by Max Nicholson
August 6, 2012
Last week, IGN was invited to Walt Disney Animation Studios to check out nearly half an hour of footage from their upcoming video game-themed movie Wreck-It Ralph. Additionally, we got to sit down with the film's director Rich Moore and producer Clark Spencer to talk about how the animated feature moved from concept to a fully realized world.
The story begins in the Fix-It Felix Jr. 8-bit video game -- a riff on Nintendo's Donkey Kong -- where the hero, Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), and the denizens of the apartment building are celebrating 30 years on the job. Meanwhile, the game's villain, Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly), is having a bit of an existential crisis, and he begins to wonder if there isn't more to life than just wrecking the same building over and over again. That's when Ralph decides to change his ways and travel across the arcade, beat another video game -- Hero's Duty -- and prove that he is just as capable of being a hero. Along the way he meets Vanellope von Schweets (Sarah Silverman), a glitch character who's been ousted from her own game Sugar Rush. Together, the duo sets out to show the arcade what they're really made of.
Just from the clips we saw at the studio, it's clear that this movie is massive. In fact, Wreck-It Ralph has more unique character models than any previous Disney animated film. Just to put it in perspective, most animated movies have somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 or 50 character designs, but Wreck-It Ralph boasts a staggering 188. What's more, dozens of these models are based on actual characters from actual video games. Especially in locales like Central Station -- the arcade cabinets' master power strip -- we see numerous familiar faces like Q*Bert, Sonic the Hedgehog, Chun-Li and Bowser all interacting in one place.Of course, assembling such an expansive cast of cameos was no easy task. But as Moore explained, the prerogative in that regard was to let the story dictate when and where to include these iconic avatars. "When we started, it seemed like if we were going to make a movie about video games that I really, really wanted it to be authentic," he said. "It had to have real characters from real games in it. That was very, very important to me as the filmmaker. So we just kind just of went for it. We didn't begin from a legal standpoint as we were writing the story. It was more like, 'Well, this seems like a great place for Pac-Man to make an appearance. Let's put him in.'"
The creators also opened up the cameo floor to its creative team. As Spencer noted, "Early on, we put up a board in the building and told people, 'Tell us your favorite video games you played with and who your favorite characters are.' So that gave us a big bed of characters to look at for building the movie and putting them into it."
But as the film started taking shape, rights issues eventually became a factor. "We went out and met with people in person, which I think is the key," said Spencer. "When people came in for E3, we would actually meet with all of the companies and talk about the movie. From the very beginning we said, 'We want to be authentic to your character. What we would like to do is put in an approval process where you look at our animation and you say that we're being true to the character.'" As the creators noted, most companies were all for it.
However, it wasn't all fun and games when it came to depicting these classic characters. Moore recalled one particular snag with Nintendo and their character Bowser:"We did have kind of a check-in process, where we would show them the footage and say, 'What do you think? Is it good?' At one point, [Nintendo] said, 'Bowser's much bigger than that. He's way bigger than Zangief.' We were like, 'Okay, we'll make him bigger. How's that?' They'd say, 'Yes, that’s good -- but he wouldn’t drink his coffee like that. He wouldn’t make that mouth.' [Laughs] Of course, then people from Sega said, 'Well, Doctor Robotnik is bigger.' [Laughs] They wanted their characters bigger and bigger. We were going to end up with these giants in a room, with Ralph as this little guy... But I think that stuff really helped. I looked back on our original animation before the Nintendo notes, and it was like, 'You know, he does look more like Bowser now.'"Above all, though, the main goal for Wreck-It Ralph was to thread together a cohesive narrative. "There was a good year of developing the story, where we didn't even think about video games," said Moore. "It was like, this needs to be a story that's worth telling that people will become invested in... The cameos -- that's the icing. That's the prize. The substance of the story is Ralph's relationship with Vanellope. That's where the heart of the story is. There's so much more under the surface than what people are seeing right now. They're seeing the trailer with fun cameos and characters that they know, but I think they're going to be surprised when they go see this movie, how deep it is and how emotional it is... I think people will walk out thinking, 'I get it. I care about those guys. I've felt the way that they've felt before.'"
Wreck-It Ralph hits theaters in 3D on November 2.
OMMGGGGG SO EXCITED!!!!