Wreck-It Ralph was an unexpected animated smash for the newly minted Disney Animation Studios when it debuted in 2012. Full of heart, laughs, and a brilliant cast of characters, Rich Moore and Phil Johnston’s mediation on friendship, loneliness, and video games became a solid fan favorite. Six years later, the pair is back with Ralph Breaks the Internet. We chatted with the charming directing team as they embarked on the last stages of creating the internet-breaking sequel that’s out next month.Johnston and Moore are clearly excited about the prospect of their follow-up getting out there, as Johnston joked, “It’s great to be at this point in the movie when it’s almost finished and we can start to think about sharing it. You live in this bubble for so many years that you start to wonder if this thing will ever come out, and if it does, what people will think about it.”The first film was a massive hit, and I wondered whether that was something that the pair saw coming. For Moore, the critical and commercial success was surreal and satisfying. “It kind of felt like I’m having a great time, and we really enjoyed making it, but you do wonder, are we all just high on the same thing? Will people actually like it? So to have something that you love making, and you really love the characters and the story, and the audience shares that? Well that’s just one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It’s really, really fulfilling as an artist.”So what was it like to return? “It’s quite daunting, I think, the fact that the first movie was loved and it felt like we did what we needed to do,” Johnston said. “But then we started to talk about it and realized that maybe their stories weren’t done and that maybe Ralph was still defining himself by the way someone else feels about him. And Vanellope… well, there’s maturation that needs to happen, so there was so much more we could do with these characters who we love.”So how on Earth do you go about creating the world of the internet? For Moore and Johnston, it was about crafting a mood or a feeling. “A lot of times our process will start by talking about the worlds, like BuzzTubeâ€”it wasn’t just one artist or anything, it’s just a big board of images that have a certain feeling,” Moore said. “Like nightclubs with really cool architecture or beautiful sculptures. It’s a board of about 75 images, like a big collage, and we give it to our designers. We’re not telling them this is how it has to be but more like this is how it feels.”The glimpses that we got of the film had a very different tone, with the world of Wreck-It Ralph hugely expanded. So I wondered where such a vibrant and unique universe got its inspiration, and Johnston treated us to some surprising answers. “We looked at so many road pictures. There are moments of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, there are just so many, because we have so many people with so many different influences. From a storytelling point of view, we talked about Superbad as a great movie about two friends who have diverging paths and how they reconcile that, which thematically felt relevant to us.”
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