Wreck-It Ralph (2012), the 52nd animated feature from the Walt Disney Animated Classics series is a perfect example of what the studio does best – a family friendly film which works for both children and adults alike. This Oscar nominated 3D cartoon extravaganza, directed by Rich Moore and featuring the voice talents of John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer and Sarah Silverman, is a hyper-neon adventure, the exuberance of which leaves you breathless.
Poor Ralph (Reilly) has always been the villain of the arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr. in which he plays a pivotal role. Every time he wrecks a building it’s his nemesis Felix (McBrayer) who comes along and fixes everything, saves the people at risk and ends up the hero of the day – every day. When the game is switched off and the kids have left the arcade things only get worse, as everyone avoids Ralph whilst hanging out and partying all night with Felix.
Ralph tries everything to be popular but to no avail – it’s his role in life to the villain of the game and nothing can change this. Determined to prove himself a hero and make people like him Ralph leaves his game (which in the arcade world spells certain disaster), and finds himself in the land of Sugar Rush. Here he happens across Vanellope von Schweetz (Silverman), a would-be girl racer, who has popularity problems of her own. The two unlikely comrades join forces to overcome their obstacles, but not before they have to face some particularly nasty characters including the diabolical King Candy (Alan Tudyk) the ruler of Sugar Rush, who has a few plans of his own for Ralph and Vanellope.
The real magic of this cartoon is not the animation, though this is admittedly impressive in its seamless visualisation of a fantasy world, realistic in its vividness and attention to detail. That CGI visuals are being used to give life to a story based on a computer game seems appropriate, adding an unspoken depth to the overall production.
However its the way that the film’s story and characterisation can be appreciated on so many levels which makes it really memorable. Any adult hankering after the early days of computer games (in-other-words anyone over the age of say 35) will likely remember Ralph and Felix from those arcade games which used to eat up their weekly pocket money allowance as well as their spare time during the 1980’s. That Wreck-It Ralph emphasises this through the use of the original characters as well as a host of others from various contemporary games, such as Pac-man, Sonic and Super Mario Bros., will only play in its favour in the eyes of older viewers.
As for children there are enough varying elements to appeal to both boys and girls. From the futuristic Sci-fi game of Hero’s Duty’ where we first meet Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), the no-nonsense female leader of a space army task force, to the candy sweet world of Sugar Rush, which hosts the kart-racing game where Ralph encounters the precocious Vanellope, there should be enough to keep most kids amused for the film’s 108 minute duration.
Many modern animators seem to forget that the film they are producing will inevitably have to play to two audiences – both their target audience of children, and frequently to the adults who accompany the said kids when they come to see it. The films which really work, like Universal Pictures recent hit The Lorax (2012) and now Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, remember this, and in the process create classics which will outlive their inferior competition for many years to come.