The Cast and Crew of ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ Explain Wrecking the Online World

GameStop, Inc.

Ralph Breaks the Internet Press Conference

It’s been six years since Wreck-It Ralph, the Disney animated movie about an ‘80s arcade villain who no longer wanted to be a villain. The film concluded, it seemed, with a bit of finality but nothing stays final in the movie business where there’s always a demand for more and more sequels. So Wreck-It Ralph has returned for Ralph Breaks the Internet, a continuation of the story that sees the villain-turned-hero leave the cozy confines of his arcade and enter the sprawling and intimidating world of the internet. At a recent press conference in Los Angeles, the cast and crew of Ralph Breaks the Internet discussed their animated sequel.

The first question: Why a sequel when the first film seemed to reach its natural conclusion. For co-writer and co-director Rich Moore, it was the final line of the film: “We looked at the very last line of the first movie where Ralph says… ‘If that little kid likes me, how bad can I be? And it seemed at the time, it’s so sweet. It’s a wonderful sentiment. But then as we continued to kind of pick at it, we said, ‘That’s really, really dysfunctional.’ That this guy is defining himself by what his best friend thinks and it’s a great best friend. But what if she were not to like him someday? What would that lead to?”

Bouncing off Moore’s answer is co-writer and co-director Phil Johnson, adding, “And so knowing that he still had quite a bit of insecurity, he still had farther to go in his journey. Then we had only known Vanellope for like 35 or 40 minutes. So she has a whole other story. We had to keep going with these characters.”

“Well, I’m a vintage human being,” said the voice of Wreck-It Ralph, John C. Reilly. “You wouldn’t guess from the outfit,” he said while looking down at his dapper suit compete with vest and hat.

After the brief joke, Reilly explained where his character is in the sequel as opposed to this new installment “The character, it was initially even conceived as a fish out of water kind of character,” Reilly explained. “That was a lot of what we played with in the first film is how does Ralph behave or how does any video game character behave in a game that’s not his own. And then the Internet is this literally infinite landscape. So I don’t know. There’s a lot of really fun metaphors that we’re also playing with in the film. And this idea that the arcade is like the childhood kind of arena of their friendship and the Internet represents the sort of larger world beyond as they grow and mature.”

The heart and soul of Ralph Breaks the Internet comes from the bond between John C. Reilly’s big lug Ralph and the young princess Vanellope, voiced once again by Sarah Silverman. One reason there’s a unique feel to the bond between these characters is that many of the vocal cast record together, something rare in animation.

“We get to record together with these guys and Pam,” Sarah Silverman said of working John C. Reilly, the directing duo of Rich Moore and Phil Johnston as well as co-writer Pamela Ribbon. “We get to improvise. They give us a lot of freedom. We collaborate a lot and the script itself is so fantastic. And it’s really fun. I think they always book about maybe an extra hour of time than they need. Because we get real chatty. And there is definitely an album. Like a very rated R comedy album somewhere in the audio footage of recording for sure.”

“It was a real treat to get into the studio again with Sarah. In a way, like our friendship has aged five years since the last film. So it tracks in a way with Ralph and Vanellope. Sarah is not my only friend. One of my only friends,” added John C. Reilly. “But it was a real treat to be able to start at a place of intimacy with Sarah and with Phil and Rich and Pam and everybody. We all kind of knew each other. And we learned how to work together on the first film. And we built these characters and the story together. So that when it came time to start this one, we could start from a very advanced place in terms of the kind of conversations we could have about the relationships and all that. And you can really see that in the film. I think I was one of the first people to insist that we try to be in the room together as much as possible. Because I know the way improv works, it works best in real time.”

There’s a new character in the world of Ralph Breaks the Internet in Shank, a cutthroat racer from the ultraviolent and gritty online game Slaughter Race. The character is voiced by Gal Gadot who was one of the few cast members unable to record with her castmates. “I wish I could say that we did, but we didn’t,” Silverman said of being unable to work personally with Gadot. “Because she has been shooting this movie called Wonder Woman. It’s not going to do well. So yeah, that was one where we couldn’t record together. But I adore her.”

Another new character that Ralph and Vanellope encounter in the vast world of the internet is Yesss, the head algorithm at the video website BuzzTube. Yesss and her vibrant personality are voiced by the great Taraji P. Henson, who is just enjoying having a role in a Disney animated film. “First of all, voicing a character in a Disney animated film: Check. Bucket List,” the Oscar-nominated actress wryly said.

“I just thought she was incredible,” Henson continued. “When Rich and Phil brought her to me and explained her, I was like, this is a no brainer. She’s a go getter. She’s the head of a company. She’s no nonsense. She has heart. My favorite scene is when Ralph finds himself in the comment section or the comment room. She comes in and she tells him it’s not you, it’s them. They’re mean. They’re hurting you. It grounded the film for me and it grounded the character for me. Made her multi-dimensional. And then getting to voice with amazing actors. I mean, it was just a no brainer for me.”

Returning from the first film as Ralph’s video game counterpart Fix-It Felix is Jack McBrayer. At the end of the first film, Fix-It Felix wound up marrying Calhoun (voiced by Jane Lynch), a mismatch of a marriage. This time around, the married video game characters wind up adopting a number of preteen racers from Vanellope’s game when it’s out of order. “After a few years of marriage, they’ve experienced some tension and perhaps some stagnation. So now they’re thrust into these new circumstances that really force them to not only evaluate how they feel about each other, but what their preconception of what parenthood could be is reality,” McBrayer said.

McBrayer made sure to add, “So much poop.”

Sarah Silverman’s Vanellope takes the mantle of being a Disney princess in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Not only does Vanellope get to meet her fellow Disney princesses, she gets her own special song. “It was a dream come true. I couldn’t believe it,” Silverman said. “When you guys told me I was going to have a song, we had already been recording for a while. And I couldn’t believe it. And the music was written by Alan Menken and I got to meet him and work with him and rehearse with him. And he played somewhere that’s green for me to sing from my favorite. He wrote Little Shop of Horrors, my favorite. And of course it’s like this Disney icon of iconic songs. But yeah. It was incredible. Then we recorded with a whole orchestra. Like you see in old timely movies. He was crazy. It was really the thrill of a lifetime.”

Of course, the scene where Vanellope gets to meet the other Disney princesses set the internet ablaze when it was revealed in the trailers. Writer Pamela Ribbon got to provide the voice for Snow White for the scene. “It was amazing to be able to work with all the original voice actresses to come back and add everything that they bring to the characters,” Ribbon said. “And what a dream come true to have Vanellope Von Schweetz now officially part of the canon, which was the whole point the whole time. The hoodie princess reigns supreme.”

For John C. Reilly, Ralph Breaks the Internet explores some vital issues such as people’s relationship to technology and the world wide web. “The Internet is like the central issue of our time. Our relationship to this technology, its power, and its effect on us, we don’t even quite understand yet,” the actor said. “It’s as powerful as like a nuclear bomb. But it uses other means. So it was really exciting in the context of an entertaining Disney film to be able to talk about some of these issues in a really, really real way. Its effect on people. Why do we crave the anonymous acceptance of people we don’t know? All of this stuff. The way we’re bombarded with commerce on the Internet. So we made this fun entertaining story. But I think certainly you must have asked this question for this reason. That you come away from the film thinking about some of the most important issues of our time.”

As for the look of creating the internet as a lived-in world, the creators shot around a number ideas before settling on an interesting take. “We finally landed on something where we thought of it like an old city like Rome or Istanbul where the ancient city is buried deep beneath. Then they build a new version on top of that and a new version on top of that like that. And that’s kind of actually what the Internet is. You go down to the guts of it and you find,” said Phil Johnston. “That’s how we envisioned it. Like a city that is multi-multi-layered with the newest, biggest Websites are up on top. Then the old forgotten stuff is down at the bottom.”

The advances of computer technology may have invaded our personal lives in ways nobody ever imagined but it’s also propelled the art of cinema and animation forward to the point that what was impossible six years ago is possible today. Producer Clark Spencer explained just how much the evolution of technology played a role in the action-packed climax of Ralph Breaks the Internet.

“I think there’s two things that end up happening. One is technology is just improving in terms of the ability to render faster, which is a big key component to it. The second thing with Kong Ralph which is really interesting, we had to change our pipeline paradigm,” the producer explained. “We had to actually not let it be something that would happen at the end of our process. We would have four departments come together to work in tandem with each other. So it’s really the effects department, lighting, animation, and crowds, who all came together to work as a team which is outside of the pipeline we usually use.”

Clark continued, “There are 50,000 Ralphs in that Kong Ralph. And to make sure that they don’t actually interpenetrate in any shot that we’re actually looking at. So there are many pieces of the puzzle that had to all come together to create that. And it’s a story where the directors had this idea and the story artists pitched it. Then you wonder again, is it something that we’re going to actually be able to realize in time. And it was an incredible process to actually watch come together.”

It wouldn’t truly be a movie about the internet without a couple of memes. Be sure to stay through the credits of Ralph Breaks the Internet concludes by Rick-Rolling the audience, with the lovable lug taking on the Rick Astley number that has found a second life on the internet.

“That was reverse engineered, actually. I think it occurred to everyone that that song did apply in that way in the movie. Because it was a very, very late addition. I think it might have been a joke that we just came up with for the credits. And then that song is everywhere in our trailer and stuff now, recalled John C. Reilly.

“The idea of something called a Wreck-Roll was one of the first dumb ideas we had,” said Phil Johnston.
“But we didn’t ever actually then figure out how to use it or where to put it.”

“He has the voice of an angel,” added Sarah Silverman. “See him sing American Roots music.”

With all the eyes looking at him dressed to the nines, John C. Reilly asked, “Anybody got a guitar?”

Anytime Costumes

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