Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Dir: Rich Moore
It seems like Disney’s computer animation team might be on a bit of a roll.
After the great success of Disney’s ‘Tangled’ in 2010 which saw the studio return to their fairytale ‘classics’, they have gone in a different direction for this story as the 52nd of that collection.
Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is the bad guy in an arcade video-game, in which he damages a high-rise block of flats, that are then repaired by Fix-It Felix Jr (Jack McBrayer) with his trusty hammer. However after 30 years of doing exactly the same thing and being constantly disliked and undervalued, Ralph wants a change, and so ventures out of his game and into others looking to be a hero elsewhere, eventually finding a chance in ‘Sugar Rush’ where he meets young ‘glitch’ Vanellope (Sarah Silverman).
The animation is quite brilliant, especially as the story requires being computer animated and so you’re at no point feeling like this would be better suited as a live-action or even hand-drawn story. I’m sure the animators must have had a lot of fun as well with the different styles of game-world that they needed to created, including Ralph’s 8-bit game complete with blocky scenery and jumpy movements, then through to the bright and colourful world of ‘Sugar Rush’ with its Wonka-esque scenery and fast paced and fun gaming.
However the film manages to avoid the pitfalls of losing a storyline in favour of overwhelming with the visuals. Theres actually a really charming and clever storyline here, developed with the aid of executive producer John Lasseter who made his name at Pixar with films such as Toy Story, where he proved the you can take a fun concept for a storyline and turn it into an animated film with a lot of heart.
Integrally to any animated films success is also the voice cast, and in (the English language version of) this the actors voices are really perfectly suited. John C. Reilly clearly sounds like a well-built guy (as Ralph is) but still has a certain sense of softness in his voice, that he can be intimidating when angry yet friendly and likable when at ease. Sarah Silverman’s character of Vanellope is described as annoying and that’s something I’ve often thought about her voice, that it is quite nasal and childlike in a way that would be really annoying, but when put to this plucky little animated girl it fits brilliantly, and works to enhance to visual and storyline elements of the character. Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch (who voices a military commander figure in a first person shooter that Ralph is briefly in) are also very well cast, McBrayer especially as his quite distinctive voice would work for a character like Felix who is loved by his neighbors and wants to be friends with everybody. Lynch who has become recognisable over the past few years thanks to playing Sue Sylvester in ‘Glee’ is wonderfully harsh-spoken, and is great as a female commander whose voice alone commands respect and fear.
Most interesting is Alan Tudyk doing the voice of King Candy, ruler of the Sugar Rush game, who has some apparent complexities. His voice is done by Tudyk exactly like Ed Wynn. For those who don’t recognise the name, you certainly would recognise the voice of Ed Wynn, who was the voice of the Mad Hatter in Disney’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and Uncle Albert in ‘Mary Poppins’. With this impression you’re instantly reminded of those classic family films and how beloved they were by children who are most likely the parents or even grandparents of the target audience of this.
Although counted as a ‘Disney Classic’ I’m not sure how well it will hold to that tradition over time as so many of those have stories that are timeless, whereas this is showing 30 years of computer game developement right up to present-day gaming trends. I worry that this may age it in a decade or two when games may be somewhat different due to the decline of arcades and even gamepad-controlled console gaming into the strong mobile phone and motion based trends.