Netizens,” says Larry Wu, head of environments. “Each building represents a website—the bigger the building, the bigger the site. And these buildings have floaty parts to them that give them a sense of fluidity: The internet is alive and changing.”
Filmmakers even built an elaborate transportation system. “The Netizens—the workers in the internet—are able to travel freely, darting every which way,” says Matthias Lechner, art director—environments. “They even get a little annoyed by traffic created by the Net Users. When a User visits a search engine and clicks on a link, a vehicle that represents that link forms around the User’s avatar and sweeps it directly to the website.”
One of the big questions filmmakers faced when creating their vision was how to make it clear to moviegoers where they were. “We made a decision early on that we would make up our own websites like BuzzzTube, some original online games and our search engine KnowsMore,” says Moore. “But we wanted it to be familiar and relatable, too. So we incorporated places like eBay, which is a big part of the story since it’s where Ralph and Vanellope go to buy the replacement part for her game. We have cameos from Amazon, Instagram and Snapchat, among others, and even some international sites, which adds the kind of legitimacy that we wanted.
The story kicks off in the arcade, where Ralph and Vanellope have been living harmoniously—fulfilling their duties in their games during the day and hanging out together in their neighboring arcade games at night. “Vanellope is lamenting the fact that her game is getting a little boring,” says Johnston. “So, Ralph takes it upon himself to amplify the excitement in Sugar Rush. And Ralph being Ralph—it doesn’t go exactly as planned.”
Ralph’s shenanigans trigger a chain of events that culminate with a player in the arcade breaking the steering wheel off Vanellope’s game. Litwak learns that a replacement part would cost more than the game makes in a year; he has no choice but to unplug Sugar Rush and sell it for parts. “The part they need to fix the game is at a place on the internet called eBay,” says Pamela Ribon, who co-wrote the screenplay with Johnston. “Ralph and Vanellope have never heard of the internet, much less eBay, but Litwak has installed a router, so the arcade is actually online for the first time. They decide to take the leap into this unknown world and ping themselves into the internet in order to find the steering wheel and save Vanellope’s game.
Ralph wasn’t the only one who was overwhelmed at the idea of exploring the internet from the inside out. According to the head of story Jim Reardon, the process of setting the story in the world wide web was intimidating at first. “It’s still intimidating,” he laughs. “It never stopped being intimidating. We looked at how we could make the internet relatable on a human level—like how Game Central Station aka the power strip mirrored a train station in the first movie. In ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet,’ any person who uses the internet has a little avatar version of themselves that does their business for them. It’s like an old Tex Avery joke about the light in the refrigerator—how does it go off when I shut the door? A little door opens and a tiny man comes out and turns the switch off.
Directed by Moore (“Zootopia,” “Wreck-It Ralph”) and Johnston (co-writer “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Zootopia,” writer, “Cedar Rapids”), and produced by Spencer (“Zootopia,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Bolt,” “Lilo & Stitch”), “Ralph Breaks the Internet” welcomes back favorite cast and characters first introduced six years ago, including John C. Reilly, who lends his voice to Ralph, and Sarah Silverman, who returns as the voice of Vanellope. The film introduces new characters who help bring the internet to life, including Taraji P. Henson, who provides the voice of website entrepreneur Yesss who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of the trend-making site BuzzzTube. Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch return as the voices of Fix-It Felix Jr. and Sergeant Calhoun, respectively, and Alan Tudyk was called on to voice a search engine named KnowsMore—literally a know-it-all—who runs a search bar and helps Ralph and Vanellope on their quest to track down a replacement part for Vanellope’s game Sugar Rush.
Executive produced by Jennifer Lee (“Frozen”) and Chris Williams (“Big Hero 6”), and featuring a score by Henry Jackman, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” hits U.S. theaters on Nov. 21, 2018.
We will be posting more Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes look at the movie soon!
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