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Interview with Rich Moore & Clark Spencer – the Director & Producer of Wreck-It Ralph

I am super excited that Wreck-It Ralph will be in theaters on November 2, 2012. I have already seen the film but I cannot wait to take my family to see it. I know they are going to love it.

A few weeks ago when I was out in Los Angeles I had the opportunity to sit down with the Director of Wreck-It Ralph, Rich Moore, and the movie’s Producer, Clark Spencer, to ask them a few questions about the movie, along with the other bloggers in my group.

Question:  Where did the idea for the movie come from?

RM: I started here, working at Disney, four years ago. (I was) invited John Lassiter, who’s a dear old friend, to develop some ideas for movies, one of which I would direct. There had been a notion of a video game based movie here for several years that had not been cracked. It had been kind of put back on the shelf (for) a year before I started here in 2008. When someone brought that up that there used to be this idea for (a) movie about video game characters. I thought that’s pretty interesting. I like video games. I like that type of world. It could be very kind of rich and fun and something that people would enjoy.

And so without going to kind of the versions that had been done before, I just started with that notion. After about two days, I thought this is a really, really bad idea because the characters have no life. You know, they just kind of have one thing that they do. They have no free will. They do their same job over and over again every day. Who’s gonna want to watch that? That’s boring. And then I took a moment and I thought, well, what if the main character didn’t like his job? What if everyone else loved their jobs? And the main character didn’t like his job. That would be a fantastic kind of internal conflict for a protagonist to have. (It’s a) very simple internal conflict of a character could have. And from there I pitched a few ideas to John. And we both agreed, this is the one.

Question: So this has been four years in the making? 

RM: About four. I would say maybe just over three and a half years.

Comment: The media is eating its tail talking about video games.

RM: I think when like things like the wizard and even like Tron when it first came out, I was a teenager. And I really wanted to kind of just  disappear into it. And it just felt like it was a movie about something… there wasn’t history behind video games at that point. It was just beginning to take off… computer people really got it. And young people kind of got it. But I think it’s hard for people having not been exposed to computer culture and video game culture at that time to really grasp it and understand what that would be like to make it have a life of its own.

Question: How many references are in the film?

RM: There are a lot as you saw. Hundreds I would say. I don’t know. I mean it’s just layer upon layer. We start with characters from other games and references to other games. And then just seeing the other games, seeing the other characters. We have like graffiti referencing certain things from other games. And there’s jokes about other characters and games… I wish I could give you a number. I’m sorry.

CS: But I think one of the things we tried to do is make sure that we did it on multiple levels. So there’s graffiti in there. And if you want to look at the graffiti and if it means something to you you’ll enjoy that aspect of it. Otherwise, if you don’t play games, it’s just graffiti in a train station, which you would expect in a train station.

RM: Right. That just kind of adds to the believability of the world.

Question: Anybody turn you down?

CS: You know what’s interesting? No one turned us down. What was interesting, in the very beginning when we talked about this idea there was sort of that moment where we realized we’re actually gonna have to go forth and ask companies to license the characters. And there was always that questions of will we be able to do it? And if so, how many characters would be available to come into the film? And we had this moment where we went to E3, I guess, two years ago, here in L.A. And we met with a lot of the gaming companies, Namco specifically. And we pitched the film. And you could see the people got excited about the idea of the movie. And their biggest question was to make sure that their character was put into the film in an organic way that felt like it was their character. So in cases where we said, hey, we’d like this character and we’re thinking they may sit in this area. They might say, well, that doesn’t seem like it’s the best fit. So, Nintendo for example, they were like Bowser and Badmouth makes complete sense.

RM:  Where it seemed like it worked.

CS: It totally worked. But we couldn’t find the perfect way to put Mario into the film in a way that felt totally organic.

So that was really more the conversation and to all the gaming companies’ credit. And I think, we’re– we’re the Walt Disney Company. We have lots of characters that we would be as protective of. That’s where their protection was. It was more about if it feels like it’s organic and it makes sense for our character, we’re excited to be apart of it. If it feels like it’s just a cameo for no purpose sake then we’re not as interested.

RM: Right, and they were a real pleasure to work with. It began with kind of sitting down and explaining the movie to them and talking about the characters. We all just kind of agreed that this is a great way to showcase their characters.

CS: And one of the amazing things we did was we actually shared all the assets back and forth. So as we built the model, we would send it to them and have them comment on whether they felt like we had captured their character correctly. As we did our animation test, they would look at the animation test and give us feedback as to how the character moved. And was it true to the way they saw their character all the way to the point of final lighting. And I think it was great because it’s the same thing for us. We see things the way we feel our characters should move and act. And there were notes they gave us back that are completely great notes.

Question: What was the hardest part of making the movie?

RM: I never consider it hard because it’s a joy to work with everyone here. I would say the most challenging was was the very different styles of look, of animation, of camera, (that) work in those different worlds.

Question: How much input will you get with the Xbox game?

RM: Well, you know, from your lips to God’s ears. We are pretty heavily involved in all the different things. As you know it’s a big company here.  Before we starting making the movie we are also in the business of selling the movie to people within our own company. You need to  introduce it to all the different arms of the company.

We were involved quite a bit I think with all the ancillary things, with the marketing of it. We see lots of stuff on the toys and the games because we want it to be consistent.

CS: Develop the film and they build stuff off of it. They don’t come and look at the movie and say, well, you know what would be really great is if you added this. Right now the hottest toy is whatever. If you added this into your film somewhere, then it would help sell product, which is the nice thing is they leave us alone in that aspect of it. They definitely come in with a point of view, don’t get me wrong. They’re looking at the movie. They’re saying does this movie feel like it’s gonna work for boys or for girls or for older kids or younger kids. They’re looking at it from their lens. We’re looking at it from a storytelling standpoint and trying to create something that has hopefully longevity to it. But it is nice that for the most part it is more than consulting to understand what is the movie and what kind of product are they gonna create off of it. Make sure that we feel like that seems true to the characters and to the look of the characters more than it is could you please add this it would make our lives easier. And interestingly in this film and it’s something that you learn all the time as we go through this stuff, um, there’s a boy aisle. And there’s a girl aisle. Right?

RM: Yeah, for boys and girls.

Question: Was it a conscious choice to make the female character not princess-y?

RM: I don’t think that it was something from day one that was like we want to do this. It was just these things develop over time. It kind of work with the character. We got to know her, it’s just one of those things where we think that’s not who she is. We love her as her. It  becomes a point where it’s a conscious decision. But it was not something that began on at day one. Oh, she’s gonna be like this. And she won’t become a princess.

CS: Story develop, it got to the place where we said we really want to embrace the idea of these two characters are not gonna try and mold themselves into something they’re not. They’re just gonna accept who they are and that that would be the message in the film is, you know, it’s okay to be who you are. Don’t try and be something you’re not. Uh, just because something else out there might make you feel that’s what you’re supposed to do. and that was definitely over the course of time the story developed, you start to see that. Oh, that’s where this film was ultimately heading. It always feels like there’s a story that’s waiting to be told.

And you started on this journey. And eventually as the thing starts to come together you realize, okay, that’s where our end destination’s gonna be in terms.

RM: Yeah, it is a lot like sculpting something out of a block of stone where you know that it’s in there. You know the thing is in there. And you’re chipping away to get to it. You know, you have kind of a plan of what it’s going to look like. But you don’t know exactly like what the end result is going to be. Or that’s how I feel with it that you’re going to discover things along the way.

Question: To what degree did the actors affect the characters?

RM: I’m really fortunate to have worked with some fantastic actors on this movie. I’m a huge fan of John’s (referring to John C. Reilly, the voice of Wreck-It Ralph). What I love about him is how organic he is in finding his character and- his performances and how he shapes them.

I set up a time where the animators and John could get together and talk about the character. We did a lot of video reference of John acting out scenes as Ralph for the animators to study. I think its so unique about animation. What I love it about it is that it’s a split performance. You have this vocal track. And, you know, one person is doing it. Then you have a group of animators who’s giving physical performance of what you see. And as a director it was great to kind of bring the vocal talent and the visual talent together and have them kind of communicate to one another. It was like watching two halves of a brain kind of come together and talk about their process and how it works.

I think in those kind of unions you start to get something that transcends just like Dorie, for example, in Finding Nemo. I love that character because it’s part Ellen Degeneres but it’s part this fish design. And something about the fusion of the two becomes its own thing. It becomes like this third party that’s unique unto itself.

CS:  And I think because the animators look at that reference it does start to definitely influence the mouth shapes, the eye shapes, the brow shapes, how the hair may move. All of those things become a component of it.

Question: How many pictures and how long does it take to put everything together?

RM:  Film goes through a projector at 24 frames a second. There aren’t drawings in the animation process now in CG. Traditionally in animation it would’ve taken 24 drawings for every second that you watch or 12 drawings exposed on two frames each for every second. That’s a lot of drawings, so there are a lot of frames of digital information to create one of these. But we do begin with paper and pencil,  sketching these things and coming up with the ideas for designs. I would say thousands of drawings are produced in that.

CS: Like, hundreds of thousands.

RM: Hundreds of thousands of drawings are produced in that early development phase.

CS: You render overnight so a shot can take 12, 14, sometimes 24 hours just to render the short because all the information. But in terms of the storyboarding processes, Rich said, we still do that, you know, in a traditional way. We might have 30 some sequences in a screening let’s say. And each of those sequences probably has close to 700 or 800 drawings per sequence. So you’re at 25 to 30,000 drawings for one screen.

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Wreck-It Ralph comes to theaters on November 2, 2012.

For more information about Wreck-It Ralph visit the official website, Disney.com/Wreck-It-Ralph. You can also find the movie on Facebook (Facebook.com/WreckItRalph) and on Twitter (@WreckItRalph). You can also check out Disney Animation on Twitter too (Twitter.com/DisneyAnimation).

Kimberly

*I was not compensated for this post. I posted this for the enjoyment of my site readers. Any opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced in any way.

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About Kimberly

Kimberly Vetrano resides in the suburbs of New York City with her family, five cats, dog, a tank full of fish and snails. She is also a freelance writer and photographer.

Comments

  1. Wow! Very interesting and informative. Now I really want to see this movie.