A unexpectedly groundbreaking sequence from Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 was shown at Disney’s D23 Expo, and it's all anyone can talk about. The footage, which was introduced by directors Phil Johnston and Rich Moore and voice star Sarah Silverman, is a pivotal sequence and will likely be the standout scene of the movie, and I was lucky enough to see it.
As you can probably guess from the title (and the 'app with notification' logo - see below), the film sees video game baddie Ralph and pal Vanellope head into the internet when their arcade gets wifi. Along the way they get pestered by pop-up ads and clickbait (“My sister got rich working from home!” screeches one), and meet new addition to the franchise - Yesss (voiced by Hidden Figures' Taraji P. Henson). She's an internet tastemaker whose style can change, and does change, in an instant in order to always be bang up to date with the latest trends. She’s the head of a website called Buzzaholic (see what they did there?) and takes Ralph and Vanellope on a tour of web.
The sequel seems to be doing a good job of skewering internet/meme culture in the same way it did classic video games in the first movie, but things take a turn for the seriously meta when Ralph and Vanellope visit the Oh My Disney website. First up, there's cutesy avatars of the likes of Iron Man and Stan Lee, but then Vanellope slips off to a secret room and things get a bit insane...
Yep, Vanellope discovers the secret quarters of the Disney princesses. They’re all here, in CGI animated form, from Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Ariel, to Mulan, Snow White, and Cinderella. You name them, they're here (I think). Including newer characters like Tangled’s Rapunzel and Brave’s Merida, along with the classics - it was the ultimate bit of corporate cross-promotion.
And this being Wreck-It Ralph, it wasn’t exactly done with a straight face, with all the characters’ foibles mocked in some way. Plus, all the still-living original voice actors have been roped in to return, including Brave’s Kelly Macdonald, who plays up Merida’s Scottish dialect so that it's unintelligible to the other characters - “She’s from the other studio,” someone quips of the Pixar princess.
Vanellope gets made an honorary princess, and the others decide to follow her lead and ditch their evening gowns for more comfortable loungewear. Just when things seem to be reaching peak meta, their butler arrives and it's none other than C-3PO! The princesses wind him up by calling him R2-D2 and BB-8, and a note of sadness could be heard throughout the D23 audience, when he mentions his previous experience with a princess…
All in all it was a sensational sequence, and one the film will have to work hard to live up to. I felt a sense of significance when several of the voice actors arrived on stage, and the weight of Disney history being made was apparent.
With Wreck-It Ralph 2 set to open in November 2018, expect to hear a lot more about its internet-mocking, crossover-bating antics soon.