At Walt Disney Studios, screen writers Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston, and director Richard More – who originally thought up the concept of Wreck it Ralph – have created an entertaining family film about heroes, villains, and video games.
One thing that makes this a strong film is its history. It’s clear that the team at Walt Disney Studios re-worked and shaped the idea into something interesting and relevant over a long timeframe. In addition, the movie is filled with references and characters from prominent video games over the past three decades. The popularity of a crossover to pop-culture fans cannot be underestimated.
Wreck-it Ralph nods to hardcore gamers while telling a story about being an outcast finding a rewarding role to play. The central character is a video game villain named Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly, who lives in a dump, and is thrown from an apartment building into a muddy pond each time a player clears a level in the video game he occupies: Fix-it Felix Junior. It’s clear why he is frustrated.
Ralph begins a quest to find a medal: an item that apparently only heroes can possess – he believes it will grant him respect, and potentially, acceptance from the other occupants of his game; snobby, not-playable-characters (NPCs) like Jean and Mary, and the game’s star; Fix-it Felix, voiced by Jack McBrayer. At the very least, it might allow him to move out of the dump, and into the penthouse of the apartment building.
Themes and Characters
Ralph is an outcast, and a conflicted one. It is revealed early on in the film that many video game villains hold regular group therapy session. Characters such as Zangief and M.Bison (from Street Fighter), Bowser (from Super Mario Brothers) and Doctor Eggman (from Sonic the Hedgehog) have accepted that their roles as villains. It’s possible that talking to other villains gives them all the support they need. This is not true in Ralph’s case. It’s clear he is missing friendship in his life. the experience of ‘finding your tribe’ is a key theme here. Ralph finds real satisfaction not in simply playing a game and getting a medal, which is a fairly straightforward task, but in maintaing friendships and ties to others.
Dealing with rejection and ostracism, in addition to a brief brush over the effects of bullying, are also dealt with here, particularly when Ralph finds common ground with his new friend Vanellope Von Schweetz: voiced by Sarah Silverman, Vanellope is a little glitch character from the racing game called Sugar Rush that Ralph crashes into on his journey. As a glitch, Vanellope has been entirely rejected by her peers in Sugar Rush, particularly the noxious King Candy, voiced by Alan Tudyk. Vanellope teaches Ralph tenacity and resilience – Silverman’s bright and clever performance combined with this in-built resilience make Vanellope a strong character.
Animation and Effects
Their is a remarkable blend of art style evident here: the characters of Hero’s Duty, the game where Ralph goes to find a medal, are sharp and realistic humans – their game is far more up-to-date compared to the 8-bit arcade characters. Jane Lynch, voicing Seargent Tamora Calhoun, plays this aggressive character with consistent intensity. She comes from a harsh world clearly inspired by games such as Mass Effect, and Gears of War – there acting and design are perfectly aligned. The Sugar Rush racers have a chibi or “child like” appearance – they spend most of their time in racing karts where only their faces are visible.
Most of the movies time is spent in the sweet paradise of Sugar Rush. The animation textures of chocolate dust and sparkling sugar crystals are an achievement. It’s appropriate then that the Japanese pop music written for Sugar rush can be described as ‘bubble gum pop’.
The lighting effects in Ralph and Felix’s home communicate major emotions: a harsh, red warning light dominates the interior when danger appears, and warm, gold light streams through the penthouse interior when everyone celebrates the 30th anniversary of Felix’s (and Ralph’s) game.