Before you see the movie
Disneys computer-generated love letter to retro gaming, Wreck-it Ralph hits theatres November 2, and brings with it a veritable smorgasbord of fan service (as we detailed in a recent article breaking down the crazy amount of game references in the trailer). After seeing an early screening of the picture we were lucky enough to get a chance to chat with director Rich Moore and writer Phil Johnston, and came out with a bunch of information about the movie.
What did they talk about? Well, just about everything we could have hoped for. We were told about Marios whereabouts, cut content, inspirations, and special features on the Blu-ray--inspiring us to pull together everything we learned in order to give you a better look behind the best gaming movie of the year.
The hub world is a power strip, but it could have been an Xbox hard drive
All of the characters in video games are sentient, and hang out together once the arcade closes its doors in the old, dusty power strip that connects them together. This is the basic, Toy Story-esque premise of Wreck-it Ralph,but it wasnt always going to be this way. Early in development there were other options the creators were exploring, including setting the entire thing inside of an Xboxs hard drive, because, well, arcades simply arent as relevant as they were 20 years ago.
They veered back towards the arcade setting after Rich Moore asked his teenage son about his experiences with arcades. Even though he hadnt been to many outside of Chuck E. Cheese and Dave & Busters, he still knew about them, and felt as though they had a connection to gamer culture that outlasted their relevancy. And so an arcade it remained.
Mario's clout kept him from having a cameo
A big part of the fun of watching Wreck-it Ralph is spotting all the gaming cameos--and while we wont spoil every appearance in the film, we will say that one of the biggest gaming mascots of all time is conspicuously absent. After seeing the film one of our first questions for the creators was, Wheres Mario? According to both the writer and director, he was just too important to waste on a simple cameo.
The creators definitely considered Mario making an appearance in the movie, but they couldnt think of anything important enough for him to do. They didnt want a brief, 20-second joke for the master plumber--and they doubted that Nintendo would either--so they tried to find a more weighty scene for him, perhaps with the films Mario equivalent, Felix Jr., but it never came together. Director Rich Moore is holding out hope that, if theyre lucky enough to get to do a sequel, they can find a place for Mario. Next time.
The arcade is inspired by California-area arcades of the '80s
The arcade in the film is pretty true to life, so when asked if it was inspired by any real-world areas, the crew lit up and began rattling off different memorable settings that they tapped into when designing the movies arcade. The buildings construction was based on two different California arcades: Golf N Stuff, and Castle Golf. Weird that the film ended up golfless, all things considered.
The arcades carpet, though, was actually its own set of trivia. During production the studio had its gaudy, swirly carpet replaced with a new one, but not before the animators grabbed reference images and recreated it in-movie, a cute, light homage to the former studios carpet--may it rest in peace.
Most references were added late in the process (and many are hidden)
Wreck-it Ralph was always going to be a video game movie--that much was known--but the actual details of the films many cameos and game references werent added right away. The first few months were focused on the story, and deciding exactly what Wreck-it Ralph would be about. Once the writers had their story and basic premise, they branched out, and started putting out feelers to see which characters would work with the already-created narrative.
The creators pulled this off by taking their storyboards to game publishers at events such as E3 2010, and showing exactly how characters would fit in, some as cameos (Pac-Man, for instance, can be seen chomping power pellets in Game Central Station) and others as more prominent roles. Whats more, some studios were so excited by the film that they actually added more characters as a package deal, such as Atari throwing in Frogger after Disney asked for Pong. Theres also plenty hidden in the background, including spraypaint game references and Hidden Mickeys.
The crew has mixed feelings about making Zangief a bad guy
One of the earliest (and funniest) scenes from Wreck-It Ralph shown to the public was the Bad Anon meeting. Ralphs a member of a group of video game bad guys that help one another in times of existential crisis. They support each other in playing the bad guy of their respective games, and the group includes Bowser and Eggman, people we can all agree are villains. However, when most Street Fighter fans saw that Zangief was a member alongside the series lead villain, Bison, many cried foul over Zangiefs evil status. And the films creators noticed.
We discussed the the situation with screenwriter Phil Johnson, and he says you can lay the blame of Zangiefs villainy on him. Thats all my fault. I played a lot of Street Fighter as a young man and Zangief tormented me so much that I dont care what anybody says, he was bad to me. Thats a sentiment were sure some SFII players can understand, though we still think of Zangief as more of a violent goof than a intentionally evil guy. How would you classify him?
The director says the most obscure reference is... Qix?
When watching Wreck-It Ralph, no matter how much we were enjoying it, we wished we could have paused the film about 100 different times to try to catch every cameo, no matter how unknown. More than a few in the film left us confused, but we wondered what the creators felt was the single most obscure reference. According to director Rich Moore, the honor belonged to forgotten arcade puzzle game Qix.
Moore wouldnt tell us where Qix is in the film, and the director wasnt even sure if you could even classify the weird graphic from the game as a character. If you want to try your luck at finding it, you can currently download the game for 3DS and a remake of Qix for XBLA. Also, though not as obscure, Moore added that he was personally proud that he was able to get Paper Boy in the movie, as that was a personal favorite of his from the early arcade days.
Game publishers were in an arms race with the height of their villains
Not all the cameo negotiations went off without a hitch. In the previously mentioned Bad Anon meeting, that scene has arguably the biggest collection of major game characters, including Bowser, Zangief, Eggman, and Bison. Getting all those guys in one place wasnt so easy, especially when it came to the characters' heights.
When the filmmakers showed the designs to Nintendo, Capcom, and Sega, each felt their character wasnt tall enough. With each adjustment the guys kept getting bigger and bigger, to the point that Ralph, a guy whos supposed to be one of the tallest people in the film, was looking much smaller by comparison. Eventually the producers found a way to make everyone happy, and then they could move on to another actual issue Nintendo had with the scene: Was Boswer holding his coffee cup accurately?
There was almost another major game world inspired by Sims and GTA
Ralph jumps between four major locations in the film: his own 8-bit game, the Call of Duty/Aliens-inspired Duty of Heroes, the Game Central Station hub, and the Mario Kart-like Sugar Rush. But for much of the film's production, there was another world, one that would have appeared later in the movie: Extreme Easy Livin 2. When we asked about EEL2, writer Johnston described it as The Sims meets Grand Theft Auto, which, obviously, had no place in an arcade setting. And yet, for much of the movie, it existed as another key location.
They really thought it through, too. It was explained that the first game in that series was just plain Easy Livin, which was followed by Extreme Easy Livin, which, like Modern Warfare, ended up being so popular it got its own sequel. Activities in EEL2 involved crime, and Extreme Hot Tubbing. Oh well, theres always the sequel.
They're considering a special feature that points out the references
When the movies trailer alone has nearly two-dozen game references, its a good sign that theres a lot to watch for in the film itself. Even after seeing the movie we were still swapping sighting stories, finding out about different background elements that we missed. According to the director, the team is currently kicking around an idea we can totally get behind: A bonus feature on the Blu-ray that points them all out.
Considering that some of the references are extremely obscure jokes spray painted on the walls for half of a second, were really hoping it makes it into the movie. Otherwise well have to just freeze frame the film every few seconds to make sure we soak in all there is to see.
Get ready to wreck it
So there are our early thoughts on the film, and while youll have to wait for a formal review, we can say that we had a great time with the movie. Did all these facts make you more excited to see it? Share those feelings in the comments!