Director Rich Moore talks Disney's Wreck-It-Ralph
Disney at it again: the world of video games is the focus of Wreck-It-Ralph.
He may have a long history in animation, but Hollywood writer and director Rich Moore still felt the pressure of expectation with his new video game-based adventure for Disney, writes Jesse Kuch
With a wealth of animation experience behind his name, including directing credits on both The Simpsons and Futurama television shows and sequence director on The Simpsons Movie, alongside a series of popular live action TV comedies, you'd be excused for thinking Rich Moore (pictured right) is relaxed about his first full-length animation feature in the director's chair.
However, when you factor in the weight of expectation of making Wreck-It-Ralph, Disney's first-ever animated film centred around the world of video games (think Who Framed Roger Rabbit with Sonic The Hedgehog and Pacman instead of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse), not to mention the fact that the world's biggest gaming companies are allowing you to use their characters with a high degree of creative licence in the film, and Rich says the pressure was definitely on.
"I definitely grew up playing lots of video games, wasting a lot of time in arcades and taking that passion home, gaming through all these different platforms we have today," Rich says.
"They were in my home as a teenager and young adult, and they are in there as an adult now. So, to make a movie about video games was kind of a dream come true, to take something I'd followed so closely throughout my life.
"I mean, I'm the one making Disney's animated film about video games! There were definitely moments I had to let that sink in if anything ever felt daunting about the whole thing, it was realising that we were in charge of something that was part of a huge entertainment market.
"Everyone has their opinion about movies made about video games, so it was important to me we always spoke from our hearts about what we loved about games and really be true to the culture of video games. There are lots of movies made about video games, or have used certain worlds as a backdrop, and to me they always seem so serious. I don't feel that these movies are about games, so we want to inject a certain sense of humour into it. Video games culture has a distinct sense of humour, so we wanted to reflect that."
Wreck-It-Ralph tells the story of Ralph, who during the day is the villain in a video game called Fix-It Felix, Jr, but outside working hours, is actually quite a nice guy (albeit with a few rough edges).
At a support group for video game baddies (like Al-Anon but with Mario's Bowser and Mortal Kombat's Kano, among others, pictured), Ralph reveals a desire to stop being the bad guy and sets out on a quest to be a hero and earn the acceptance of his gameland friends.
However his quest brings a few unexpected results for the arcade world in which he lives, setting off a chain of events that could bring about the end of the world as he knows it.
Rich says having a flawed hero was an important part to Wreck-It-Ralph from the beginning.
"I didn't want to make an animated film that just had a good guy as a hero," he says.
"I wanted our hero to be complex; it was important to me that he was a flawed character. I looked back at old Disney films, and you'll notice the heroes in films like Pinocchio and Dumbo are not perfect. They make a lot of mistakes, told lies and made bad choices.
"I wanted Ralph to be that kind of character, it gives room for him to grow, instead of being like, 'oh, our main character is a really good guy and by the end, he's a really great guy'.
"You start with someone who is a simple man, and in this case, has a stigma about him. Making Ralph the 'bad guy' of the story gives you that ability to pull off some things a typical Disney hero couldn't do."
And for those worried you'll need an intimate knowledge of the world of video games to be able to relate to the film, Rich says you needn't stress Wreck-It-Ralph was written for gamers and non-gamers alike, although he does admit he enjoyed injecting the many cameos of popular characters from the world of games.
"That was a real conscious effort on behalf of myself and (co-writer) Phil Johnston," Rich says. "When we were developing the story, we went in thinking, 'this could be a story about anything. It could be about two guys that work in an office, or a story about a trashman or something.'
"I needed it to be a story that is understandable and accessible to gamers and non-gamers alike. We did not want to make something that was so inside video games that the non-gamers wouldn't get it.
"It's not a non-stop parade of references or stuffed full of cameos. At the core, this movie has a very, very strong story and that comes from our main characters."
With the film now out across the globe, garnering favourable reviews and box office takings, above all, Rich says it's both a relief and a reward that audiences are taking to Wreck-It-Ralph in droves it's without a doubt this summer's biggest animated family movie.
"I won't lie, it's nice to have the audience embrace it," he says.
"We work on these movies for a long time, this one was three-and-a-half, almost four years. It's a long process and during that time, you start to wonder, is what we're doing good?
"We work on it in a bubble in the studio, it's the same group of people giving feedback. We do share a bit with our colleagues up at Pixar they are definitely whose opinion about the movie we value. But there does come that time when you ask, 'Are we deluding ourselves? Are we really making something as good as we hope it is?'.
"It's the same feeling that I had when we were working on The Simpsons, way back in 1989. We had this thing, and we'd put our heart and soul into it, and now it's like letting your child out into the world, hoping that the world receives it with open arms. It's very, very nice to have the audience accept and embrace it."
See Wreck-It-Ralph at cinemas nationwide from Boxing Day.
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Director's chair: Wreck-It-Ralph's Rich Moore, in Sydney to launch the film.