Ralph Breaks the Internet at New York Comic Con
The Ralph Wrecks the Internet panel on day two of New York Comic Con was one of the hottest tickets in the entire con, with hundreds of people staying in the room after the Geoff Johns Spotlight, hundreds more outside, and the room being filled to capacity. All this for a Disney animated sequel? Anyone who has seen the wave of fan art on Twitter these last few months since Disney started rolling out sequels knows this movie is much more than a Disney animated sequel.
The original Wreck It Ralph was a surprise hit for Disney in 2012, a clever video game satire that had a lot to say about what makes a villain or hero and gave us Disney’s first surprise/mystery villain – a trope they’ve loved to use ever since. Its chief creators – writers Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston, and director Rich Moore – went on to helm other Disney megahits including Frozen and Zootopia. The entire creative team is back, along with the all-star voice cast led by John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, and Jack McBrayer.
Here’s an interesting tidbit I found out from this panel – Ralph Breaks the Internet is only the second sequel Walt Disney Animation Studios has ever released. Oh, Disney’s released plenty of sequels, but they’ve all been Pixar, TV spinoffs (like the excellent currently running Tangled: The Series) or “cheapquel” knockoffs produced by the subpar DisneyToon studios (The less said about movies like Mulan 2) the better. But this is the first proper sequel produced by the main animation studio since 1990s The Rescuers Down Under, the sweet but forgettable combo breaker in Disney’s 1990s renaissance. It won’t be the last, though – Frozen 2 is scheduled for next year, and Zootopia 2 likely won’t be far behind.
Ralph Breaks the Internet picks up directly from the end of the first movie – Vanellope Von Schweetz is back in her rightful place as a star racer, Felix and Calhoun have just gotten married, and Ralph has found peace in his role as the game’s bad guy – a role the game can’t run without. Oh, and Litwack’s Arcade has taken a small step into the modern era by installing WiFi. But then a twist of fate breaks Vanellope’s game, Sugar Rush, and threatens to render her one of the arcade’s unfortunate homeless game characters. Upon finding out that the part needed to replace the game is on eBay, Ralph and Vanellope begin a dangerous adventure into the new frontier – the internet.
At the panel hosted by Dani Fernandez and attended by Johnston and Moore, we got to see over twenty minutes of new footage from the film. Johnston and Moore gave us some insight into how they built their version of the internet, a colorful and active version of the real-life network hidden at 60 Hudson Street in Los Angeles. Part superhighway, part bustling metropolis, it reinvents every website as a location in the city, with a living search engine named Knowsmore (Alan Tudyk) guiding people to their destinations. Given how endearing and innocent the character is, and who voices him, I’m going to be suspecting him until the final reel.
As eBay is one of the key sites in the film, it’s no surprise that it got a big focus here. Another example of the filmmakers’ attention to detail, they brought in real-life champion auctioneer Brian Curless to deliver his unique vocal pattern to a scene where Ralph and Vanellope’s ignorance of actions and over-enthusiasm leads to a hilarious conclusion. Winning the auction but now deeply in debt that they need to pay off before they can go home with the needed part, Ralph and Vanellope find themselves having to go to extreme measures to get their money.
Their schemes lead them to a pair of unique, original female characters added to the franchise with this installment. The first, Shank, is the feared champion racer of an extreme online racing game named Slaughter Race who gives chase when Ralph and Vanellope boost her car. From the trailer, she seems to be the closest thing the movie has to an antagonist so far – but she also reignites Vanellope’s love for racing. And she’s voiced by Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot!
From the panel room, though, it seems she might just be upstaged by Taraji P. Henson’s Yess. This blue-skinned living algorithm with constantly changing fashion and hair runs the social media feed for a viral video site named BuzzTube, and she becomes Ralph and Vanellope’s tutor in all things internet – including helping Ralph through some of the uglier corners. Equally fashionable, sarcastic, and compassionate, she seems likely to be the film’s breakout character.
Speaking of breakouts, all anyone has been talking about since the trailers started running was one scene, set in a Disney fansite called Oh My Disney – where Vanellope meets all her fellow Disney Princesses. This is the first time in Disney history that the characters have met and interacted, not counting static posters – and the second people saw this scene the internet went nuts and created a new fandom. Tumblr and Twitter has been filled with fanart, especially once the second trailer featuring the princesses in casual modern clothes arrived.
At the panel, we got to see the whole Princess segment for the first time – and trust me, it is funnier than anything you’ve seen so far. Some of the funniest bits like Merida’s scottish rants have already been seen, but the roughly eight-minute segment is a rapid-fire series of jokes and Easter eggs that Disney fans will absolutely love. And for an extra little treat, all the modern Princesses are voiced by their original voice actors. Given just how big this fandom has grown, I expect this will not be the last time we see these characters interact. Could an Avengers-like crossover or a spin-off TV series be far behind?
Before the panel concluded, we got one last surprise – a series of social media influencers who will be guest-starring as characters in the movie. The list of elite names included Colleen Ballinger, Tiffany Herrera, Flula Borg, GloZell Green – and Dani Fernandez herself! It was the Princess scene that made the panel room explode – it was almost hard to follow some of the jokes because of the enthusiasm – but every bit of footage and reveal we got from Ralph Breaks the Internet gave me a singular impression. Disney waited this long to do a proper sequel to make sure they came up with something great. Everything I’ve seen here indicates that they nailed it.