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Behind the Scenes of ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’

From the same creatives and cast that brought you 2012’s  Wreck-It-Ralph, the anticipated sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet opens in theaters this November. Everyone is back for the adventure, but this time, Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) have connected to the world wide web.

Back in 2014, co-directors Phil Johnston and Rich Moore began discussing a potential sequel to their smash hit Wreck-It-Ralph, but they didn’t want to do it unless there was a story. This is where the internet came into play. Johnston and Moore were excited with the stories that could come about if their characters from a small-town arcade were introduced to the expansive world of the internet where there are NET users, humans who log onto the internet, and netizens, the full time citizens of the internet who help the users.

Johnston and Moore thought Wreck-It-Ralph ended on a sweet note with Ralph saying ‘if that kid (Vanellope) likes me, how bad could I be?’ Then they thought it’s dysfunctional that he’s defining himself based on someone else. “We thought, well, Ralph still has some work to do.” said Johnston. Moore added, “Where is the worst place you could put a person who defines a person how other people think of him — the internet.” They also wanted to add more growth to both Ralph and Vanellope.

The Nerds of Color were given a behind-the-scenes sneak peek of the upcoming Disney film Ralph Breaks the Internet with never-before-seen clips and stories from the creators themselves.

The Clips

Ralph Breaks the Internet picks up where we left off six years later. When the arcade is closed, the characters spend time together. One day, arcade owner, Mr. Litwak, has connected something new to the game station — WiFi. No one is allowed to enter it, as it is deemed off-limits, and so, everyone goes back to their games. One day, a kid playing Sugar Rush accidentally breaks the steering wheel. Since the game is old and finding a replacement would be difficult, Mr. Litwak thinks it’s time to retire the game. The kids in the arcade don’t want to see the game go and are able to find a replacement wheel on eBay. Unfortunately, the price is too high for Mr. Litwak.

Without her game, Vanellope would be homeless. In the clip shown, Ralph finds Vanellope on the roof. He has raided Sergeant Calhoun’s fridge to find pies for them to eat. Ralph has also found Gene’s pillows and suggests they make a fort, yurt, or igloo with them. Ralph suggests if they make a igloo out of pillows, it’d be called a pigloo. Vanellope is too sad to play along with Ralph and asked him what would she do all day without her game? Ralph tries to comfort her and tells her she could sleep in, do no work, and then go to Tappers with him all night. Vanellope tells Ralph she loved her game. She admitted it was predictable, but she never really knew what would happen in a race. Vanellope doesn’t know who she is without her game. Ralph tells her she’s his best friend. She tells him that’s not enough. Vanellope begins to digitally break down and apologizes and tells him she needs to be alone. She leaves and Ralph tells her he’ll meet her at Tappers if she wants.

Ralph is heartbroken seeing his friend go through this and decides to go to eBay to get the wheel. Everyone will be happy. The next clip shown has Ralph and Vanellope enter the router to connect to the internet. Inside, the router, they find an empty room because it is not connected yet. Mr. Litwak is still trying to figure out how to connect to the internet and enters his WiFi password to finally have the router connected to the internet. Once that is done, Ralph and Vanellope see a tiny Net User version of Mr. Litwak who enters a capsule to travel through the wires on the internet. Vanellope and Ralph follow him through the network in a capsule and are transported to the internet. They land on the port and see the internet is huge. There are displays of Snapchat, Amazon, IMDb, Netgear, and many other recognizable websites. Vanellope and Ralph are in awe with the place.

Vanellope and Ralph have no idea where to find eBay, so they do what many internet users do – go to a search bar. The clip shown is Vanellope and Ralph visiting a search bar with an owl-looking man as the avatar on a website called Knowsmore. A user asks Knowsmore for sources for ballet tights. He provides her a list of websites including one called The user is then transported to the website in a capsule. Knowsmore sees Ralph and offers to help him. Ralph begins to speak and Knowsmore begins to autofill his answer, leaving Ralph frustrated. Vanellope suggests “eBay. Sugar Rush steering wheel.” Knowsmore finds one results and Ralph and Vanellope are transported to eBay.

In creating eBay, Johnston and Moore imagined the website to be like a live auction for the items they were selling. So, the creative team wanted to hire actual auctioneers to play the eBay avatars. After much research, Johnston and Moore found Brian Curless of Pittsfield, Illinois, and is the reigning US champion in auctioneering and 2017’s World Livestock Auctioneer Champion. Johnston and Moore brought him in to be part of Ralph Breaks The Internet as an auctioneer for eBay.

In a clip at eBay, Ralph and Vanellope walk through several items in eBay, including an art piece of a Sorrowful Kitten, a taxidermy beaver, and a Tortilla chip with Beyonce’s face on it. Ralph and Vanellope are confused of how all of this works, Vanellope suggests they call out the biggest number and then they win their stuff. They look for the Sugar Rush steering wheel and find it with 30 seconds left in the auction. Ralphs places a bid and is beaten by a net user. Both keep raising their numbers until Vanellope shouts $1,000. The net user walks away. Ralph, who still thinks this is a numbers game, shouts $15,000. Vanellope and Ralph keep increasing their bid until the auctioneer stops Ralph at $27,001. The auctioneer gives them a voucher to go and claim their prize.

Little does Vanellope and Ralph know, they must pay for the item. The next clip shown is Ralph and Vanellope going to the checkout counter to claim their item. The netizen takes their voucher and asks for their credit card number. Ralph and Vanellope realize that they need money. Vanellope makes an excuse that Ralph forgot his wallet. The netizen tells them that they are 24 hours to pay or else they will lose the item.

The duo have no idea what to do about the money to purchase the wheel. This is when Yesss (Taraji P. Henson) comes in. Yesss is a netizen algorithm who works for BuzzzTube, which is a cross between BuzzFeed and YouTube. She tells them that if they make viral videos, they will be able to earn money – just like in the real world. Yesss sees something lovable in Ralph. Ralph begin to make some viral videos.

Of course, Johnston and Moore wanted to portray the realities of the internet – not just the good, but also the ugly. They felt they had a responsibility to tell the truth behind the internet. The internet can be a harsh place, especially in the comments section. Johnson explains, “It’s a tricky balance. To some extent, the three of us were embolden by the work on Zootopia knowing that audiences are okay and are eager for a more sophisticated kind of approach in family films to tricky subject matters. In Zootopia, it was racism. In this one, we’re dealing, to an extent, with online bullying and trolling. But, more on an emotional level with Ralph — self-doubt and insecurity and those things that both parents and kids can relate.”

In a scene shown, Ralph has already been getting lots of views for his videos. He walks into a library where the comment section is stored. He begins to read the comments and notice some positive, but then gets upset reading the mean comments. Yesss comes in and notices Ralph is sad. She tells him to not read the comments and to ignore all of the negative. Ralph tells Yesss it’s fine because he’s used to people hating him for being the “bad guy.” He pulls out a heart necklace given to him by Vanellope and says “This is the heart that really matters.” Yesss tells him the internet is not all bad and that it found the steering wheel that they needed – Ralph was able to earn the money needed for the wheel and save Sugar Rush. Ralph thanks Yesss.

Johnston and Moore waited until the end to show the most anticipated scene of the day — Vanellope with the Disney Princesses. This scene happens prior to the previous scene, but was the most fun to showcase. Vanellope goes to various fansites to market Ralph’s videos and ends up at ‘Oh My Disney’ — a site where it’s a cross between Disneyland and Comic-Con. After being chased by stormtroopers for promoting Ralph’s videos, she uses her glitch to get away but ends up  transported into the Disney Princesses’ room.

The scene begins with Vanellope in the room with all the Disney princesses. Like the trailer, the princesses don’t react well to Vanellope and are in attack mode until she tells them she’s a princess too — Princess Vanellope von Schweetz of the Sugar Rush von Schweetz. They ask her what kind of princess she is and start listing Disney princess traits — including magic hands, magic hair, being cursed, poisoned, or enslaved. Vanellope is shocked at what the princesses have gone through — after Ariel reveals she traded her voice for legs and Snow White talking about True Love’s kiss. They ask if Vanellope had ‘dad issues.’ She tells them no, she doesn’t even have a mom. A bunch of princesses tell her ‘neither do we!’ Rapunzel then asks Vanellope if people assumed all her problems were solved because a big, strong man showed up. She tells them yes. They then claim her to be a princess.

The princesses begin asking Vanellope about her outfit, which the princesses think look comfortable and would love to have their own. Cinderella decides to get her mice to work on the outfits for them. Similar to the Batman television series, a transitional wipe out is then shown with the Disney logo. We then see the Disney princesses in lounge gear. They call Vanellope the queen of comfort. Ariel, wearing a shirt that says “Gizmos & Whosits & Whatsits & Snarfblatt & Dinglehopper,” is so happy with her shirt that she begins singing. The princesses stop her. Vanellope tells them that they are all pretty cool and just as messed up as the rest of us. Snow White admits that she does a lot of facial expressions because she’s legally blind. Jasmine admits her best friend is a tiger, Rajah,  as she cuddles with him. Vanellope tells her there is nothing wrong with that. Jasmine then admits she’s allergic to cats and ugly coughs. Merida begins talking, but no one understands her because she’s from the other studio. Vanellope loves their friendship with each other because they are all different but still love each other the same. This makes Vanellope feel better about what is going on between her and Ralph. C-3PO interrupts the group and tells them they have five minutes until their next show. Vanellope say her goodbyes to them. She tries to say goodbye to Pocahontas’ raccoon but it snaps at her.

Discussion with the directors

Johnston and Moore credits their wonderful team for the story, layout, animation, and really capturing the heart of a Disney animated film. When asked if the Wreck-It-Ralph characters were part of the Disney franchise IN the film, Moore explains they are not part of the Disney story, “Yes, sad for them.”

The animation and story team did a lot of research. Johnston then explained the process of the entire movie, which begins with storyboarding. After they are able to create a storyboard, The very first idea would had been hand drawn images in the roughest of forms. Once the scene feels ready to go into production, they begin to layout and block the scene. Then, it gets animated. “It’s a period of years from A to Z,” said Johnston. “This particular one was about a year ago. From start to finish, it’s often three years.”

Johnston and Moore asked their storyboard artists “what is the internet?” Their animators began drawing cat videos. The first image being a cat spinning on a record player. When asked to expand that, the animation team began drawing cat videos with memes attached to it. Storyboard artist Lauren McMullen actually bought a painting on eBay of a cat that inspired an the cat painting in the eBay scene. The film also included creepy clown art, which both Johnson and Reilly are fans of.

The team then went to the home of all the connections of the internet — One Wilshire. The servers in the building served what the internet looked like in the film, including the different districts that are shown in the film — from the busy streets of the internet to the dark web.

Johnston and Moore knew that the tropes and popular things on the internet then will not be popular and evergreen. Moore said, “We need to concentrate on the pillars of the internet. Social media, shopping, entertainment, and gaming.”

“Gaming plays a huge part in the movie. There’s a lot of online gaming,” Johnston added.

In the film, there are several websites that are real — Amazon, IMDb, Snapchat, but there are some that are a play of words for a popular site — Google is Guggle. Disney did not run into a problem with licenses of the names. Producer Clark Spencer explained, “We had lots of debates and certain things you see early on, we said to ourselves, well maybe we’ll go down the path of not having the actual names in the films. Google is an example of that. So, the early imagery did have plays on names. But, over the course of making the film, we said to ourselves, we are creating the internet and all of us use it every day, so we should populate it with the actual websites we go to. We can actually put them in the film without actually having to go to the companies. So, we didn’t approach them. We said to ourselves let the internet be the internet. We’ll put in everything we know about it.”

The directors were asked about how Disney felt about Ralph Breaks the Internet making fun of beloved Disney characters. Moore asked, “If everyone else does it, why shouldn’t we? We could do it better than other places because those are our characters. We know them intimately.”

It all started when they came up with an idea of Ralph taking a Disney test to see if Ralph was an Anna or Elsa and thought it’d be funny if Vanellope and Ralph get into an argument about it. “Then we thought, what if Anna and Elsa are there?” said Moore. “That started us thinking how could we do something like that?” That’s how the Oh My Disney website came to light.

Don’t think the directors forgot about the other Wreck-It-Ralph characters — Fix-It-Felix and Calhoun do have roles in the film. Moore tells us, “When Sugar Rush breaks and all those candy racers are also left gameless. They need a place to stay and parental figures and that would be Felix and Calhoun.”

Update 9/21: The film takes place six years later. The news were later confirmed via PR.

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