During my totally awesome tour of the Disney Animation Studio, I had the privilege of screening an advance copy of Wreck-It Ralph, which I truly loved. (More about my thoughts on this movie, but for now just know that it is fantastic!) After checking out a not-yet-completed version of the film, we had the privilege of sitting down with the movie’s director, Rich Moore, and producer, Clark Spencer.
Since the movie was a huge hit with our entire group, we had a lot of questions for the pair about how they came up with the concept, challenges encountered during the creation and (because we bloggers are always thinking ahead) what might be in store in the future for Ralph and the gang.
How difficult was it to get approval from the game companies? It sounds like a legality nightmare.
Rich Moore: If you’re gonna do it, you should do it right.
Clark Spencer: When Rich first pitched the idea, he talked a lot about wanting authenticity, which means you have to have the real video game characters. I always wondered, and we always wondered, what will we be able to get? And I think we always said, “Well, if we can get a few characters, that’ll really help ground it.” But amazingly when we went out to the companies, and they heard the idea for the film, they were very excited about it.
I think in some ways, TOY STORY blazed the trail for that. When people saw it’s great to be a part of the TOY STORY franchise and film because it’s ways for different toys to be in the same world and be represented. So, I think it was one of those things where we were sort of able to use that as a reference point, in game company stock. This could be an exciting project to be a part of.
Where did the idea stem from?
Rich Moore: Well, the idea began about four years ago, when I started here at Disney. I was invited by John Lasseter who’s an old friend and colleague. To come into the studio and develop ideas to be movies. So I was thinking about what would make a good movie, and someone brought up the notion of a story about video games, an idea that had been kind of floating around here for many years but never really got off the ground.
It seemed like a great idea, so without going to the material that had been developed before, I started from square one. So I started to develop a world of video games and their characters and what their lives are like. And then it hit me, well, that would be great if you had a main character who didn’t like his job. You know one that wondered, “Is this all there is to life, this one thing that I do?”
It really simply began with just those two things, a big overarching world of video games and a very personal internal conflict between the character and that world. So I presented to John, and I’ve been moving on with that ever since.
When you started did you have an idea of the actor in mind, or did you listen to different voices?
Clark Spencer: There’s an old saying, “Good directing is 75% good casting.” And I believe that. So it was important to me that we not just cast voices just for the sake of casting a popular voice. I wanted the actors to come from the heart of the characters. As we were developing the characters in the story, we would always say, “Who is this like? Who would be good doing this?”
We had a big board that we would put up pictures of people and say, “Well, Ralph is kinda like this person.” Sometimes it would change day to day, “No, he’s more like kinda this.”
We knew pretty early on that John C. Reilly would be great for this character. And I think Sarah was on that original pitch to John.
You know the role of the character Sergeant Calhoun was a man for a long time. At one point we just said, “Well, why, what if Calhoun’s a woman?”
Like Dory, in FINDING NEMO, there is something about taking that fish design, it’s not just the fish and it’s not just Ellen Degeneres. It’s something magical that happened, by combining those two elements and a third thing appears – Dory. And you can’t imagine that the world ever existed without that character in it. I hope that’s the case for the characters I create too – that they have that feeling that they’ve been forever.
Thanks to Kimberly from SheScribes for the photo.
Can you tell us about the challenges around creating multiple gaming worlds within one movie?
Rich Moore: In doing a movie about video games I knew early on that I wanted to celebrate the different eras. Video games have been around long enough now that they have history to them. You can look at games from the beginning like PONG and put it next to HALO, to see how much things have changed. I wanted to celebrate that difference, so we chose different genres of games that would illustrate the history of games.
If there was a big challenge in this movie, it was convincing the artists that work on it that everything that you usually do when you’re working on a movie, don’t do that. Don’t try to homogenize it, we’re gonna try and celebrate everything that makes these things unique.
So with the Fix-It Felix, Jr. world, it was all simple – the design, the camera work, the animation style. When you’re in that world, everything about it says that it’s simple; it’s an 8-bit world. When we get to Hero’s Duty, go very realistic, super realistic. Then to be thrown on its ear by going to this very whimsical world of Sugar Rush.
Did you have any input in the Fix-It Felix game on the iPad?
Rich Moore: Yeah we met with them quite a bit in creating that game, because it was important to me that it not just be something that was very different from the movie. I wanted it to feel like it was a mobile version of an old retro game.
Did you see those old arcade versions of Fix-It Felix, Jr.? They are what that game would have been like back in the ‘80s, and they did a great job of capturing that game play. You know I think we’re gonna have those at some theaters and at Disneyland on display for people to play.
Clark Spencer: It’s funny to watch the chatter online of people saying, “I didn’t know that this was a real game.” And other people saying, “No, it wasn’t a real game, they’re making you think that it’s a real game.”
Is there a plan to bring the Fix-It Felix game to Android? (This was my question for all of my fellow Android users.)
Rich Moore: Yeah, they’re working on it right now. (yeay!)
Have you thought about other worlds or games that could be made into another film?
Clark Spencer :I love the characters. And I love working with the people who portray the characters. So I would not pass up an opportunity to do that again – I would definitely be onboard with that. Why, have you heard something?
What other worlds would you consider?
Clark Spencer: We had ideas for lots of other worlds. One in particular was EXTREME EASY LIVING 2. It was going to come in the third act of the movie, after Ralph got the car. Instead of going home, he was gonna go to this place that was part SIMS part GRAND THEFT AUTO. And he was really gonna hit rock bottom at that place. But it was just too many worlds. It hung around until about the third screening.
So if this does well, like we think it may, we can always bring it back. We just put it on the back shelf for now. So, knock on wood we will all get to see EXTREME EASY LIVING 2 in the future.
Disclosure – I was invited to attend this premiere as part of a blogger weekend. Air fair and lodging was provided, however, all thoughts, opinions and Disney gushings are my own.