From co-director Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, Ralph Breaks the Internet, the follow-up to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, revisits the friendship between video game bad guy Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman), this time following their journey as they venture outside of Litwak’s video arcade and into the uncharted and fast-paced world of the internet. In this new world that can be both exciting and overwhelming, Ralph and Vanellope realize that even though it contains endless possibilities, the internet is also vast and dangerous and can turn a friendship toxic, if you’re not careful.
At the film’s Los Angeles press day, Collider got the opportunity to chat with filmmakers Rich Moore and Phil Johnston. During the interview, they talked about living up to expectations for this sequel, what they’re most proud of with the finished film, Easter eggs, characters they wanted to include but couldn’t, what they put in that they’re surprised they got away with, what The Golden Girls have to do with it, that TRON video game scene, and getting iconic composer Alan Menken to write an original song.
Collider: After how successful the first movie was, how scary was it to do this movie? What were you most nervous about, as far as bringing these characters back and doing this sequel?
PHIL JOHNSTON: I’m a little like Ralph. I’m a little insecure about everything. Ultimately, you just want people to like it. That’s the raw, honest truth of it. You wanna honor the characters from the first movie, and we love those characters like family. I wanna do right by them and live up to the expectations, but then you also have all of these fans that have their own expectations that they put on it. So, it’s really just, are we doing justice to this and making an even better, bigger, different story, where people will still recognize the characters, but feel like they’ve been on a different journey?
When the first film came out, because it was a very different kind of movie with very different characters than what we’ve seen before, did you have a moment when you realized that people were really getting it and were loving the characters?
RICH MOORE: It was a mystery to me, how people would react to a Disney movie, where we are putting out misfit characters filled with flaws, unabashedly front and center. We thought, will this play to our audience? And it was a relief. I’ve always believed that you can make a very, very funny animated film. I had friends that I worked with on The Simpsons that said, “A big studio or animation house will never be able to hit the heights of The Simpsons or Family Guy,” and that became a challenge to me. I was like, “Well, we’re gonna do that. We’re gonna make what we think is the funniest animated film, ever made.” So, for it to be as welcomed and embraced as the first film was, was the culmination of a journey of wanting to make a very heartfelt comedy with real laughs.
Do you have moments that stand out for you, where you’ve seen people dressed up as Ralph and Vanellope?
MOORE: Yeah, when I see the cosplay, I’m so proud.
JOHNSTON: There’s a woman, named Val Sanchez, who works at our studio, and she dressed as Vanellope [for Halloween]. She looks a little like Sarah [Silverman], so it was surreal. I did a double take, but she’s shorter. I was like, “Oh, my god, Vanellope actually lives in the real world, and it’s you, Val.” It was crazy!
MOORE: I saw the pictures of her.
JOHNSTON: It’s surreal. I walked in the Disney Store the other night and saw the toys. Double Dan has a toy. This weird, crazy idea of this worm man with a vestigial twin in his neck is a toy. It’s so weird, I can’t get over it. The outcasts need toys, too.
Now that the film is finished, what are you most proud of, as far as what you were able to do with Ralph Breaks the Internet?
MOORE: The fact that the villain, or antagonist, is not your average Disney antagonist. People online were guessing, “Shank is the villain. I’m calling it right now. She’s the villain.” And for a while, there was a more traditional villain in the film, but we always went back to this idea of Ralph’s insecurity really needing to be the antagonist of this story. He had to be his own worst enemy, in destroying this friendship, from the inside. It seemed like such a heady challenge, at the beginning, that we didn’t have an answer for, but we would keep coming back to it and saying, “Okay, we tried a traditional villain. We tried an anti-viral cop that was tailing them. We’ve tried different things. It’s just not packing the punch that we really need, at this point.” So, we really grinded on that idea of how the image that we wanted, in the end, was Ralph letting Vanellope go. He’s been holding so tight to her, that the image we should see is him releasing her. In the beginning, we didn’t know how to get there, but that’s the beauty of our process. It’s like, “Okay, maybe we don’t know today, and maybe we’ll try something different tomorrow, but eventually, I think we’re gonna get there.