Saturday, April 18, 2015


RELEASE DATE: Friday 2nd November 2012

Most people probably wouldn't realise it, but Wreck-It Ralph was in development for a long time. Like, since back in the '80s! The movie, which back then was going by the temp title "High Score," was obviously very different to the final version, and it was never officially green-lit to go into production. Later, in the late 1990s / early 2000s, it continued to be developed, now going under the title of "Joe Jump."

Then around 2008 / 2009, the project was shelved. Many meetings were being had to decide what the future of Disney animation was going to look like, and one possible likelihood was that Disney would only make hand-drawn movies from that point onwards, while Pixar would create the computer-animated stuff. So "Joe Jump," which was definitely going to be a C.G.I. movie, was put aside.

Then suddenly in 2010 the movie reappeared on Disney's schedule, only now it was called "Reboot Ralph." Pencilled in for a 2013 release, work on the film actually hit turbo speed and the film ended up launching at the end of 2012 with yet another title, "Wreck-It Ralph."

In very un-Disney-ish style, Wreck-It Ralph includes many cameos by existing video game characters like Sonic The Hedgehog, Bowser, Q-Bert and M. Bison. Director Rich Moore, who had previously worked on The Simpsons and Futurama, felt that to sell the concept of an authentic "video game world," audiences would need to see the real characters that they could recognise alongside the new ones.

Fortunately for Disney, Wreck-It Ralph proved to be a hit, both critically and commercially. Rumours have persisted about a sequel that would take Ralph and his friends into home consoles, but nothing official has been announced yet.

In between Pac-Man and Space Invaders sits an arcade cabinet of the popular game Fix-It Felix Junior. In this game, Felix must fix all of the damage caused by the games antagonist, a big brute named Wreck-It Ralph.

When the arcade closes down for the day, Ralph takes the train to Game Central Station where he attends his bad-guy support meeting with other villains. Ralph feels unloved and unappreciated, simply because he is the "bad guy."

Back in the Fix-It Felix game, the Nicelanders are holding a party in Felix's honour. When Ralph realises he wasn't invited, he crashes the party. (Literally) Determined to be respected by his peers, Ralph decides to find a way to earn his own medal.

While visiting the Tapper game, Ralph comes across a soldier from the new game Hero's Duty. Ralph borrows the soldier's uniform and jumps into the other game, believing this to be his best chance at earning a medal. The leader of the operation - Sergeant Calhoun - is a tough-talking no-nonsense bug-killing warrior.

Ralph very quickly realises he's bitten off much more than he can chew. Hero's Duty is a hardcore action shooting game, and he hasn't got a clue how to play! Meanwhile, with the villain missing from the game, Fix-It Felix Junior is classified as "Out Of Order."

Felix soon learns from Q-Bert that Ralph has gone game-jumping. As he enters Hero's Duty he meets Calhoun and they begin working together to track Ralph down and get him back to his own game. Meanwhile, Ralph has managed to climb to the top of the tower and take the Hero's Duty medal for himself.

 Unfortunately in doing so, he hatches an army of cybugs. Ralph and a cybug find themselves flying away in an escape pod which zooms through Game Central Station and into a completely different game - a brightly coloured racing game from Japan called Sugar Rush. After losing his medal, Ralph immediately sets to work trying to get it back, but he is hindered by a smart-mouthed little girl called Vanellope.

Vanellope steals Ralph's medal and uses it as an entry fee to the big race.

Ralph eventually talks to the local monarch, King Candy. Vanellope, who has built her own kart, watches in horror as the other competitors tear it apart. Ralph, feeling sorry for Vanellope, scares the other girls off. The two unlikely friends strike up a deal. He'll help her win her race so that she can get his medal back for him.

Meanwhile, Felix and Calhoun have entered Sugar Rush in an attempt to track down both Ralph and the escaped cybug. They get caught in Nesquik-sand and have a moment together... Could that be a blossoming romance...?

Ralph and Vanellope sneak into the kart-building factory and create a brand new kart.

While Ralph builds a practice track and begins training Vanellope for her race, King Candy somehow enters the inner-workings of the game and finds the Hero's Duty medal.

King Candy gives the medal to Ralph and convinces him that because Vanellope glitches, it will be dangerous for her to enter the race. Ralph reluctantly takes the medal and destroys the kart.

Leaving Sugar Rush behind, Ralph returns to his own game with his medal. Unfortunately, because the game has been declared Out Of Order, everybody has left and Ralph is left alone with his medal. He returns to Sugar Rush, rescues the imprisoned Felix and prepares Vanellope for her big race.

The race is on, and King Candy shows himself to be a game-jumper from way back. Just as Vanellope is about to cross the finish line, an army of cybugs begins to destroy the game. Everyone evacuates, but because Vanellope is a glitch she can't leave.

Ralph sees a way to stop the cybugs, but to do so he needs to drop Mentos into the lake of diet-cola. King Candy, who has now merged with a cybug, tries to stop him. Final boss time! Ralph lights the beacon and the cybugs are destroyed.

Felix and Calhoun are married, Vanellope is revealed to be the princess of Sugar Rush, and Ralph rejoins his game, happy at last with his place in the world.

IRVYNE: Wreck-It Ralph has quite a dense and complex plot, and for the most part it feels quite un-Disney-ish. It's a great story with likeable characters though. The original plan had been to have Fix-It Felix as the main character who got tired of his lot in life. He was supposed to be the one who left his game. But as they were developing the story they realised that the "baddie" was a much more interesting character. And what an inspired choice that was!

Having said that, Felix is a great character as well, with his "aw-shucks" demeanor. I feel like the second half of the film never really pays off on the promise of the first half, in that we spend so much time in the Sugar Rush game. I would have loved to have seen more game-jumping.

But overall it's a movie with a lot of heart, and it says a lot about finding your place in the world and being satisfied with your lot in life.

One thing that is painfully clear is that this film's creators have a huge amount of respect and love for 1980s arcade games. Everything is incredibly authentic, down to the artwork on the arcade cabinet being an outright rip-off of Donkey Kong.

A huge amount of work went into making each game world look completely different. In Fix-It Felix everything is square. Sugar Rush is made up of bright, saturated colours. Hero's Duty is dark and full of blacks and greens. They never wanted you to question which game you were in.

The character designs are all great too, with Ralph being a huge lovable oaf with enormous hands. It's also hilarious how they made Calhoun look like a direct C.G. version of her voice-actress Jane Lynch.

With Wreck-It Ralph, Disney returned to the widescreen format, which hadn't been done since Brother Bear, Atlantis and The Black Cauldron. Interestingly, it's maintained this format for the two films that followed, Frozen and Big Hero 6. I'm not sure why, exactly. I'm sure they have their reasons...

Wreck-It Ralph has a wonderful score by Henry Jackman, who had previously created the score for Winnie The Pooh and would go on to score Big Hero 6. Jackman uses all manner of retro and retro-inspired sounds to create a really great tapestry of sound that sets the mood and location perfectly.

There aren't many songs to speak of. One interesting addition is Rihanna's "Shut Up And Drive," although that wasn't written for the movie specifically. There is an okay Owl City song called "When Can I See You Again" which plays over the end credits. And let's not forget the super-cute J-Pop "Sugar Rush" theme! But mostly, it's a non-singing kind of movie.

Wreck-It Ralph is only a few years old, but it stand the test of time because of its timelessness. By using the 8-bit video games theme, it ensures that it will always remain "retro," and regardless of the video games on display, it has a story that can stand on its own legs as well. Like the best Disney movies, it has a lot of heart, and the last scene with Ralph and Vanellope waving to each other is enough to bring a tear to the eye.

But mostly, Wreck-It Ralph is a whole lot of fun.  I feel like it loses momentum a bit when the story gets stuck in Sugar Rush, but there are intelligent nods to gaming culture the entire way through that ensures gamer geeks will have as much fun as the kids they're watching the movie with.

WENDY: First-time watcher here, and this movie really impressed me. Why didn't I see it before? I actually can't remember.

HAKU: I've seen it four or five times in the last year or two, and I've enjoyed it every time.

MALEFICENT: It makes me cry. Like a little girl!

WENDY: I didn't go that far. It's a bit saccharine at the end.

MALEFICENT: No, it's beautiful at the end!

WENDY: At least the bad guy gets a great death!

MALEFICENT: Yes! He can't stop himself from flying towards the light!

WENDY: The Nicelander people are not nice!

IRVYNE: It's good to see that they learn their lesson though. They realise that they actually NEED Ralph, so they should respect him.

HAKU: The two lead actors do a great job in bringing their characters to life.

IRVYNE: Vanellope's voice REALLY annoys me. It sounds like fingernails down a blackboard!

HAKU: I really like it.

MALEFICENT: I think it's cute.

WENDY: It's pretty close to Sarah Silverman's normal voice. I'm actually kicking myself for not realising it was her during the movie.

MALEFICENT: I love Jane Lynch. She's such a perfect voice for a badass chick who takes control of every situation she's in.

IRVYNE: They definitely managed to get a lot of her look into the character as well. I think the voice of Felix (Jack McBrayer) is perfect as well. He's so sincere.

MERRYWEATHER: I love the scene in the Nesquik sand with the laffy taffy!

WENDY: The taffy sings backup. It's fantastic!

MERRYWEATHER: There's so much imagination that's gone into creating this world, like how they travel down the cables to the main train station.

MALEFICENT: And look at how a first-person shooter works, with a little robot being the player. So clever!

IRVYNE: And there are so many hidden details everywhere! It's one of those movies where you can just freeze-frame your way through the movie to find all the hidden Easter Eggs, many of which would probably go right over most peoples' heads. I shrieked with laughter when I first saw King Candy type the Konami code into the system!.

MERRYWEATHER: This movie is like the video game version of Toy Story.

IRVYNE: I think this is as close as Disney has ever got to making a Pixar film. It feels contemporary and clever enough to be Pixar. And ironically, in the same year, Pixar released a princess movie called Brave which actually felt quite Disney-ish. The world had gone topsy-turvy!

MALEFICENT: Every element of this movie is clever. It includes so many games from my childhood!


HAKU: The 8-bit artwork is awesome.

IRVYNE: They get the old arcade style SO perfect, both with the in-game graphics and the artwork on the arcade cabinets themselves. Fix-It Felix Jr. could legitimately have been a real game from the '80s.

WENDY: Did you notice that everything in the game is square-pixel looking? Even when Ralph smashes the cake, all of the splatters are in square shapes!

HAKU: The Sugar Rush game is so cool.

WENDY: I felt like I was getting diabetes just by watching it!

HAKU: I can't believe they haven't turned that into an actual game! I want to play it!

MALEFICENT: I do too! I really want to!

IRVYNE: Well stick around. We can play Mario Kart after we've finished talking! There's actually a track in the latest Mario Kart game on WiiU that could almost be straight out of Sugar Rush.

WENDY: And you say that Fix-It Felix Jr. is a real game?

IRVYNE: Yeah, I've got it on my iPad.

PASCAL: I looked for it and it's not on the App Store anymore. Disney must have removed it for some reason.

IRVYNE: That's annoying. I wonder why.

HAKU: I wonder if there's going to be a Wreck-It Ralph 2...

IRVYNE: I wouldn't be surprised if there is. There's so many places this world could go! What would happen if the characters somehow found themselves in home consoles?

WENDY: Do many arcade games get ported over to home consoles?

IRVYNE: They did all the time back in the '80s and '90s.

WENDY: And now?

IRVYNE: Arcades don't really exist anymore.

HAKU: All you ever see now are random Daytona machines from 25 years ago!

IRVYNE: And the thousands of versions of Dance Dance Revolution.

PASCAL: Well, Wreck-It Ralph is right up near the top of my list. I really like it.

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