From evolving story points to deleted scenes, directors Rich Moore & Phil Johnston and producer Clark Spencer delve into some of the tough decisions they made on their Oscar-nominated feature, now available on Movies Anywhere, Blu-ray and DVD.
With today’s 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD release of Walt Disney Animation Studio’s Oscar-nominated hit, Ralph Breaks the Internet, best friends Ralph and Vanellope’s hilarious, fish-out-of-water journey from the safe confines of their video game parlor to the vast, mysterious world of the Internet is now available for audiences to enjoy both digitally and on several disc formats. The in-home release is packed with a number of exclusive extras, giving fans unprecedented access to behind-the-scenes breakdowns of how the film was made, from character development to the car chases of Slaughter Race. In addition to a compilation of BuzzzTube cat videos, Disney has packed the release with a number of Easter eggs, inside jokes and references hidden within the film, and five deleted scenes complete with filmmaker intros.
According to directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, everyone loves developing Easter eggs, though there never seem to be enough, and like with deleted scenes, you never know which will actually survive through to the final production. “Number one, planning for a film’s Easter eggs is literally just like planning on making actual Easter eggs… you should always buy more eggs than you think you’re going to need,” Moore explains. “Some are going to crack and you’re going to mess up the color on some, so you’re going to need a lot of eggs. For example, as we were planning how much stuff we wanted to throw into the “Oh My Disney” scene, by the time we were actually working on it in production, it felt like we needed more. It felt like we didn’t plan enough for it. It got to the point where we couldn’t build any more CG characters or we would have missed our deadline for finishing the movie. So, we started animating them in 2D, which we could do pretty quickly.”
“As far as Easter eggs, there isn’t a big plan when we start a film for how many we’re going to do,” Johnston notes. “We just start building things for the film, thinking they’ll go here or there, and because we’re our own worst critics, if they don’t work, we cut them. That could be a character that someone spent six months modeling and rigging. So, we often over-produce, which is when we start thinking of Easter eggs and how we’re going to use them. The point is always to delight the audience, There’s never a meeting where someone says, ‘We’d like you to put this into the movie.’ It’s always, ‘What would be funny?’ and what will get a great response from the audience.”
The Easter egg development process starts out early in production. “What’s cool is everybody on the crew, throughout all parts of the production process, participates because they love it,” producer Clark Spencer says. “Starting all the way back with Phil and [screenwriter] Pam Ribon’s initial writing, or with the directors talking about their ideas, or the story team… but also, when we go into layout and they have an idea, and then on to animation, where they say, ‘What if we did this?’ and even when we get down into lighting and someone might say, ‘Hey, you should place a few other things into this shot,’ artists here enjoy trying to create and find Easter eggs. All the way to the end of the production, we’re always talking and checking out what and where an Easter egg would fit organically. We don’t want to draw the audience’s attention to something that they’re not enjoying. We want the audience to explore and try to figure out where they are. The one exception was the ‘Oh My Disney’ scene, where Rich and Phil were saying, ‘Let’s just really go for it,’ and let the audience have to watch it multiple times to see all that’s in there.”
While the release includes five deleted scenes, the reality is that countless ideas, characters, sequences, even entire worlds routinely get cut from animated films like Ralph Breaks the Internet, some soon after they’re first considered, others dangerously close to when the film is scheduled for completion. “It’s not uncommon that a big scene, something that’s pretty far along, unfortunately, has to go,” Moore notes. “As a producer, it’s really hard when you take people’s hard work and pull it out,” Spencer chimes in. “Our team will look at the story over, and over, and over again to figure out what needs to be in the film and be prepared to make those tough decisions to pull out stuff that has often gotten quite far along.”
For Johnston, who wrote the film along with Ribon, he would often find something that worked so well for so long suddenly no longer fit the story properly. “Sometimes, you have a piece of the film that still might get a laugh, might actually be entertaining in some way to the audience, but is causing confusion, or hurting either the momentum or overall storytelling of the film. Those are not easy decisions to make, but they’re the right decisions to help make the film the best it can be. Often times late in the game. we discover those parts of the film and think to ourselves, ‘Looking back, in hindsight, why couldn’t we see this earlier?’ It’s because you were trying to figure out other parts of your story and this one thing was working at that moment, so you figured it was always going to work. Then, you come back to it and realize you hadn’t spent enough time honing it to be as sharp as possible. So, it has to go,” he says.
“There are a couple examples of this,” the director continues. “One we actually put into the end credits… the pancake milkshake scene, where Ralph and Vanellope sneak into this sort of Toca Boca styled kiddie game and end up blowing up a bunny. That lived in the body of the film for a while and then it just no longer fit. It was a scene that was taking up time, got a laugh, but wasn’t serving the story. So, we had an idea to try and be very meta and put it in the credits and acknowledge that the scene had been in the trailer at one point. Of the deleted scenes that are on the Blu-ray, there’s one where that kid who was playing Slaughter Race, his grandmother actually comes into his room and Shank recruits him to help to defeat the virus in the end.”
Moore adds, “This was a huge story point that lived in the movie until very, very late in the process. We realized that the third act was becoming unwieldy and taking too long. Plus, it didn’t exactly make perfect sense from our story logic standpoint. That scene was fully animated and I think lit, but we made a very, very difficult, unpleasant decision to pull it out and restructure our third act. That happened with only four or five months left in production.”
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.