Disney Marathon: ‘Wreck-It Ralph’


This movie holds a special place for our family. It’s one of the first movies Joshua saw and got really into. Alan Tudyk, who plays a lead role in this movie, was also my first celebrity interview and recorded a very cool message for Josh in character as King Candy. We’re also a big gaming household, so this is going to be a hot contender the tops of some lists.

For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 30s blogger), my son Josh (stoic 10 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 7 year old princess wannabe) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: Wreck-It Ralph

Released: 2012

Director: Rich Moore

Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Mindy Kaling, Joe Lo Truglio, Ed O’Neill

Plot: Ralph has been the villain of an arcade game for 30 years and doesn’t feel like his life has meaning. In a desperate move he begins jumping between games hoping to become a ‘hero’.

Review: This is a movie with a simple concept but incredible world building and execution. Video game characters are alive, and have their own world behind the screens where they mingle and have their own ambitions outside of their ascribed roles. ‘Wreck-It’ Ralph (O’Reilly) is the villain to ‘Fix-It’ Felix (McBrayer), the hero of the vintage arcade cabinet ‘Fix-It Felix, Jr.’. Ralph has been ostracised by his community who only see him as a bad guy, and in spite of the support of other villains Ralph can’t seem to come to terms with his role.

From the start we get a great sense of the characters and their world. All the games in the arcade are linked up through a power board, and the characters travel between the games and this hub through the power cables. We open with Ralph in a support group in the ‘Pac-Man’ cabinet, and get a tour of the inner world populated by familiar and original characters. Having familiar faces like Bowser, Chun-Li, Sonic, Kano, Frogger and Q*Bert helps the film-original folk feel authentic. The animation style helps as well, with everything in the vintage games have squared edges and few animation frames whilst the newer games are more detailed with dynamic lighting effects and a wider range of movment.

When driven to anger by his colleagues, Ralph grows determined to earn a medal to prove his worth. Initially he delves into ‘Hero’s Duty’, a violent sci-fi shooter and escapes with the Medal of Heroes. In the chaos that follows, Ralph crashes through into ‘Sugar Rush’, a candy-themed kart racer where he simultaneously loses his medal and unwittingly unleashes a ‘Cy-bug’ that begins to spread like a destructive virus. Still focused on his medal, Ralph teams up with glitching deleted racing character Vanellope von Schweetz (Silverman) to retrieve it. Meanwhile, Felix and searching for Ralph along with ‘Hero’s Duty’ commando Calhoun (Lynch) to stop him from risking all their games being shut down.

When trying to summarise the story it becomes clear that this is an unusually complex tale for a Disney animated feature, and a long one running at more than 100 minutes. The complexity is understandable, considering they have to establish the world of the arcade and then within that the worlds of ‘Fix-It Felix, Jr.’, ‘Hero’s Duty’ and ‘Sugar Rush’, each with their own characters, tone, art style, soundtrack, animation…it’s an enormous endeavour. There’s also the backstory of Turbo, the character who went rogue and became a cautionary tale, and the dark secret behind King Candy (Tudyk), the reigning monarch of ‘Sugar Rush’.

It takes a while for them to meet and team up, but it’s the friendship between Ralph and Vanellope that seals the deal. Rich Moore clearly has a deft hand as a director, otherwise the relationship between a sugar-adled child with ADHD and a rage powered half-wit would be more than a little grating. Instead it’s really (ahem) sweet to see them both slowly come out of their respective shells and trust someone for possibly the first time. Vanellope encourages Ralph to embrace his strength and power rather than worry about destroying everything around him, and Ralph learns that there’s a fragility beneath Vanellope’s brash attitude that needs support.

At times the story gets a bit saddled down with everything that’s happening. At one point we have Ralph having betrayed Vanellope and returning to his own game only to learn a secret that needs him to return to ‘Sugar Rush’ to learn that Felix is imprisoned and needs rescuing before they can fix Vanellope’s car, all the while Calhoun is hunting the Cy-Bug and King Candy is setting up the next race that Vanellope needs to be in…there’s a lot going on to get all the ducks in a row for the finale. Even then we still have so many moving pieces – the race, Ralph’s medal, the Cy-Bugs and the mysterious Turbo character people have been warning about – that no one thing feels urgent until King Candy and Ralph have a final smack-down.

As a person who grew up with the video game industry, this is a delightful setting for a modern Disney fable. We love how authentic the characters and their worlds feel, right down to the soundtracks, art design and arcade cabinets. It’s little wonder that this became a rare theatrical sequel for Disney Animation, as they’d created a world we just want to see more of. Oddly enough they didn’t stay in this world and moved onto a bigger one, but that’s a story for another review.

Best Song: Although it’s not a musical, there’s a couple of catchy numbers here, including the ‘Sugar Rush’ theme song and the end credit’s ‘When Can I See You Again’ by Owl City.

Coolest Easter Egg: There are dozens of Easter Eggs here, but our favourite is in the graffiti that can be spotted around the train stops that state that ‘Areith Lives’, ‘Leerooooy’ and ‘All Your Base Are Belong to Us’.

Weirdest Trivia: We’ve got two for this one. This is a rare case of the voice actors recording in the studio together, allowing them to improv dialogue and respond to each other in a more natural manner.

Although you may not have committed all the ‘Sugar Rush’ racers to memory, one notable name is ‘Minty Zaki’. This is a tribute to Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki.

Rating: NINE out of TEN

ME

This is a brilliant film that we’ve seen many times over and would happily watch again. If I’d had some nostalgic attachment to it the top couple of spots would at risk. Instead it just lands in 3rd.

You can click on those titles below if you want to see what we said about those films.

  1. Robin Hood
  2. Aladdin
  3. Wreck-It Ralph
  4. Big Hero 6
  5. Tangled
  6. The Sword in the Stone
  7. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  8. Mulan
  9. Emperor’s New Groove
  10. Fantasia
  11. The Three Caballeros
  12. The Princess and the Frog
  13. The Aristocats
  14. A Goofy Movie
  15. Treasure Planet
  16. Chicken Little

AMELIA

Part of the enjoyment for Amelia here was the interesting female characters. She liked both Vanellope and Calhoun a lot, and that most of the racers are girls. She got very emotionally invested in this movie, particularly when Vanellope gets trapped in her game at the end.

  1. Emperor’s New Groove
  2. The Three Caballeros
  3. Mulan
  4. Wreck-It Ralph
  5. A Goofy Movie
  6. Tangled
  7. The Princess and the Frog
  8. Robin Hood
  9. The Aristocats
  10. The Sword in the Stone
  11. Aladdin
  12. Treasure Planet
  13. Big Hero 6
  14. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  15. Chicken Little
  16. Fantasia

JOSHUA

We expected this to score much higher for Josh, yet he remains unpredictable. His newfound love for The Three Caballeros blocked it from ranking higher. Actually, he’s a huge fan of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, so maybe he’s just a fan of live action and animation.

  1. Big Hero 6
  2. Aladdin
  3. Emperor’s New Groove
  4. Treasure Planet
  5. The Three Caballeros
  6. Wreck-It Ralph
  7. Mulan
  8. The Princess and the Frog
  9. Robin Hood
  10. The Sword in the Stone
  11. Tangled
  12. A Goofy Movie
  13. The Aristocats
  14. Fantasia
  15. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  16. Chicken Little