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Immersed in Movies: Revisiting 'Wreck-It Ralph' with Director Rich Moore

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood January 21, 2013 at 2:00PM

"Wreck-It Ralph" has quickly gone from Oscar dark horse to front runner since the nominations: an acknowledgment that it not only thwarts our expectations of what a Disney movie should be but also that it's much more than a nostalgic video game romp.
Wreck-it Ralph

This included a new virtual camera called the Capture Camera system that allows artists to visualize and stage environments, layouts, camera movements, and the placement and interaction of elements within a scene. "The virtual camera was fantastic to be able use for layout just to get that hand-held quality that was prevalent during the 'Hero's Duty' section," Moore adds. "It was like playing a video game and made work feel like it did in college."

But making the curvaceous caricature of candy using the architecture of Barcelona as a guide required a new bidirectional lighting system for a more believable look in the way light reflects off of and rolls over surfaces. "The artists working in that area would come up to me in the hall and say, 'You have no idea of what we've cracked in making this film.' They thanked me for having the vision for a world that made it possible for them to develop this gummy light as a new tool."

However, getting the best performances out of Reilly and Silverman was the key to "Ralph's" storytelling success. Unlike most animated features, Moore insisted that they record their voice sessions together to create the right chemistry and to capture the subtle nuances that the animators could take advantage of.

"There was a vision for the humanity of what those characters could be beyond funny," Moore concedes. "We knew early on when we had our table read that Sarah was perfect for the part. Anyone who thought she was rough around the edges or a little too blue for animation was now convinced she was Vanellope.

"And when I was first developing Ralph with John in mind, I knew he knew the character better than anyone. There is something intangible in John's performances that I wanted for Ralph. He was a little skeptical about the animation process that he had heard from friends. And I told him that we would develop a process that works for both of us. We're not slaves to a method here."

Although there is nothing official yet about a sequel (an Oscar would certainly be the clincher), Moore admits there have been conversations about a definite direction. "I think we've barely scratched the surface of what stories about video games could be. We spent a lot of time in classic arcade games and I would love to bring it up to date and take it into the world of home gaming and online gaming and mobile gaming. We had a great time playing with the nostalgia of those early video games from arcades and I would like to fold in more of what's happening today and to bring Ralph into that world and visit different game worlds and meeting different characters and bringing in more characters that we know from other games."

As Moore says, he couldn't have come to Disney at a better time, when they've learned to embrace the legacy and take it in new directions.

This article is related to: Immersed In Movies, Wreck-It Ralph, Animation, Interviews

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.