Classic video game characters come to life

By Caris Bizzaca

Caris Bizzaca talks to director Rich Moore about how his childhood passions inspired the new Disney animation.

Ralph, left, voiced by John C. Reilly in a scene from new Disney animation, 'Wreck-It Ralph.' Photo / Supplied
Ralph, left, voiced by John C. Reilly in a scene from new Disney animation, 'Wreck-It Ralph.' Photo / Supplied

"Pac-Man, I'm making a movie. You in?"

And thus the video game star made a cameo in Wreck-It Ralph.

Or so went the conversation, according to director Rich Moore, who joked about the phone call with Pac-Man before revealing how unexpectedly simple it was to get beloved game characters in the Disney movie.

Aside from Pac-Man, the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog, the Nintendo villain Bowser and Street Fighter characters appear alongside the movie's stars - Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), Fix-It Felix jnr (30 Rock's Jack McBrayer) and Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch).

"Basically when we started making the movie, I approached it as if we had all the characters that we wanted to have," Moore says.

"It was important to me in making a movie about video games that it should feel authentic, so it was important to me that we had actual game characters [rather than making some up]."

When it came time to meet with the different game companies, Moore went himself, along with producer Clark Spencer, instead of sending in a bunch of lawyers.

"Nine times out of 10 they were very, very receptive and said 'yes, absolutely, we'd love to be a part of this', so it was not as daunting as you would think," he says.

And for someone who was a huge video game fan growing up, Moore says it was amazing to meet the guys who do the voices, like Gerald C. Rivers, who plays Street Fighter baddie M. Bison.

"They were so appreciative ... that we used the real people and again I think that speaks to the authenticity of the piece and it says to gamers, 'this is serious'."

Moore helped come up with the story for Wreck-It Ralph, about a villain in the arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr, who wishes he was the hero, so he does the unspeakable and leaves his world to fulfil his dream.

Moore says the character of Wreck-It Ralph was inspired by classic games like Rampage and Donkey Kong, but also a lot of "big, boisterous, bombastic" cartoon characters from his childhood.

"I loved Popeye so there's a lot of Bluto in Wreck-It Ralph and in those old Mickey cartoons he had a nemesis Peg-Leg Pete, Fred Flintstone," he says.

On his adventure, Wreck-It Ralph comes across Vanellope von Schweetz, a 9-year old racecar driver in the 90s cart-racing game, Sugar Rush.

Boundary-pushing comedienne Sarah Silverman, who's known for addressing controversial and taboo topics like sexism and religion with her humour, was as surprised as anyone to get the call to voice the sugary-sweet Disney character.

"Of all the faceless conglomerates of Hollywood, for this one to see past any kind of stigma that comes along with me, meant so much," Silverman says. "It was an honour."

But Moore, who's long been a fan of Silverman, says Vanellope was practically made for her.

"At the time I was listening to her book, The Bedwetter, on tape and it just seemed the way she would describe herself as a kid, that just filled in so many of the gaps of the character," he says.

"Vanellope is a character who's very kind of innocent and naive but also at the same time, very inappropriate and Bugs Bunny-esque, so it seemed tailor-made for her."

Silverman and Reilly recorded their scenes together, which allowed them to bounce off each other and improvise.

Though she says they kept their improvisation PG, if there were R-rated blooper reels out there, "those probably have all been burned".

Reilly says it's strange to think he and Silverman are now part of Disney's rich history.
"We were recording these voices for about two years and most of that time it was a very intimate, kind of small-feeling job," he says.

"[Then] I walked in the building one day at work at Disney's Animation studios and my character's face was everywhere, all over the front of the building ...

"Suddenly it was just this really humbling moment, like, 'oh my God, I'm at the front of the Disney locomotive! Like, how did I get here?"'

What: Wreck-It Ralph, Disney animated movie bringing classic video game characters to the big screen
Who: Directed by Rich Moore with the voices of John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman, among others
When and where: Opens at cinemas on Boxing Day

- TimeOut / AAP

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