Emmy-winning director Rich Moore makes his feature-directing debut with Walt Disney Animation's Wreck-It Ralph, following a successful career in television animation on The Simpsons and Futurama, among other series. Nominated for a Best Animated Feature Academy Award, Wreck-It Ralph arrives on Blu-ray on March 5th via a 4-disc 3D/2D Ultimate Collection's Edition Combo Pack and a 2D Collector's Edition.
In the following interview, Moore chats about voice casting, growing up around arcades, audience reaction to the film and, of course, the highly anticipated Blu-ray release of Wreck-It Ralph.
Did you have John C. Reilly in mind for the voice of Wreck-It Ralph from the beginning?
RM: Once we realized who the main character was going to be in our story; the writer, Phil Johnston, and I thought about who could play him. We knew Ralph was going to be a big, loud, simple guy, but we needed someone who could play the role with some humanity because this isn't a joke character and you need to care about him. We immediately thought of John C. Reilly. I'm a huge fan of John's because I think he's hysterically funny, but he can also perform drama very well. He constantly reminds you that there is a human underneath the character's skin.
Did the character design change at all once Reilly was cast?
Once John was cast it would have been impossible for our artists to not look at the source and implement that into the design. Our artists are sponges; they see and they process and they put out this work. Once we knew John was going to voice Ralph, his influence started to immediately come through with the character. I like that. I like that you can feel him underneath. It's similar to the way you sense Dory in Finding Nemo has some of the characteristics of Ellen DeGeneres, even though she's playing a fish. I don't think Ralph is a caricature of John, but it's a transcended character that has elements of what makes him great.
Have you seen the Blu-ray release of Wreck-It Ralph?
I think the Blu-ray release will become the definitive version of the movie because there is so much detail in every shot and there is so much to see in every scene. We've packed the movie full of characters and fine details because we want it to be that kind of movie where people want to freeze the frame and check out everything going on in every shot. We want the audience to be able to enjoy ever detail that's in there.
I grew up with an NES controller in one hand and a Genesis controller in the other. I had an absolute blast hunting for Easter Eggs while watching the movie!
There are a ton of characters for the audience to identify and there's a ton of game-related graffiti in Game Central Station that I think is really cool. Not only do we have tons of game references and character references throughout the movie, but there's also a lot of cookie and candy-related references packed into "Sugar Rush" that I think people are going to be stop-framing. There are tons of candies to spot, as well as references to different candies in the background. I think people will get a kick out of everything they see.
I like to give the audience a lot of detail to look at and I like to give the audience rewards for repeated viewings, as well as rewards for paying attention. Growing up, I loved that about the Warner Bros. cartoons. When they would have little side gags in the background; just little things that you could catch. I also loved movies like Star Wars because there was so much on the screen that you could sit and watch it again and again and always spot new things. You could just watch the people in the background and you'd think, "Oh look, there's another cool alien that I didn't notice before!" Before I ever worked on The Simpsons and Futurama, that's always been something I've loved. I loved the movie Airplane when I was a kid because there were so many absurd things in the background that you could pick out. To me, that's just another great layer of comedy to give the audience. The movie wouldn't be complete without a lot of that stuff.
Which classic video game characters were you excited to get into the movie?
Pac-Man is a great favorite of mine, so he was pretty awesome to work with. However, I spent a lot of time playing Q*Bert when I was a child, so that was also very special to me. Paperboy is another favorite; but if we're talking about the more recent game characters, I was also excited to include Bowser [from Super Mario Bros.]
Was it difficult to have to cut scenes from the film during production? Or did you have a sense about what scenes were going to get the ax pretty early on?
We have a ton of deleted and alternative scenes. The script and the story of the movie has evolved over the four years of production, so we've had seven different, very rough versions of the movie. To make the movie the best it can be, some of the scenes that were in the story have to be taken out, so [in the Blu-ray edition's deleted scenes] we have a few that include characters and locations that were not in the final movie. I think it's educational for people to see how we make movies and all the different things we try before we land on the finished product.
I got a kick out of the videogame commercials on the Blu-ray.
The marketing team created some fantastic commercials for the video games featured in the movie. There's one commercial for "Fix-it Felix Jr.", one for "Sugar Rush" and one for "Hero's Duty," and it's as if they were actual arcade games that were in an arcade in town. There's one from the 1980s, one from the 1990s and one from today. They are really, really cool and each is very true to the time period from which they are supposed to be made.
Did you frequent your local arcade when you were younger?
I grew up with arcades. I spent a good bulk of my teenage years in arcades back home in Oxnard, California, and in pizza places that had video games. When I was a teenager, it seemed like there were video games everywhere. They were in little convenient shops, pizza places, restaurants and movie theaters. There were games everywhere. This is before home gaming started to take off. To me, arcades were culturally a big part of my youth growing up.
I have a nostalgic feeling towards arcades, especially for that era of gaming from my youth. However, when I first started this project, people would say to me that there are no arcades anymore. They would say that nobody under thirty would know what an arcade is. I said, "I'm going to go to the source. I'm going to go to my kids and ask them because I don't want to exclude anyone from the audience. When I started the project, my son was 14 years old. I said to him, "Do you know an arcade? What is an arcade to you?" He replied, "I know arcades. I go to Dave & Busters. Plus, there are video games in pizza places still." Maybe arcades aren't as prevalent in his life, but he knows about the history of them. He knows what they mean to people, even though he didn't have the same kind of experiences that I had as a teenager.
It felt like my son knew the history of games by mentioning Pong and Pac-Man to me. In fact, it felt like young people that didn't spend any time in arcades still know what they are, and have nostalgia for them by just knowing that they are part of this legacy of video games. I thought to myself, "You know what? I'm going to continue down this path and make this movie about cabinet games in an arcade."
How have different generations reacted to it all?
A lot of people have come up to me and said, "I'm so glad the movie's story is set in an arcade. That's so cool. It's very old school." Who are these people? There are teenagers, as well as people in their 50s. They all think it's for them. People in their 50s say to me, "It's great that you're making movies for my generation." I think to myself, "Buddy, people in their 20s are saying the same thing that you're saying!" Somehow we tapped into these memories and feelings that are being shared cross-generationally with a lot of the audience.