It was nearly three years ago that I’d first met up with Director Rich Moore and Producer Clark Spencer on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California. It was then, on a detour from working the Global Media Event for Star Wars: The Force Awakens that I had a chance to join them (along with Director Byron Howard) to take an early look at what was shaping up to be the 55th feature film from Walt Disney Animation Studios – Zootopia. Fast-forward to July 2018 and I was back in a screening room on the Disney lot, but this time it was with Moore, Spencer and Director/Writer Phil Johnston for a sneak-preview of work-in-progress footage from the 57th Disney Animation feature, Ralph Breaks the Internet. Set for release on November 21, 2018, the crew was working feverishly as they entered the home stretch and as always, the collaborative efforts of team was showing as they continue to shape these films until they finally have to escape.
The seeds for Ralph Breaks the Internet were first planted back in 2012, just as work on the original Wreck-It Ralph came to a close. It was then that the filmmakers realized that there was more story to tell, but the screenplay would start to take shape in 2014. John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman would return as Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz, but for their second outing, a host of new characters and challenges would enter the fold as Ralph and Vanellope headed out of the arcade and off to the internet.
Among the new characters is Yesss, a Buzzfeed-like algorithm voiced by Taraji P. Henson – complete with elaborate digital clothing that changes rapidly, just as trends move in the digital world. The internet as a real place is something that the animators had to work with Moore and Johnston to create, eventually coming to the conclusion that it would be populated by full-time “Netizens” that live and work there – and the visiting “net users” (more on them in a future feature), who look an awful lot like Funko Pop! Vinyl figures come to life.
What’s particularly intriguing is how much the story fits with where gaming is in 2018. Retro gaming is massive right now – a movement that’s been picking up steam for a decade and just keeps getting bigger. While companies like Tastemakers roll out their Arcade1Up Game Cabinets and Basic Fun! and Super Impulse shrink said cabinets into pocket-size, there’s a growing number of arcades across the country and around the world that aim to give players the authentic, old-school gaming experience. And those old games need upkeep, and that means tracking down spare parts.
For the film, the steering wheel on the Sugar Rush machine ends up broken and there’s just one place to find a replacement – eBay. Unfortunately, the cost is more than the machine pulls in during an entire year, and that brings Mr. Litwak (the arcade owner) to determine that the game cabinet should be unplugged and sold for parts itself. Since Vanellope is now without a game and homeless, there’s only one thing left to do… head online to find that steering wheel!
Having seen a lot of footage – but much of it taken out of context, I’m very excited to share more with you… but we’ll do that closer to the release date. Stay tuned!