Wreck IT Ralph is Rated PG and opens in theaters on November 2.
Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph is an arcade adventure! For over 30 years Ralph has been the villain in the arcade game Fix-It Feliz, Jr. Ralph makes a choice to escape his game and go on a journey to prove that he can be the hero! Thus, setting off a serious of unfortunate events that could affect the entire arcade! This move includes cameo appearances of a number of licensed retro characters as well as some amazing made up characters. I’m a huge fan of video games and I was very excited about the movie. My excitement heightened when I found out who was cast in this animated adventure. Wreck-It Ralph was played by one of my favorite character actors, John C. Reilly. I was a part of the Junket Q&A and sat down with the media, John (Ralph), Sarah Silverman (Vanellope von Schweetz) and Jane Lynch (Sgt. Calhoun). Talking with them made the animated movie come to life! This is what they had to share:
John C. Reilly is an actor, comedian and lover of classic children’s fairy tales. I love him and I still can’t believe that I sat in the same room with him!
You are so perfect for the character Ralph. Did you know from the outset that you had the voice for Wreck IT Ralph? It’s so perfect.
JCR: It’s kinda the process of becoming perfect for the character or the character becoming perfect for me. I’m not sure how aware you are, I wasn’t aware of the animation process. They throw all kinds of crazy ideas around. At one point I was a horned monster with orange skin. It’s a video game character so it can be anything. All I had to be was the bad guy. I watched all these different versions coming through. It’s a wonderful thing the way the artists can do whatever they want. Whatever comes to their head, stream of conscious coming out on paper. They can experiment .
I became Ralph and Ralph become me through the process of doing it. I think one of the reasons it ended up seeming like such a personal character or at least personally connected to the way I sound and I am is because Rich Moore the director, Jim Reardon the story editor and Phil Johnston the screen writer all brought me in for story meetings and solicited my ideas and let me improvise when I was recording the voice. AND they film you when you are recording the voice. All the stuff that I was doing to get myself in character they end up using to animate the guy. They got so excited about the facial gestures and stuff that I was that I was doing as I was talking. I did a Q&A with the animators. I was curious about how it all worked. When you work this hard at something you want to feel that you’re part of the whole team not just coming in to say words. I went in and did motion studies. I would walk around and do the character and act out the scenes and I would talk to them about the people I was thinking of as I was imagining how this guy moved. Some were like my family in Chicago. Ex- football player kind of uncles with guts with a soft heart inside. The animation team said, “John, no one has ever done this before! No one has ever come in.” When I do movies, a lot of times I spend a little extra time doing costume fitting. Every single time costume designers will say, “I thank you so much for coming in and spending extra time here.” And I was always thinking, what are these are other actors thinking? You gotta put the time into it! I told Rich at the end of this whole process, “If I could have an office at Disney and do this every day as a job I would be perfectly happy.” The part of acting getting your hair poked at, tons of makeup applied to your face is the least fun part for me. I like just being creative and telling stories and using my voice to do that is really satisfying.
Can you talk about Sarah? You guys had the most amazing chemistry! Did you enjoy recording in the same room with her?
JCR: Well, that was one of the prerequisites to doing the movie for me. I heard how animation worked and I thought that coming in alone and saying your lines and then having to react to a recording that’s already been done doesn’t sound fun at all. I said to Rich if we do this, we gotta to have everyone in the same room. If you’ve ever watched an actor in a movie talking on a telephone, you can tell that there isn’t anyone at the end of the phone. The little subtle things in your voice that you do to communicate with someone when they are right in front of you is different. It’s really hard to produce. Some people are good enough to do it but it’s pretty rare that you can match that exactly. Sarah is such a great improvisor and she has such a great wit. I knew the script is really good but if we have her there with me we’d be firing things back and forth to each other.
Did you do any research on the video games? You interact with a lot of older game characters. Did you have to learn who they were?
JCR: I was of the first generation of this stuff. I remember when space invaders arrived at the bowling alley, it went from pinball machines to, “What is this? I can manipulate the TV?” There weren’t even computers at that time. I knew a lot about the popular games from that era.
Did you think a movie centering around video games could be filled with so much heart?
JCR: I knew that it was going to be set in the world of video games. One of the first things Rich said was that he was not trying to recreate the experience of playing a video game. He’s trying to go make this imaginative leap to feel what it’s like to be in a video game and to be trapped in one of these worlds. One of my first concerns going in is I’m a real fan of classic children’s stories. Shrek is a very popular fun movie. But I remember the first time I saw the Shrek and they were like (changes voice) “Once upon a time there was a princess but (sound effect of paper ripping) it’s not going to be that story.” Oh! But I want it to be that story! I think this kind of post modern take on a lot of children’s entertainment sails right over the heads of kids. Kids are innocent by nature. They are young and they haven’t experienced life yet. Classic stories in classic story forms are still really effective with younger people. Which is why these hero journey stories stick around. I’m a big fan of fairy tales. I’ve been rereading all the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales recently. I sometimes direct children’s theater at school. One of my concerns going in is you want a purity to the story telling. There’s enough snarky entertainment out there. The world is drowning in snarkiness right now thanks to social media. Entertainment business is trying to stay ahed of the curve of people’s expectations by being really cynical and I think that’s a dead end street personally.
Can you see another story for Ralph?
JCR: He’s a great character and he has a lot of heart. The world of video games keeps expanding so I’m sure that a creative mind could find a place for him to go. That said, after I saw the Wreck It Ralph I turned to one of the guys who’s on the creative team. I said, “What happens now? What’s the next part of the story?” Personally I think the movie wrapped up nicely. It’s not a cliff hanger. It would be nice if the story continued but it does give you a good feeling that all of the characters are in a good place at the end.
Sarah Silverman plays nine year old Vanellope von Schweetz who lives in the Video Game Sugar Rush. Sarah is vibrant and truly a kid at heart. We quickly bonded when I discovered she was from the East Coast!
Where did you find that wonderful feisty little kid voice?
SS: It just came to me. There was very little searching for that voice. It happened in a minute! The Vanellope von Schweetz character is so scrappy I just sped up my voice (breaks into voice) and made it sound almost like she had a permanent cold.
What was your favorite part about playing Vanellope von Schweetz?
SS: I think her strength, perseverance and her scrappiness. In the beginning she’s obnoxious, she’s precocious and tough. But like any tough kid, she’s tough because she’s protecting this scared, rejected little girl who just wants to play with everyone else. She’s coping and surviving.
Did your character evolve? She looks like you!
SS: She had red hair in the beginning. Disney takes so much time that’s why they are so amazing they hone and redo things, re-sketching, rewriting until every moment is so layered and rich. As the sketches came in, each time they came in, I saw her eyebrows, and then her black little ponytail. It was really cool. They put her in a hoodie! I loved her upside down Reese’s buttercup skirt. I do think candy is poison and I don’t think it’s healthy for kids but I do love it!
How does Sara Silverman go to a PG rating? We may have never have pictured you in a Disney movie!
SS: They just cut out the swears. On one hand when Disney wanted me I was like are you sure this Sarah Silverman? I’ve always been a huge Disney fan. I’m a big huge babies and kids person even thought I don’t have any of my own.At first I thought do they only know me from MONK and Yo Gabba Gabba? Or as one of the filthiest comedians! For me growing up it was all about Eddie Murphy and now he’s made quite a home with Disney and children’s film. It’s not like I can’t control my mouth! It’s only one side of me that people seem to know so well. My act is very planned and provocative with a purpose. But seems gratuitous to others. I appreciate that Disney is giving me a chance. I know that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.
Are you a gamer? Do you have a favorite video game? Did you have to research video games to prepare for your role?
SS: I didn’t do any research in terms of video games because they’re not playing games they are within them. I probably got the deepest into Nintendo 64. Especially 007 Golden Eye, I know every room! I know the bathrooms. I know where the guns are hidden. I love it! I actually found a Nintendo 64. I have it now. I out the word out on Twitter and somebody in my neighborhood had one. I looked at his twitter profile and thought, “He doesn’t look like he’s going to murder me!” He came over and played with us. Then he left the Nintendo 64 and let me have it.
There’s an arcade by the house I grew up in New Hampshire called Space Center. Inside they had a Dairy Queen and a game called Joust that I mastered between dipped cones. You remember Joust? It was hard! It’s this really weird, long awkward bird that you’ve never seen. It has tiny wings so how can it fly?
What was it like for you to work with John C. Reilly?
SS: Awesome! We got to record together which is unique. We were able to look at each other, improvise, talk over each other. They need every line clean but to be able to overlap and digress and improvise and go in a completely bizarre direction I think helped. What they took from our sessions gave the dynamic between us a subtle nuance that you wouldn’t get if we were in a booth recording alone.
What kind of relationship do you think Ralph and Vanellope have?
SS: I think of it as family. They are both loners and we find our own family as adults. They found family in each other.
How does Sara Silverman go to a PG rating? We may have never have pictured you in a Disney movie!
They just cut out the swears! On one hand when Disney wanted me I was like are you sure this Sarah Silverman? I’ve always been a huge Disney fan.
I’m a big huge babies and kids person even thought I don’t have any of my own.At first I thought do they only know me from MONK and Yo Gabba Gabba? Or as one of the filthiest comedians! For me growing up it was all about Eddie Murphy and now he’s made quite a home with Disney and children’s film. It’s not like I can’t control my mouth! It’s only one side of me that people seem to know so well. My act is very planned and provocative with a purpose. But seems gratuitous to others. I appreciate that Disney is giving me a chance. I know that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.
What is your favorite candy?
SS: That’s like saying which one is your favorite child! I love Sweet Tarts, Nerds, Rope, Smarties but on the chocolate side I’m a Kit-Kat, Twix, Hersey Basr, Cadbury Eggs and Dove Bars. I would eat a Dove Bar every day I could.
What’s next for you?
SS: I have an app that is coming out at the end of October that I’ve been working on for a year that’s for infants and toddlers. I think it’s going to be called Uncle Sarah! (laughter) What you don’t know about me is that I have a whole other world of material for kids! I thought I could make an app and I could baby sit their kids on their iPads! There’s a song in it and there’s lots of interactive stuff. I think it’s really cool!
I’m also working on a special. It’s my first special in seven years. I’ve changed so much comedically. I forgot to make a special! I’ll do that for HBO probably in the spring.
Do you think Venelope is the new trend of princess? She is a Disney princess, so you are a Disney princess in a way. Venelope does take off the princess dress…
SS: That was in’t in the original script. When I saw that change I was choked up and so happy. I think Brave was the first Disney Pixar movie that had a girl hero that wasn’t saved by a boy. I feel like this is the next step where Venelope rejects the norms. “I’m going to be me”! She still has humor and spunk as a Disney girl. I’m truly honored to be that girl.
Jane Lynch is Sergeant Calhoun, the leader in the first-person shooter arcade game Hero’s Duty. She’s hysterical, courageous and hardcore!
You are super hot in this movie!
JL: Thank you! I tell this story that you will probably read a billion times. I was at a screening with my wife and I leaned over and I said, “I look so good in this movie!” My wife said, “Honey, it’s an animation. You are very good looking woman but that’s not you!”
John was saying how much he was much a part of the creative process. He was really surprised at how much goes in an animated movie. Did you just go in and record?
JL: John and I had a session together. He’s just a creative machine. He will do what’s written maybe once then he finds it deep inside himself. I spoke more militaristic but I would fool around here and there. My character, Sgt. Calhoun was pretty tightly scripted verbose and a little different for me. But it was fun working with John because he loosened me up. I also had a session with Jack McBrayer and to have the other person there and actually create the chemistry as opposed to having it created it for you by editing was really fun.
Did it help that Sgt. Calhoun had a backstory? She was the only character who was given a back story.
JL: That came later as the story deepened. She feels terribly guilty that she didn’t protect her beloved from the Cy-bugs the day they were to be married. So she’s walking around with that wound and that shame.
Can you relate to Sgt. Calhoun?
JL: Yeah, I personally see that vulnerability is a great strength and Sgt. Calhoun isn’t sold on that. She’s too deeply wounded. Certainly I know what it’s like to be deeply wounded and not wanting to let anybody else in there and having a chip on your shoulder plus punishing everyone who comes in your way for what you feel you did wrong. I get it.
Were you a gamer when you were little and which game did you like?
JL: No, I was not a gamer. I don’t think I’ve ever set foot in an arcade except to tell my brother to come. I played Asteroids in the 80s at bars when I was probably very drunk. I barely remember it!
How did you prepare for your character?
JL: I don’t know that I really prepared. I kind of just did my thing. “Is that what you want? Do you want me to do a voice?” Back in theday I would think “How do I fit what I do into what I think that they want.” Now they cast you because of who you are.
A lot of young girls might look up to the strength in your character. What kind of message do you want younger girls to take a way from the film.
JL: I think it’s great that they see a powerful woman. She’s also very feminine, but I think the most important lesson that I’d love for little girls to see is the power of vulnerability. That’s Sgt. Calhoun’s greatest strength- that she can love. She’s kind of single minded when we meet her, when it’s all about the mission and killing the Cy-bugs. She’s obsessed with that. Obsessed with her righting the wrong she felt she was responsible for in her past. And to see that when you open your heart it doesn’t make you weaker. It makes you stronger and more whole.
Did you have another interest when you were young?
JL: NO! I had no other interest other than jumping into a TV and being in Mary Taylor Moore’s living room or getting on stage and being in a play. I loved baseball. I played baseball a lot and watched it. I don’t love it anymore. I’m interested in stories now and story telling, going to deep place and why people do what they do. The world is evolving and stories need evolve to. There are a couple of subjects I’d love to explore and not give the answers to. I don’t have the answers to anything. But I love taking human frailty and human will power and throwing them into the mix and seeing what comes up.
What’s next besides from Glee?
JL: I’m writing. That’s the big thing that’s happening for me. Sometimes I forget that I’m on Glee. I still love doing it. On the show I have a baby and we’re going to really explore that. The episode coming up is full of Sue Silversator which I’m happy to say. There are a lot of kids on the show now so we’re all getting a little less time. I think this season is maybe more remarkable than the first season which I thought was pretty darn good. It’s a great show and it keeps growing and getting better.
Do you think that there will be a prominent gay Disney character?
JL: I bet! In their business practices they were the first one to give partnership healthcare. They’ll always have to keep an eye on the mainstream if they want to appeal to all kids. Not all parents are hip to the jive. I bet there will be a time though.
Other Wreck-It Ralph coverage:
Q&A: Producer Clark Spencer and Screenwriter Phil Johnston: http://thatsitmommy.com/2012/11/wreck-it-ralph-junket-qa-producer-clark-spencer-and-screenwriter-phil-johnston/
Q&A: Director Rich Moore: http://thatsitmommy.com/2012/11/wreck-it-ralph-junket-qa-director-rich-moore/
* We did not receive monetary compensation for this review. Tee was invited at the junket and received a goody bag free of charge for attending the junket.