As you can imagine, in my position at AWN, I receive a lot of DVDs. Many great films, many not so great films. So it’s always a treat when the postman delivers a DVD of a film you really enjoyed and have been waiting to watch up close and personal in all its splendiferous Blu-ray-ness deliciousness (sorry, been watching too many Diners, Drivers and Dives lately). I’ve been waiting with great anticipation for my copy of Wreck-It Ralph to hit the mailbox. Thankfully, it finally arrived. I haven’t been this happy since my eldest daughter took over her car payment.
As an unabashed fan of the film, I can honestly say, with all bias and lack of objectivity, that the high-def Blu-ray version is exquisite. Not even my poor old mutt Cassie, polluting the family room with such toxic ferocity I thought Union Carbide moved in next door, could spoil my moment of animation fanboy bliss.
As you can imagine, Disney spared no expense in producing this bad boy. Pristine transfer, great sound, loads of extras, the list is quite extensive. In preparation for the release, I had a chance to speak again to the film’s director, Rich Moore, as well as the producer, Clark Spencer. I met with both in the months leading up to the film’s theatrical release, so it was insightful to touch base again now that they’ve been able to reflect on the film’s tremendous success as well as witness the special effort that went into creation of the DVD.
Spencer described his attraction to the film from the very beginning. As he explained, “When Rich Moore came to Disney four years ago from The Simpsons and Futurama, I actually begged John Lasseter to let me work on this project with him. Aside from really liking his television work, I heard he was doing this movie about video games, taking people behind the screens to realize these characters have true lives after the games are finished being played. I thought that was such a great idea for an animated film. This film proved to be everything I could have hoped for. Every film is difficult. It took 450 people over four years to make Wreck-It Ralph. There are days when you wonder if you’re really going to get this movie done. But the studio was always behind us and everyone loved working on these characters. That’s the best thing you can ask for as a producer, because then, people will go to the ends of the earth to make it great.”
Looking back on everything that went into making his film, Moore feels particularly proud of the fact that he was able to complete the film as he always imagined it could be done, even when others couldn’t see it themselves in the beginning. “It was always very, very clear in my mind that John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman together playing these two kinds of characters would be electric, so loveable and so appealing. That wasn’t bought off on immediately by everyone. It was definitely something I earned. I’ve so proud of their performances.”
Both Moore and Spencer spoke about the two main special features: Bit by Bit: Creating the Worlds of Wreck-It Ralph and of course, the deleted scenes. As the director explained, “We have a lot of deleted scenes. I’m really excited about that. I think people realize we make an animated movie like Wreck-It Ralph several times over and over again in a very rough storyboard and animatic form. This is how we discover the film. It’s a very organic process. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s through trial and error. What’s cool about seeing those deleted scenes in their very rough state is it exposes the human-ness of making these films. The movie doesn’t start perfect. We try lots of different things. These scenes are especially good for fans of filmmaking as well as fans of animation, people who want to know more about how it’s done. I always like when filmmakers share their process, what’s behind the curtain. That’s what we do and it’s really cool.”
Spencer added, “In the beginning of the movie, there were going to be three people going on a journey. Felix was going to be part of it too. So we have deleted scenes where we show the journey that was going to be Ralph, Felix and Vanellope. It’s really fun to see that dynamic because it’s a completely different movie.” He continued, “Also, we had a fourth game world called Extreme Easy Living 2. It was the Sims meets Grand Theft Auto done Disney style. A great, fun world. It came in towards the end of the film. But we couldn’t keep it in because at that point, it’s hard to keep an audience engaged. We had to lose it.”
Both Moore and Spencer also talked about a DVD feature where the filmmakers point out various “Easter eggs,” little jokes or trivia references planted in various places within the movie. The producer noted how much was put into this film for people that love Disney and gaming trivia. “It’s hard to observe these references when you’re watching the film in a theatre,” he said. “People are going to go crazy stopping and finding all these little Easter eggs that you find throughout the entire film.” Moore concurred. “There’s a whole layer of details in this film that passes you by so quickly when you’re watching in the theatre. You can’t slow the film down, you can’t pause it. The DVD feature highlights all the great work, effort and energy that went into making this film.”
Spencer also shared about the Bit by Bit feature. “There’s a feature called Bit by Bit that really talks about the art direction of the film. What’s unique about this film is that there are four different worlds. The DVD talks at length about how we made those four worlds completely different. John Lasseter told us that the audience needs to feel that when you change worlds, you’ve gone to a different movie. It’s hard for artists to change their thinking four times in the making of a movie. So, from shape language, to art direction, to the actual animation, to the way the camera moves, to the visual effects and even the lighting, we really talk about how those are all different for all four worlds. The audience will really be able to better understand that level of detail when they watch the DVD.”
As a final slathering of icing on the Wreck-It Ralph DVD cake (no Sugar Rush pun intended), the DVD also includes the Oscar®-winning short Paperman, directed by John Kahrs, one of the supervising animators on Tangled. As Spencer sums it up, “It’s really a great short. It combines 2D and 3D technology, great storytelling, and its pantomime, which I love.”
When I asked the director what about making this film gave him the most sense of satisfaction, he didn’t hesitate. “When I was a kid, it was a Disney film, The Jungle Book, that really ignited my passion for animation. Seeing that as a five year-old kid, I can remember it so clearly. A switch was flipped in my head that set me on a course to work in this industry. To actually be working at Disney, to direct a film that gets added to the legacy of films that inspired me to become an animator in the first place, it’s overwhelming, satisfying and humbling. Hopefully, a kid seeing Wreck-It Ralph will be inspired in the future in the same way.”
I couldn’t agree more. Go get the DVD, watch the film a couple times, then really dig in and discover all these amazing things that went into the production. The visual development, the art direction, the sheer enormity of the task, they’re all showcased in beautiful Blu-ray so that you, your family, your neighbors, even unwanted pets and house guests can enjoy it over and over again.