A couple of months ago, I was able to attend an early press day for a sequel I’m incredibly excited about….Ralph Breaks the Internet! I can’t wait for this film – not only because Wreck-it-Ralph is one of my favorite Disney movies, but also because it’s exciting that we’ll be seeing Walt Disney Animation Studios’ second theatrically-sequel (there hasn’t been one since The Rescuers Down Under!).
For the press day, we headed to Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank. Upon driving up to the building you can see the giant sorcerer hat that adorns the building, then as you walk into the building the lobby and hallways are filled with Disney art! Coming here definitely feels magical to any Disney fan! After checking in, we walked to an atrium that had a large Ralph and Venelope statue, with the walls surrounding it covered in concept art from Ralph Breaks the Internet.
Q&A With Rich Moore, Phil Johnston, and Clark Spencer
For our first presentation, we saw a compilation of clips from Ralph Breaks the Internet to get a sense of what the film is about, followed by a Q & A with director Rich Moore, director/writer Phil Johnston, and producer Clark Spencer. This producer/writer/director team have also brought us Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Zootopia and Wreck-it-Ralph.
Director/writer Phil Johnston said that when they made Wreck-it-Ralph, they didn’t originally set out to make a sequel. For their team, a sequel is only on the table if they have good reason too, and a character’s story they feel they need to tell. He tells us a little bit about the focus of Ralph Breaks the Internet:
“Zootopia dealt with racism, this film deals with trolling and bullying, and the emotions kids and parents feel when they’re being trolled. Especially since Ralph lacks confidence this is a big challenge for him.”
Ralph and Venelope are of course familiar with the video game/arcade world, but in this film will discover the world of the internet for the first time. The Ralph Breaks the Internet team had the huge task of figuring out what the world of the internet would look like in this film. Rich Moore said that since Walt Disney Animation Studios always travels to the destinations their films are set for research, they had to do just the same for Ralph Breaks the Internet. For their research “trip” they went to Wilshire Boulevard to the building that houses all the internet communication for North America. For their world of the internet design, they pulled a lot of inspiration from the interior of the building, and from there decided to split up the world of the internet into different districts, to feel like a true metropolis.
Clark Spencer talked about how they also included many real life brands and websites within their internet world, both national and international brands since they truly wanted it to be a world wide web.
Moore, Johnston, and Spencer talked a lot about a new character we meet in this film, named Yesss (voiced by Taraji P. Henson). Yesss is the founder of a site called Buzztube and is sharing it with the world (think Buzzfeed meets YouTube). Rich Moore expressed how this is one of his favorite characters they’ve created! She is constantly shifting how she looks based on what’s trending, and is very fashionable! Her jacket is even incredibly detailed, made out of fiber optics since she lives in the internet. Ralph and Venelope come into contact with Yesss when she wants Ralph to come to BuzzTube to make viral videos.
For the second presentation of the day, we heard from head of story Josie Trinidad, and story artists Jason Hand and Natalie Nourigat. These storytellers were challenged with the task of envisioning the world of the internet, as well as tell a new story about Ralph and Venelope. During the storyboarding process, they played around with different “internetisms” that could be incorporated into the film to encompass the nearly infinite aspects of the internet. They boarded sequences that were reaction videos, unboxing videos, and lots and lots of memes.
At BuzzTube, Yesss has a meme generator, where she generates different viral memes with her mind. Trinidad, Hand, and Nourigat said that their team had so much fun sketching out and storyboarding hundreds of meme ideas. At the end of the final version of the film, they had brainstormed so many ideas of memes and things to include in the world of the internet that between 15 story artists, they drew around a total of 283,839 storyboards!
The Web’s Wide World
For the next presentation of the day, we heard from art director of environments Matthias Lechner, head of environments Larry Wu, and technical supervisor Ernie Petti, who talked about the incredible task of turning the concept of the internet into a complex metropolis.
Ralph Breaks the Internet has many different worlds within the film, giving these artists a huge technical task. They had to create real world sets, the arcade world set, and many sets within the internet world. Since there are so many pieces to each set, the team had to be smart about duplicating pieces within each shot so that the render could handle all the information given. Although there’s a lot of technical aspects and challenges in executing the film, the team also had a lot of fun creating their sets, embedding a lot of Disney easter eggs (particularly in the eBay scene).
And of course with each new animated film from Disney comes a new use of animation technology. For this film, their newest technology was animating holograms! (I can’t wait to see that and all the incredibly huge sets in the final film.) For the final cut of Ralph Breaks the Internet there were a total of 150 mastersets, 5736 unique assets, and 100,000 elements in the shots of the internet world.
Coming in November!
Stay tuned for late October, where I will share more about the Ralph Breaks the Internet early press day, including a panel all about the infamous “princess scene!” Ralph Breaks the Internet comes to theaters November 21st: