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The Process in Making ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’

Ralph Breaks the Internet: LIGHTING – Lighting is among the final stages of shot production in animation, though the lighting department is integral to the look of the film as production gets underway. Lighting artists can place individual lights within a scene, but for a scene as big as the one in which Ralph and Vanellope visit the internet for the first time, technology is utilized to place multiples of similar lights—like those on a building, for example—creating a more efficient process for dealing with a massive and diverse number of light sources. Brian Leach is the director of cinematography, lighting for “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” which opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 21, 2018. ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

It has been six years since we’ve seen Ralph and Vanellope on the big screen in 2012’s Wreck It Ralph. Now, to fit with the changing times, Ralph and Vanellope are going on the World Wide Web with Ralph Breaks the Internet. The Nerds of Color were invited behind the scenes of Ralph Breaks the Internet with the directors and creative team behind the animation.

Presentation of the Story

Like any Disney film, Ralph Breaks the Internet took a few years to complete. It’s a whole process from story-boarding and generating ideas for how Ralph Breaks the Internet would be. Josie Trinidad, head of story for the film, and her team – story artists Jason Hand and Natalie Nourigat, broke down the steps of how the presentation of the story gets made. It begins with the directors’ ideas on involving the internet with the characters. After doing tons of research about the internet, even visiting Internet hub — One Wilshire, the story department begin making sketches and crafting the story and characters. They break down the acts in the story and then discuss it some more with the directors. 

After discussing it with the script writers, they begin an 8 column structure of the three acts, which are then given to storyboard to begin the drawings. The storyboard artists then pitch ideas to the directors and team and show it on the big screen to get opinions. They continue this process until it’s ready to go to the editorial team. The editorial team then add some VFX sounds and add some temporary voices — which directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston provided the voice in the scratch pieces. 

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET — Internet surface web environment visual development by Matthias Lechner (Art DIrector, Environments) ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.

“The way that Rich and Phil like to work in editorial is really watch the sequence and rewrite and work the scene here. The work is made in the cutting room,” said Trinidad.

While the scratch pieces are being worked on, Trinidad would be sketching some ideas that could possibly work better and then work with the editorial team to add it.

Trinidad added, “It’s very loose and organic.”

Once a scratch sketch storyboard is completed, they piece it together for a screening with their fellow creatives for their opinions and notes. They conduct many screenings in order to find the best idea. Once they find what best works, they move it to through to the next process.

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET – Internet landing hub environment visual development by Matthias Lechner (Art Director, Environments) ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The Birth of the Meme

In the film, Ralph (John C. Reilly), Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), and their friends continue their lives at the arcade, but everything changes when the steering wheel of Vanellope’s game, Sugar Rush, breaks. Ralph and Vanellope must travel through the internet to find a replacement steering wheel. They find one through eBay, but must earn the money to pay for it through Ralph making money off viral videos.

Nourigat explained the story artists drew multiple scenarios for Ralph to become viral, including creating a meme factory for the BuzzTube netizen character, Yesss (Taraji P. Henson). The rejected memes included Ralph reporting about the ice caps and then gets hit by a glacier with the words: ICE CAPPED; Ralph is playing Beethoven on the piano and then punched with the words: Beethoven’s Fist!; Ralph generating three random words and perform them; and, Ralph doing a toy unboxing. In the end, they decided against it because it was not evergreen. They did not reveal how Ralph became viral in the film. 

That Princess Scene

Of course, the scene we’re talking about is the most talked about scene shown in the previews and sneak peeks — the princess scene. The scene, which has Vanellope meeting the Disney princesses in their stage room, was thought up by co-writer and longtime Disney fan, Pamela Ribon.

The idea came to Ribon when she was working on Moana, which she co-wrote, in 2014 and the Ralph Breaks the Internet team were discussing ideas.

“And I was also thinking at the time, why isn’t Vanellope canon, right? Like, she is a princess. She is also a president, as she has clearly stated, but I believe a woman can have more than one title,” Ribon shared. “And I felt like, of all the princess I’m the one in the hoodie. I love my comfy clothes. I just had his idea in the back of my head. So when we were working on this movie and we all got back together after Zootopia in early 2016, we knew that we’d like to do a scene that was meta.”

Ribon began writing the script, with most of it making it in the final cut, and wanted to include the tiresome Disney princess tropes. Thankfully, Moore and Johnston were happy with the script.

Of course, you can’t have the Disney princesses without their voices. Disney called the actresses who’ve originally voiced the animated princesses, including Idina Menzel (Elsa), Jodi Benson (Ariel), Ming-Na Wen (Mulan), Paige O’Hara (Belle), Linda Larkin (Jasmine), Irene Bedard (Pocahontas), Anika Noni Rose (Tiana), Mandy Moore (Rapunzel), Kelly Macdonald (Merida), Kristen Bell (Anna), and Auli’i Cravalho (Moana). As for Snow White, the original voice, Adriana Caselotti, passed away in 1997, but Ribon did such a great job in the temporary track that she ended up voicing Snow White in Ralph Breaks the Internet

With the Disney Princesses, Ribon knew they had to get the look right. Working with art director Ami Thompson, head of animation’s Kira Lehtomaki, and legendary Disney animator Mark Henn, Ribon was able to give the princesses their iconic look and poses that fans would immediately recognize.

For the comfort looks that the princesses are seen in the trailer, Ribon wanted the outfits to reflect their personalities and stories. For example, Ariel’s comfort outfit consisted of a — what’s it called? — oh yeah, a shirt. The shirt says the iconic words: Gizmos & Whozits & Whatzits & Snarfblats & Dinglehoppers.

Of course, we all love our Disney princesses, but only a select few were chosen for the film. Because there are so many heroines in Disney folklore, Moore and Johnston decided to stick to the official Disney list.

“I mean, there’s a lot of princesses that are from Disney movies that are not part of the canonized ‘Disney Princesses.’ I don’t know how they’re chosen, I don’t know how it goes on. I think it’s like the Vatican, where smoke comes out of a chimney and now Moana is a Disney Princess,” Moore explained during their presentation. “So we decided we’re going to use the canonized group of princesses that are known as ‘The Disney Princesses.’ Not that we don’t love Princess Leia, Kida, Meg, and Esmerelda, but we decided we’re going to go with the official Disney Princesses.”

Disney’s Ralph Breaks the Internet opens in theaters on November 21.

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