One of my favorite places to be – Disney Animation Studios PLUS Fun Wreck-It Ralph Details

I have travelled to many places in my life time, and had the opportunity to experience a lot of things. I have a few favorites that stand out in my mind, like the White Cliffs of Dover (UK) as seen from a boat on the English Channel, exploring the Musée du Louvre in Paris (and seeing the Mona Lisa in person) and taking my children to Disney World (which I hope to be able to do again someday). There is one place that I’ve been I am very fond of, which might surprise people. It’s the Disney Animation Studios on the Disney lot in Burbank, California.

You might be wondering why I love being there. That is an easy question to answer – because I am totally fascinated by how animated films are created – from the conception to the theatrical release. Not only that, the people who work there are always so nice and friendly, the atmosphere is fun and carefree and I get a kick out of how people decorate their offices as well as the hallways. Every where you look you’ll find wonderful artwork and storyboards.

The original Animation building, also on the lot, is equally as wonderful. There might not be as many “bells & whistles” as there are in the new Animation building, but the old Animation building is filled with history. Some of the most beloved movies of all times were created there. The very first film created at that studio was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was released in theater in 1938. Other movies created there include Bambi (1942), Song of the South (1946) and Cinderella (1950) to name a few. The hallways are lined with photos are artwork from all the classic films that were created there. It’s like walking through film history.

The entire Disney campus in Burbank is amazing. Everything from the courtyards to the cafeteria. My dream job would be to work at the studio. I don’t care if I was a file clerk. Just to be there on a regular basis would be a wonderful experience.

A couple of weeks ago I was able to return to the lot to learn more about Disney’s newest animation feature – Wreck-It Ralph. Wreck-It Ralph will be in theaters on November 2, 2012. While we were there we had the opportunity to speak with people who were involved in the film including with Director Rich Moore and Producer Clark Gregg. I will write about that interview, as well as the movie review, at a later date.

Wreck-It Ralph is the major film the studio is currently working on, so every where you look in the building you’ll find Wreck-It Ralph artwork and wall murals. There is even a giant Wreck-It Ralph figure right in the center of it all.

I won’t go into much details about the film (yet) but here are few of the cool Wreck-It Ralph artwork and other goodies that is found around the studio.

Because the film is not in theaters yet a lot of the areas were off limits when it came to photographs. I wish I could have shared with you some of the awesome storyboards that adorned the hallways.

At the time we were there the studio was working on two films – Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen. Frozen is another animated feature length film that will not be in theaters until late 2013. We were fortunate to see a few storyboards for the movie and all I can say is WOW! I cannot wait for that movie to come out. It’s going to be amazing!

Something that I find especially interesting at the Animation Studio is that for each movie the studio creates “pods”. They are kind of like a central “hub” for the movie. When I was at the studio last year prior to the release of the Winnie the Pooh movie the hub entrance was decorated with a variety of Pooh and friends artwork and there was a recreation of Christopher Robbin’s bedroom in the back of the hub. Wreck-It Ralph is a story that happens within an arcade, so the pod/hub is decorated to look like an arcade. Not only does it resemble the arcade in te movie on the outside, but the inside is lined with working arcade games. How’s that for inspiration? LOL!

The above photo is a painting of Litwak’s arcade, which is the setting for the movie Wreck-It Ralph. Notice the resemblance to the pod/hub and Litwak’s? They created it to look just like the arcade in the movie.

While we were there they were just starting to create the pod/hub for the Frozen team. It’s going to have a Winter look to it. I wish I could see it when it was completed. I bet it’s going to look so cool (no pun intended…OK…maybe a little :-)).

Speaking of arcade games, Disney had a Wreck-It Ralph game created for it’s employees to enjoy. WOW! How many companies would go so far as to create an arcade game based on their work? I’m not sure if the game will ever find it’s way to an arcade near you, but just so you know the game works EXACTLY like it does in the movie. Seriously Disney… that is the coolest thing ever!

I found three of the arcade games while I was there. I’m not sure if there were more. They all worked too. I love how they have that well-loved/well-used look to them too.

One of the worlds in the film, Wreck-It Ralph is called Sugar Rush. It’s not only a world but also an arcade game found at Litwak’s Arcade. In case you haven’t already guessed it, the Sugar Rush world is made out of candy.

There were two huge display cases there in the studio that housed mini-Sugar Rush worlds. They were entirely made out of candy and cookies. Who ever made them did an amazing job. There was a lot of detail put into it, right down to the smiley faces on the popcorn.

In the movie, Sugar Rush is a race car arcade game. The cars are also made out of candy and cookies. The players in the game love to race each other, thus the reason for the grandstand in the Sugar Rush display.

While we were touring the studio and learning more about the movie we were given the opportunity to create our own race cars out of cookies and candy. That was a lot of fun! I must say that many of my fellow bloggers are really creative when it comes to stuff like this. I was impressed by their creativity.

Disney had several tables lined up with a ton of candy and cookies. I think I gained 10 pounds just LOOKING at all the goodies they had laid out for us.

They even had some of the people involved in the film pick out a winner. My car came in second place. 🙂

Check out some of the cars that were created. Mine is the one with the marshmallow driver.

I had a lot of fun creating my car. I wish we had more time. I know I could have taken first place. LOL!

While we were at the studio we had the opportunity to speak with actual animators from the film, Head of Animation on Wreck-It Ralph – Renato dos Anjos and Animator Kira Lehtomaki. They showed us what is involved in animating a film.

Did you know that each animator only animates a brief clip in the film. It takes one animator to animate anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes worth of the film. It takes months, even years, just to animate a piece of the film that short in length. That means it takes dozens of animators to create just one film.

There is A LOT involved in animating a film and there are a lot of people each animation has to go through before it’s approved for use in the film. Silly me. I just thought people drew the animation, tweaked it on the computer and it was done. I didn’t realize that it took so long to animate just a few seconds of film.

We also learned from Kira that sometimes animators video tape themselves acting out the scene they are animating to help them figure out how to animate the mouth, eyes and the position of the body. Kira was kind enough to show us a video she made of herself acting out the part of the movie she was animating.

Renato also gave us a mini-lesson on how to draw Wreck-It Ralph’s massive hands as well as one of the stars of the film, Vanellope von Schweetz. Let’s just say I need to practice some more.

We were also fortunate to meet and talk to Art Director Mike Gabriel with Visual Development artist Lorelay Bove, both of whom worked on the film. They showed us some photos of their travels trying to come up with the perfect designs for the film, most especially Sugar Rush. Many of the buildings in Sugar Rush were inspired by the work of Antoni Gaudi, a Spanish architect who created some of the most unusual, yet beautiful buildings I have ever seen. His buildings are more like giant pieces of art then they are buildings. If you have never heard of him before I would recommend doing a Google search and checking out some of his work. Those same details are present in the Sugar Rush world.

Mike and Lorelay also told us how they found the candy that they used in the film. They traveled all the way to Japan to find the perfect candies.

Knowing what is involved in making an animated film – from the research and traveling to find the perfect inspiration, to the hundreds of hours required just to make a 30 second clip, it really gives you a better understand and appreciation for animated films. Knowing what I know now I will never look at an animated film the same way again. It was truly and eye opening experience.

One final super cool thing that we had a chance to see before we left the studio for the day. Hanging up on the wall were drawings of the main character in Wreck-It Ralph, Wreck-It Ralph himself. He was originally drawn like something that looked like he belonged in the movie The Lorax, then he looked more like a beaver. Some where along the way he started to look like a character from Monsters Inc, and even a white “Magilla Gorilla” (I’m showing my age right now). Check out Ralph’s transformation.

I think it’s pretty cool how the whole thought process works. Just look at how many Ralph’s were created just to get the perfect one for the film. Now imagine all the animated films you have ever seen and think about how many different drawings it took to come to the actual character used in the film.

This was just one of my fun-filled, exciting and adventurous days out in Hollywood. I hope you’ve enjoyed your virtual tour of Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, California.

Keep an eye out for more Wreck-It Ralph posts including me in the recording studio doing a voice over for one of the scenes in the film. That was A-W-E-S-O-M-E!!!


*I was not compensated for this post. I was a guest of Disney and I was not compensated for this post. The opinions expressed are entirely my own and are not influenced in any way.