Over the years Disney has delivered a wider variety of subject matter in their films than other animated studio. For years they have been trying to deliver a film focused on video games and finally they have with easily one of the best animated films to come along in some time with Wreck-It-Ralph. I had the chance to sit down with the director Rich Moore to get a little more insight on how he brought this project out of the game and onto the big screen.
Bobby: I know a video game related project has been bouncing around at Disney for a while now. How did you get involved in this one?
Rich: There had been a notion for a video game project around the studio and I came to work here at Disney in 2008 and about that time they had just put it back on the shelf about a year prior. Since it was kind of fresh in John Lasseter’s mind, he mentioned to me when I started they’d always wanted to do a film about video game characters, is that something I would be interested in looking at. I love video games and grew up playing them, watching them mature over the course of my life so that seemed like a really great world to set a story. So I said yeah I would love to develop something for that. My approach to the whole thing was instead of starting with an idea of action and adventure or just the mechanics of video games and making it just about that, I wanted to start with a strong character storyline. After working a few months with the idea I landed on the idea of the old school game character having this crisis of spirit and wondering what life was about. Kind of having this mid-life crisis and wondering what’s the purpose and how do I go on if I don’t have passion for what I do. That was kind of the genesis of the whole thing and that simple of how it started out. From that simple idea we began the development process and the first screenplay of the film.
Bobby: You were able to bring some of the existing characters from the video game world into the movie as well as some unique design to the new ones. Did you have a look in mind when putting it together?
Rich: As the screenplay was being written and the storyboards are being developed on another track there are a group of designers that I’m working with and at the same time working on what the characters look like and what their world looks like. There was a point in time when we were developing the movie that we didn’t know what Ralph was. We knew his personality, how he acted and the kinds of things he did with his role in the game, but was he human, is he an animal, some kind of beast? There was a period of time that we imagined him as some kind of sasquatch character as well as an anthropomorphic wrecking crane thing, so we really did our due diligence on what this guy was and the moment that really cemented the look of the character ad who he was, was in the story was that the heart of it was between Ralph and Penelope. He becomes kind of a big brother figure to her, so visually we needed look for Ralph that reflected that. So having him portrayed as an animal, beast, or monster really didn’t satisfy that relationship of little sister and big brother, but instead like little sister and big teddy bear or something like that. It was at that point that I said guys he has to be human. They have to look like what the relationship is, like they could be a little sister and big brother. We had moments like that throughout production of the film that helped cement what things looked like, what they are, how they happened, and stuff like that.
Bobby: Usually during the voice over recording on these films the actors rarely are there together working. I heard hear that wasn’t the case?
Rich: That’s true, that came as a suggestion of John C. Reilly. He had not done an animated film before because this apprehension of the way they are recorded, because he feels his best work comes when he is working with other actors. What I like about John is how honest he is and we developed a relationship very early on where he knew he could trust and be up front with me. He said he loved the character, he loved the script, he loved the movie and he wanted to do it, but wasn’t sure if he could work by himself in a booth reading lines off a page. That just didn’t seem fun to him. It got me thinking and rather than just saying that’s just how we do it, that’s our process, let’s just make the best of it; it really made me question the method in animated films. I started to think with this movie, this is the first time that John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman are appearing in a movie together. So the audience has expectations of what that’s going to be like and the chemistry between them. It’s kind of silly we’re not giving the audience that chemistry if all their hearing are lines edited together from two separate recording sessions then their getting half the entertainment than they are expecting. So it really made me question on how we do things on these films. I spoke to my producer Clark Spencer, I think John has a really good point and I would really like to put John and Sarah together to get their best because they are two people that work well off of other actors. So we took great strides to make that happen and we did and I think the movie is way better for it. It totally started with John expressing his apprehensions to me and me really listening to him and wanting what’s best for the movie and not just sticking to this is just how we do it.
Bobby: It shows, their exchanges feel different than what you normally get in other animated films.
Rich: It’s exactly that, it’s the chemistry between the two actors working together because we had it set up so they could look into each other’s faces and eyes when they were acting and that just doesn’t usually happen a lot on animated films. I think you can hear the connection in their voices and feel their relationship between the two of them.
Bobby: It’s a great film and look forward to possibly seeing more of him later.
Rich: Thanks so much, absolutely. I hope so too.
Bobby: I really appreciate your time.
Rich: Thanks so much.
Be sure to pick up Wreck-It-Ralph when it hits Blu-ray and DVD on March 5, 2013.