Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph (PG) opens in theaters November 2, 2012
I spoke to the creative masterminds behind Wreck-IT Ralph at a recent press junket. Richard Moore (Director), Phil Johnson (writer), and Clark Spender (Producer) shared their stories of favorite video games, working with the incredible cast of voice actors and the different Video Game Worlds that come alive in Wreck-It Ralph.
Producer Clark Spencer and Screenwriter Phil Johnston
Did you have favorite games growing up?
PJ: Food Fight was my favorite game arcade game. I was awesome at it! Food Fight gave you the chance to be a slob and chuck food. I also played Pac man and Ms. Pac man. But food fight was my favorite arcade game. I was no good at Q*bert!
In the opening scene we saw so many video games. Where there more scenes of Ralph jumping from game to game that didn’t make it in?
PJ: There was one game we created that didn’t end up in the movie called Extreme Living 2. Which was this morally ambiguous, lawless, crazy world.
CS: It was sort of Sims meets Grand Theft Auto Disney style!
PJ: We had a lot of fun with it and it was in there for a few drafts and a couple of screenings. The fact was that it felt more like a game that you would play online or maybe on a game console. It probably wouldn’t be in an arcade so it didn’t authentically fit into the world we were exploring. Although we really had fun with that!
You guys created a challenge for the animators with so many characters and so many worlds that look so different. Did you have any idea that this is going to be difficult?
CS: Interestingly, in the very beginning we didn’t think about that aspect of it as we started to get into it. John Lasseter, to his credit, actually pushed hard to make sure that the worlds felt as different as possible. John was adamant from the beginning that you want to feel that you’ve gone into a completely different world. Almost as if you’ve gone into a completely different movie. We’d show him 8-bit animation in the world of Fix-It Felix Jr. He’d say you can go further. We showed him at one point Hero’s Duty and actually if you look at the trailer there are some shots of Hero’s Duty that’s different from the way it looks from the actual film. That’s from John saying let’s do Saving Private Ryan meets Alien. It’s supposed to be like, “Oh my god what did I do?” This is the worst place that Ralph can land. He’s in over his head. John Lasseter pushed hard to take it in that direction.
JP: I think in the beginning you try not to think about what a production nightmare it is going to be. You want to let the creativity flow and see what happens. After that Clark can deal with the nightmare of getting the movie made!
CS: That’s a really good point! Obviously as a producer you want to believe that it’s going to get done. But at the end of the day you don’t want to inhibit what can creatively get done. We might actually have made entirely different choices early on if we limited what we could talk about doing in the film. To the credit of the team, people figured that out. There might have been moments of fear but at the end of the day the creative team is very smart. They figured it out.
There are a lot of strong women in this- little girl racers, Jane’s character? I think that’s awesome as a tribute for kids going to see it. Did you plan that from the beginning?
PJ: Jane’s character was a man, early on. During the first six months it’s just myself and Rich Moore the director. We’re in a small room, driving each other crazy, telling jokes. There was going to be this tough male sergeant. The place your brain goes is a square jawed man. What would be more interesting is if a really strong woman is in that role. She’s the one who kind of whips Ralph into shape. Plus, the idea of this 8-Bit munchkin falling in love with her. There is going to be comedy there. That’s how that came along. We really pushed Sgt. Calhoun farther and farther into almost a maniacal solder lady. But also there is an emotional back story that is a big component to the way her character behaves. She wears armor and she’s put armor around her heart.
CS: Actually, there are two boy racers in Sugar Rush. To be fair we always thought Sugar Rush was a world that came from Japan. It felt like anime style. Really, Harajuku girls is what we based it on. As a result it was initially all girls. We later decided that maybe we should put in one or two boys.
Can you talk more about Sugar rush? I can’t believe it wasn’t actually a game.
PJ: We always knew that it would be a Candy World. it was called Candy Hollow for a little while. Lauren MacMullan, who’s one of the story artists, came up with Sugar Rush. I think it’s such a great name for the game. Again we’re thinking, going back to Ralph, what is the worst place in the world for our big lumbering bull in a china shop, angry at the world character? How about if he’s in a sickly sweet children’s game? He would hate it! That’s obviously where we want to put him. Sugar Rush evolved and simplified from a lot more mini games. There was going to be dancing component and it came back to whether it would be authentic for a video game. It wasn’t. So there wasn’t going to be a racing game mixed with Dance Dance Revolution mixed with all this stuff. The genesis was, what’s the worst place for Ralph could end up and it was going to Sugar Rush.
John seemed incredibly involved with this project. Were you surprised by that? How did you feel about him being so much involved in the process?
CS: Early on he said, “If I do the movie I want to be involved in the process.” He’s an actor who wants to know his character and know that he can have the ability to influence it. From the beginning that was the way it always worked. Phil and Rich spent many lunches with him looking at the script.
PJ: I was living in NY at the time. Clark calls one day and asked if I can fly in for lunch in Pasadena with John C. Reilly. John wanted to hear from me and Rich face to face as to this is how it’s going to be. He needed that and he got it. We got the most amazing performance and collaboration.
When did you actually wrap the film how much pressure was on you to get it done on time for the release date.
CS: We actually finished the film last Monday (October 8). We definitely pushed the limited on it. To me there is always a kind of a scary part of pushing limits but at the end of the day, anything you can do to make the movie better you want to go do that. That’s what the process is about. We wanted the story telling to be as great as possible. The look of it to be as amazing as possible. The animation in all these worlds to be great as possible. The last part of our process is sound design and we worked with Gary Roger Rydstrom up at Skywalker Ranch. Gary has won multiple academy awards for Jurassic Park, Star Wars and all these amazing films. We wanted to give him the time to be able to take the sound to the level we wanted it to be.
Other Wreck-It Ralph coverage:
Q&A with Director Rich Moore: http://thatsitmommy.com/2012/11/wreck-it-ralph-junket-qa-director-rich-moore/
Q&A with John C. Reilly, Sara Silverman and Jane Lynch: http://thatsitmommy.com/2012/10/junket-qa-wreck-it-ralph-voice-actors/
* 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.