D23 Expo 2011: A Preview of Wreck-It Ralph

Written by Sombrero Grande

At the recent D23 Expo, I had the opportunity to talk with some Disney insiders about the upcoming computer-animated film Wreck-It Ralph.  Specifically, I was able to hound some folks from the studio for information about this intriguing project, due out in November of 2012, until they spilled the beans.

Ralph (to be voiced by the wonderful John C. Reilly) is a video game character in the arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr.  Specifically, he’s the villain.  Ralph is a bad guy by design, but he doesn’t want to be.  With his fiery orange hair and giant arms, he looks a bit like a mix between the Heat Miser from The Year Without a Santa Claus and Donkey Kong, but he longs to be a hero even though every time the game is turned on he’s forced into the role of the heavy again and again.

The story of the Fix-It Felix Jr. game begins when the forest where Ralph resides is bulldozed to make room for a new apartment high-rise.  Upset that he now lives in a stump that has been relocated to the dump, Ralph wrecks havoc on the new building, climbing up it Rampage-style, punching and crushing bricks out of place, knocking out windows and causing all kinds of structural damage.  The dwellers of this building desperately call for help.  Enter Felix (voiced by 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer), the nicest guy in the video game world.  Equipped with the magical hammer his dad gave him, Felix does such a good job fixing all of Ralph’s destruction that the apartment dwellers reward him with fresh pies and medals.  Ralph, on the other hand, is tossed back to the dump only to begin his rampage again on the next level.

The story of the film begins when the arcade that houses the Fix-It Felix Jr. game closes for the night and, Toy Story-style, all the video game characters clock out for the day and go about living their real lives.  Felix is still idolized by the inhabitants of the apartment building while Ralph, upset over the fact that he must always play the heavy in his game, attends a video game bad guy support group, “Bad-Anon,” alongside snakes, ghosts and zombies.

Once the games are turned off, the video game characters are all able to mix and mingle with each other in the arcade’s power strip, referred to by the characters as Game Central Station since it’s the portal into all the other machines in the arcade.  It’s there that Ralph comes up with an idea: if he can sneak into another video game, perhaps he too can earn a medal like Felix and can change his image and become a good guy.

The first game Ralph sneaks into is the newest game in the arcade, Hero’s Duty, an alien invasion first-person shooter.  Not designed to fit into this style of game (weighing over 600 pounds and standing nine feet tall), Ralph ends up wreaking havoc, much to the chagrin of the game’s protagonist, Sargeant Calhoun (voiced by Glee’s Jane Lynch).

Ralph tries another game out, this one a Mario Kart-style racing game titled Sugar Rush, themed to a fantasy candy land.  It’s here that he meets Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman), and comes to realize that something sinister may lie beneath the sickeningly-sweet world of Sugar Rush.  Could it be that Ralph might get his chance to become a really for real hero after all?

I could tell you more, but I wouldn’t want to “wreck-it” for you.  Hahahaha.  Ahem.

While the Fix-It Felix Jr. game is an old-school 8-bit game very much in the style of the original Donkey Kong, I was a little disappointed to find out that Ralph will not appear as a 8-bit pixelated character throughout the movie.  Instead, once the arcade is closed for the night, every character changes into their “regular” appearance, something more cohesive for when the characters from different games mingle together.

This being a Disney production, I could imagine seeing a Tron cameo somewhere in the film, though, hopefully sticking with the retro vibe that Fix-It Felix Jr. gives off, it’s the classic Tron and not that new Legacy pile of garbage.

I asked if “real” video game characters would be making appearances in Wreck-It Ralph, the same way real toys like Mr. Potato Head and Slinky Dog became characters in Toy Story.  The answer I was given: that’s the plan.  Apparently Disney is in negotiations with video game companies to see if they can license their characters to make cameo appearances in the film.  Will Ralph be seen hanging out at Game Central Station with the likes of Pac-Man and Q-Bert?  We’ll have to wait until November of next year to see.

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