Virginia: Hello, and welcome back to A Decade of Disney, where we’re currently looking back on the previous decade leading up to this year’s Frozen II. Today we’ll be reviewing Wreck-It Ralph, 2012’s video game-inspired narrative from the Mouse House. This movie is interesting because, while it features cameos from real-world video game characters, Ralph and the other main characters are original creations for the film. Wreck-It Ralph is a great movie, and in my opinion, one example of what the studio can achieve when they’re willing to step outside their comfort zone. This film is a visual feast and features a wonderful musical score by Henry Jackman, known for the Kingsman films and some Marvel movies. However, much more important to me is the exploration of Ralph as a character and his desire to be a hero. Everyone else defines him by his role as a villain in his game, Fix-It Felix Jr. Even other villains he meets at a support group encourage him to accept this. But Ralph wants more out of life than serving as a classic arcade game’s baddie, and he sets off in search of a hero’s medal. Although this film was received reasonably well and nominated for best animated feature, it lost to Pixar’s by-the-numbers princess movie Brave. I think this movie is underrated overall, and its sequel even more so. What do you think, Munir?
Munir: Wreck-It Ralph was the first film of this new era that really showed the new possibilities of what Disney Animation could do. As much as I love Tangled, it didn’t really deviate from the formula for which the studio has been well known for decades. Wreck-It Ralph showed an entirely new world with new characters, and it wasn’t a musical. The whole Game Central world is immersive and inventive, brimming with clever Easter eggs and gags at every turn. The characters are compelling and have great arcs, and the villain, while deviating from the standard grand villain formula, has a clever twist that hasn’t been replicated since. I also agree that this film should have won the Oscar instead of Brave.
V: I don’t follow the Oscars anymore, but sometimes I’m flabbergasted hearing about their decisions. I’ll never know how anyone thought Brave was better than Wreck-It Ralph. This film is very economical in the way it introduces Ralph and his goal. Narration can go either way in a movie, but I like the opening and closing narration in Wreck-It Ralph and the parallel they draw. It’s very easy to identify and sympathize with Ralph’s frustrations as he tries to do good but everyone mistreats him. The Nicelanders, the denizens of Fix-It Felix Jr., essentially conflate Ralph with his in-game persona, which is unfair because that’s just his job. I really love the scene at Bad-Anon where Ralph and the other villains talk about how they feel about their roles.
M: I love that introduction because it shows how they cope by being “villains” and also shows that Ralph misses the point entirely. Because, even though he says that he is a good guy, all his actions say otherwise. Even if the Nicelanders mistreat him, there’s no excuse for what he did, which nearly destroyed Sugar Rush and put everyone in danger. He obviously learns his lesson, and it makes for a great arc to see him showing that he is a good guy instead of just telling them that.
V: Ralph has a really satisfying arc in this film, and he’s not even the only one. Felix and Sgt. Calhoun from first-person shooter Hero’s Duty, as well as Vanellope Von Schweets from racing game Sugar Rush, all have their own journeys throughout the film. There’s plenty of action, adventure, and laughs to be had along the way too. I’m curious to hear what you think about Vanellope as a character, as I’ve always been conflicted. Within Sugar Rush, she’s a “glitch” and often can’t control herself, precluding her from racing. We later learn that this was done to her with malice and that she can overcome it. I think this is a good set-up, and I want to like her rapport with Ralph, but she’s just so bratty and annoying when he arrives at Sugar Rush. She’s needlessly mean to someone she just met, going so far as to steal his medal to use as a coin to join the race.
M: I agree that everyone has a great arc in this film. However, I disagree regarding Vanellope. I think she’s annoying and mean because she’s reacting to the mistreatment she’s been suffering all her life. She needs to appear strong to survive in a world that doesn’t want her. I’m also not bothered by her stealing his medal because he did the same. He didn’t deserve that medal, and his actions endangered the whole video game world. I think both were misguided, and together, they learned to be better. Ralph suffers mistreatment from the Nicelanders, but he’s vital to the game (even if he’s not happy about his role). However, in Vanellope’s case, no one wants her there. They see her as someone who shouldn’t exist. I also like King Candy/Turbo because he’s the dark mirror of Ralph. He was so obsessed with being relevant and popular that he endangered everyone and even manipulated everyone at Sugar Rush. His twist is really well built because we learn of Turbo from the very beginning, him being a Voldemort-type thing where no one wants to talk about him. And when it’s revealed that Candy is, in fact, Turbo, it’s both surprising and satisfying.
V: It was actually really shocking to learn that Turbo was King Candy, while still making sense with what had happened up to that point. Disney’s other plot-twist villains have failed because they’re either too obvious from the beginning or the twist comes out of nowhere with no set-up. Alan Tudyk does a wonderful job of distinguishing Turbo and King Candy, too. King Candy’s voice and cadence are based on Ed Wynn’s turn as the Mad Hatter in the original animated Alice in Wonderland. All of the actors do a wonderful job, particularly John C. Reilly. However, I find Sarah Silverman’s voice for Vanellope very annoying, and I think that does factor into how I feel about the character.
M: That’s a fair assessment. I don’t find her voice grating (just at the beginning), but many people do. And I agree that Tudyk is wonderful channeling Ed Wynn as King Candy. He has voiced a Disney character in every film since then, but this one remains his best performance, in my opinion. What are your favorite scenes from the film? I like many of them. The intro, the Game Central one showing the world, when Ralph breaks Vanellope’s car (that one it’s really heartfelt), and the last one when Ralph is going to crash the mentos and repeats the Bad-ANon mantra.
V: I would agree that this was Tudyk’s best Disney role. In fact, with some of the more recent films, it felt to me like he was shoe-horned in. I do like all of those scenes, and also the very last scene when Ralph is talking about what he loves about his life. We get to see how things have changed, and it’s such a satisfying payoff to the opening scene. I would also add Calhoun’s tragic backstory; this scene is funny, tragic, and explains everything you need to know about her all at once.
M: Wreck-It Ralph represented a turning point at WDAS, introducing a new world with great characters and stunning animation. It remains a bright spot of this decade, and it really questions what makes someone good or bad, and if we have to live by our preordained roles or change our destiny. It also proved popular enough that it warranted a sequel.
What do you think of Wreck-It Ralph? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to come back for our review of Frozen!