Photo Credit SheScribes.com
I have said it several times in my previous posts but one of the most memorable things that I took away from my trip to LA last month was being able to pick the brains of the directors, producers, and other important people who created the movies I had the privilege of previewing. Meeting with Director Rich Moore and Producer Clark Spencer who were the creative geniuses behind my new favorite movie, Wreck-It Ralph, was no exception. Here’s a little insight into the making of Wreck-It Ralph.
Q: How difficult was it to get approval from the game companies, and the commanding companies? This sounds like a legality nightmare.
RM : If you’re gonna do it, you should do it right.
CS : Well, I will say, when Rich first pitched the idea, and Rich talked a lot about wanting authenticity, which means you have to have the real video game characters. I always wondered, and we always wondered, what will we be able to get? And I think we always said, well, if we can get a few characters, that’ll really help ground it. But amazingly when we went out to the companies and they heard the idea for the film, they were very excited about it.
And I think we had this moment when we both went to E3, the big gaming convention here in Los Angeles, this is two years ago. And we went and Rich pitched the movie to the companies. Talked about where the characters might sit in the film. And they got really excited very quickly. And then it was a process over the course of many months, where we were talking with the companies and the legal teams were all meeting with each other to talk about what can and can’t get done. Not simply, but surprisingly, it went a lot smoother than you might ever expect.
RM: [INTERRUPTING] The lawyers may not agree.
CS : But I think it was one of those things where it felt — because there were gonna be a lot of characters in the film and because the characters weren’t gonna be the main characters, companies were interested in being a part of it. And I think in some ways, TOY STORY blazed the trail for that. When people saw it’s great to be a part of the TOY STORY franchise and film because it’s ways for different toys to be in the same world and be represented. So I think it was one of those things where we were sort of able to use that as a reference point, in game company stock. This could be an exciting project to be a part of.
Q : Where did the idea stem from?
RM : Well, the idea began about four years ago, when I started here at Disney. I was invited by Ron Lasseter, who’s an old friend and colleague, to come into the studio and develop ideas to be movies. And I thought, okay, he likes to hear several different ideas before heapproves one to go into production. I was sitting and thinking about what would make a good movie, someone had brought up that they had a notion of a story about video games. An idea that had been kind of floating around here for many years. And had kind of appeared in different iterations. You know ever since like the early ‘90s, I think, but never really got off the ground. You know, always kind of ended up being shelved and so it had been shelved about a year before I started here. I thought well that’s kind of an interesting world, you know, of video games. You know I like video games and it seems like, [LAUGHS] it’d be fun. It’s like the audience would really like to visit something like that. I could see the potential for spectacle and comedy, and drama. And so it seemed like a great idea.
So without kind of going to the material that had been developed before, I just started from square one. Okay, just the world of video games and their characters and what their lives are like. I started to kind of develop that. And after about two days I thought, well, this is the worst idea [LAUGHS] ever, because they have one job that they do, day in and day out. There’s no free will. You know they’re programmed to do things. This would make a horrible movie. No one would want to watch these characters do their jobs.
And then it hit me- that would be great if you had a main character who didn’t like his job. And was wondering is this all there is to life, this one thing that I do? You know, and what if he was uncomfortable in his own skin, doing that job? And then it — that felt like, oh well, that’s juicy. That, that’s really great. So it really simply began with just those two things, like a big overarching world or universe of video games. And a very kind of personal conflict, internal conflict between the character and his world. And as I said, that was one of the pitches that I presented to John. It was pretty apparent that was the strongest one. When you’re presenting an idea you can kind of feel the energy of like, wow, I know this idea [LAUGHS] myself but in telling it to another person, I’m getting excited about something I already know what it is. And we could really feel it together as we’re talking about it. And I’ve been moving on with that ever since. So, about three and a half years.
Q : I have a question about choosing the voiceovers. But I think the voices really worked. Especially with Wreck-It Ralph. Did you have an idea of the actor in mind, or did you listen to different voices? ‘Cause they fit very perfectly.
CS : There’s an old saying, “Directing — good directing is 75% good casting.” And I believe that. I think that’s true. So it was important to me that we not just cast voices just for the sake of casting a popular voice. Or someone we think, “Oh well, if so and so’s in it, more people will come and see it. And it equals dollar signs.” You know I wanted really the actors to kind of come from the heart of the characters. So as we were developing — Phil Johnston is the writer, and he and I, were just the two of us, on the idea in the early days, for around nine months. And as we were developing the characters in the story, we would always say, “Well, now who is this like, who would be good doing this?” Because ultimately I think someone is eventually going to voice this character. So why not be thinking now would do it justice? So as we were developing and fleshing out and imagining the characters, we would always say like, “Well, it’s kinda like so and so”, and we had a big board that we would put up pictures of people. And say, “Well, Ralph is kinda like this person.” And sometimes it would change day to day, “No, he’s more like kinda this.” You know it was our process of kind of focusing in to who the character is and who would really do justice to that character. We knew pretty early on that John C. Reilly would be great for this character. I think Sarah (Silverman) was on that original pitch to John. I kinda knew that we wanted to have a candy world. And that Sarah is the voice of like a little candy.
RM : No jokes.
CS : Yeah. [LAUGHS] And at one point we just said, well, what if Calhoun’s a woman? And this was all pre Jane on GLEE, you know. So that star was kind of right, because Phil and I liked her from a lot of movies that she had done previous to GLEE, you know. Then Jack, we just knew, well, Felix needs to be the nicest man in the world. So if Ron Howard’s not available. [LAUGHS] No, we knew from the beginning Jack would be perfect for Felix. So it was all kind of developed in tandem.
RM : I like it.
CS : Like I love, Dory, in FINDING NEMO. Something about just taking that fish design, it’s not just the fish and it’s not just Ellen Degeneres. Something magical happened and combining those two elements, a third thing kind of appears. And it’s Dory. And you can’t imagine that the world ever existed without that character in it. I hope that for the characters I create, too. You know, that they have that feeling of, they’ve been forever. It’s like I know them. You have a warmth for them.
Q : Talk about the different games.
RM : Well in doing a movie about video games I knew early on that I wanted to celebrate the different — I think video games have been around long enough now, they have history to them. You can look at games from the beginning– like PONG. And you can put it next to HALO, or the most modern game today. If you want to wonder, how far we’ve come. So I wanted to celebrate that, the differences between them. So we chose different genres of games that would illustrate that history of games. I would think, well, what would be fun ones to see kind of juxtaposed.
RM : We wanted like an old arcade game. You know, we wanted like an old 9-bit one. And we wanted a modern one. You know, a shooter game, and we wanted to do kind of a car racing game. But a whimsical one. So everything within those worlds, we wanted to kind of celebrate what made those different genres. You know, unique and special. So with the, uh, Fix-It Felix, Jr. world, it was all simple. From the design, from the camera work in it, to the animation style. We wanted it to be kind of when you’re in that world, everything about it says that it’s simple. You know, it’s fun. From the early days,the design of the windows, how it’s kinda notched. There’s no circles or round or anything. It’s all based on squares. It was tough. If there was a big challenge in this movie, it was convincing the artists that work on it that, everything that you usually do when you’re working on a movie, don’t do that. [LAUGHS] You know, we’re gonna do some — don’t, don’t try and homogenize it. They’re gonna try and celebrate everything that makes these things unique. And when the audience goes to the movie, I want them to feel like they’re seeing three different movies. It sounds good in theory. But when you’ve been doing that a long time in your career, trying to homogenize, it’s not something you just change overnight. So as the director, I had to be the one that was like, let’s make it simpler. Let’s really celebrate what makes 8-bit, 8-bit in this world.
And then when we get to Hero’s Duty, now go very realistic, super realistic. You know from the character designs to the animation, to the design of the world. And the amount of detail to it, the camera work. Now really kind of kinda pump that up. And take it as far as we can there. And then to be kind of thrown on its ear by going to Sugar Rush. Now this is a very whimsical world. This one kind of involves and celebrates classic Disney animation.
Check out my Wreck-It Ralph recording booth experience and animation studio experience. And keep an eye out for my upcoming Wreck-It Ralph movie review.
Wreck-It Ralph opens in theaters this Friday, November 2nd!
DON’T MISS IT!!! Bring the whole family!
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Disclosure: Thank you to Disney who paid for transportation, food, and accommodations for this event. No other compensation was given. All opinions are 100% my own.