With most of the animated Disney feature Wreck-It Ralph taking place in the secret digital world hidden inside every arcade, it's not surprising that Disney is giving fans of the film the opportunity to purchase and download to own or rent the HD film digitally nearly a month before it's available on store shelves as a 4 disc DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital combo pack March 5th.
Available February 12, Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of a video game villain who has lost his desire to be the bad guy and sets out on an adventure to find if he has what it takes to be a hero in the diverse video game world.
We sat down with Wreck-It Ralph co-writer and director Rich Moore to talk about the film, his history of directing animated television classics, and what truly gets him geeked out.
GEEK: How did your long history with Futurama and The Simpsons inform your work on Wreck-It Ralph?
Simpsons especially was great practical training for a young director on the making of character based comedy entertainment. Working with Jim Brooks in those early years of the Simpsons… and Matt Groening, Sam Simon, who was there in the very beginning of the Simpsons… All those guys are masters of what they do. I was a huge fan of Jim’s and Matt’s coming into that show. They were like heroes to me. Just being allowed to really influence that show from its infancy, the visual storytelling style of that show, and to be a part of that was really great. It really took what I loved as a kid and allowed me to really hone those skills in a practical way with great, great material.
Number one, just the idea of being able to do a film about the world of video games. As a hook, as a big idea, that was very compelling to me. But I didn’t want it to be just about that. I felt what was going to make it compelling as a film, and not just an exciting project to be working on, was to have a very relatable main character that was struggling with something that made sense to people and was relatable to the audience. The early idea behind it was, when I pitched it to John Lasseter, this old school character trying to come to terms with who he was and his place in the world and what his life was about; struggling with this existential crisis of, ‘What if I don’t like what I was programmed to do? Where do I go from there?’ And that just felt very exciting to me, to have this character who was programmed for one job to be bucking against it and fighting against it. And John Lasseter agreed. He said, “I really feel this is a story worth telling”. That was really the genesis of the whole movie. After that, it was four years of honing that idea and that’s where the movie was born from.
They were such great people to work with. All of them I’ve been fans of for a long time, especially John and Sarah. They were always the kind of people that I associated with the characters from the conception of the characters. It wasn’t so much ‘well, who could play this?’. We didn’t create the characters and have to think a long time about who we could cast in the role. As we created the characters, Phil Johnston (who wrote the first draft of the original screenplay) and I pictured these people playing these parts. Their faces and personalities came along with the concept of the characters. So to work with these people, who I’ve admired and respected for so long… to become like family working together, and become people I just love to death… has been a great journey.
GEEK: For those who have always wondered, since you don’t deal with physical worlds or necessarily physical people and sets, what does an animated film director do?
Well, I can only speak for myself on this film. My job from the beginning was to come up with the core idea of what this film would be and the vision and tone of it. And then shepherd that idea through all phases of development and production, and really protect what it is that made me fall in love with the idea from the beginning. And it’s a long process. It was four years that I worked on this film. And after pitching that original idea to John Lasseter, it went then for 9 months to a year of just myself and Phil Johnston, the writer, of working together to flesh out this idea and developing the first draft of the script. It started with 2 people and ended with 450 people. There are so many different steps in the journey to make a film like this. I’m the fortunate person who gets to shepherd it through every phase of development and watch it go and kind of nurture it and really listen to the other people that I work with and not dictate to them. I work some amazing artists, probably the best in animation today. My job is to bring out the best in everyone associated with the project and allow them to do what it is that they do best to make the movie as good as it could be.
There were other worlds. There was a whole other game world called “Extreme EZ Livin’ 2”, which was this kind of amoral Sims mixed with Grand Theft Auto type of video game world, that represented kind of the bottom of Ralph’s journey, where he went after he disappointed Penelope and kind of went to drown his sorrows. Instead of going home, he went to this game. It was one of those things where as funny as it was, and as much as everyone involved loved it, it was just another very complicated game world to be bringing in so late in the story. Unfortunately, we had to let that one go. But I’m hoping that if we’re able to do a sequel, it would be great to include that world into that movie. I thought it was really funny and the most contemporary of the game worlds that we visited. And it was something that people could really relate to, especially social gaming fans. I hope that we’re able to bring that back in a sequel.
Before you go, I have to ask, is there anything that you geek out about?
I would say that the most recent huge geek out moment that I had was when I heard that Disney was acquiring Lucasfilm and Star Wars. I mean, you have no idea. You have never seen a 48 year old man geek out so much! Because I am a died-in-the-wool Star Wars fanatic since age 11, since 1977 when the first movie came out. It changed my life. I will admit it right now. I was one of those who would stay for multiple showings every time I’d go see it. Over 100 times in the theaters for the first one. So to find out that it was going to be under the same roof as the place where I’m working now and knowing what great talent is surrounding it at this point, like Michael Arndt, who I did some work with on Wreck-It Ralph, who was part of our story trust and that Pixar brain trust. And now JJ Abrams directing the film, it’s killing me. It’s just like, OH MY GOD! Because I’m such a fan of that original trilogy. And I just love the tone of them and just the way they make me feel. And the thought that we’re going to go back to THAT galaxy and get those same feelings is just so… I cannot express it to you.
Images courtesy © 2013 Disney.