More on “Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks The Internet” — Early Press Day Part 2

Earlier, we told you about the new Wreck-It Ralph 2 merchandise that’s making its way into Disney theme parks in advance of the movie’s release next month.

Well, a while back, Walt Disney Animation Studios invited AllEars.Net to their lovely Burbank studio to take an early look at “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” their 57th film and sequel to the hit 2012 film “Wreck-It Ralph.”  In Part 1 of the recap of this press day, Directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston and Producer Clark Spencer filled us in on the film’s general story line.

Ralph Breaks the Internet Poster ©Disney

In a later panel, Story Download, Josie Trinidad (head of story), Jason Hand (story artist) and Natalie Nourigat (story artist), spoke on the process the story team underwent to tell the tale of Ralph and the internet.

Long Lead Press Day for RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET at Walt Disney Animation Studios on August 1, 2018. Photo by Alex Kang/Disney. ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • While the idea of the story originates from the directors, the script and visual approach to storytelling is a collaborative effort among the many branches of the story team.
Long Lead Press Day for RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET at Walt Disney Animation Studios on August 1, 2018. Photo by Alex Kang/Disney. ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • One of the problems the team had to solve for the film was how to make Ralph an internet success. They tried to analyze what makes content go viral, and played with having the character Yesss turn him into a type of virtual-reality celebrity. This was ultimately discarded as seeming “too mean.”
  • They finally discovered that what made people laugh was seeing Ralph in situations already familiar to them from YouTube, like unboxing videos, reaction videos, etc.
Scene from Ralph Breaks the Internet ©2018 Disney
  • In order to keep the film from being instantly dated they tried to avoid basing it on specific internet culture such as the “two people” quizzes (“Are You an Anna or an Elsa?“) and made it more of a satire of the whole genre.

In The Web’s Wide World, Matthias Lechner (art director, environments), Larry Wu (head of environments) and Ernie Petti (technical supervisor) described their journey to make the internet into a tangible environment.

Long Lead Press Day for RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET at Walt Disney Animation Studios on August 1, 2018. Photo by Alex Kang/Disney. ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • The first place Ralph and Vanellope land inside the internet is the Internet Hub — something like an airport.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET – Internet landing hub environment visual development by Matthias Lechner (Art Director, Environments) ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • The base was inspired by the cross-section of huge undersea cables that connect the internet between continents.
  • The different colors represent the different wavelengths of light that packages of data get broken down into during transport.
  • In designing the metropolis of the internet, an effort was made to make the buildings look both different from real-life buildings, and yet proportional and appropriate for the netizens.
In Ralph Breaks the Internet, Ralph and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz venture into the internet for a replacement part for her game, Sugar Rush. ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • Links between websites are represented by the self-driving cars that avatars use for transportation.
  • Netizens, who live and work in the internet, can move freely using such transports as Amazon drones or email vans.
  • Speed limit signs are in megabites/second.
  • Signage is in different languages all throughout the movie to point to the international nature of the internet.
  • As the internet is always changing, the cityscape is similarly always under construction.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET – Internet surface web environment visual development by Matthias Lechner (Art DIrector, Environments) ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • The actual internet consists of the surface web and the much larger deep web — areas you can’t reach just with your search bar or browser.
  • The deep web consists of things like archives or information hidden behind paywalls, encrypted sites, etc.
  • It was decided that the deep web would also be where all the outdated, discarded data would end up, like dial-up access.
  • When Ralph and Vanellope take the elevator down further, they find the dark underbelly of the internet, where users are incognito and scams are prevalent.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET – Internet deep web environment visual development by Ryan Lang (Visual Development Artist) ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • Many real-life websites are represented in the film, including Amazon, eBay, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Google, all of which have architecture inspired by their functions.
  • Oh My Disney resembles a castle from the outside, with a couple of motel sites outside of it.  Inside, it holds all the Disney franchises like Star Wars, Marvel and Walt Disney Studios Animation.
Artwork from Ralph Breaks the Internet
  • For the inspiration for the room in which Penelope meets the princesses, the animators looked to the Dream Suite at Disneyland.
  • Each princess has something distinctive in her own personal space — Snow White has a mirror, while Rapunzel is painting a mural.
Scene from RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET. ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • In order to create all the many areas and shots required for the film, animators reused assets from many different past films, up to “Bolt.”
  • The scene in eBay is a particular treasure trove of Easter eggs, as items up for auction might include Rapunzel’s frying pan, Aladdin’s lamp, and Vladimir ‘s unicorn.

Next was Populating The Internet, with Cory Loftis (production designer), Dave Komorowski (head of characters and technical animation), Renato dos Anjos (head of animation) and Moe El-Ali (crowds supervisor).

Long Lead Press Day for RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET at Walt Disney Animation Studios on August 1, 2018. Photo by Alex Kang/Disney. ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • Initial count as to how many characters they would need to generate to populate the internet was 150,000.  In contrast, “Bolt” had 57 characters, and “Wreck-It Ralph” had 223.
  • Even the characters who were ported over from the first “Wreck-It Ralph” needed to be upgraded with more wrinkle detail in the clothing and more hair.
Long Lead Press Day for RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET at Walt Disney Animation Studios on August 1, 2018. Photo by Alex Kang/Disney. ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • The Net Users are the avatars for humans that only appear when in use, while the Netizens live and work permanently online.
  • By changing the hairstyle or facial features, the animators can make a wide variety of characters to fill a space and make an environment look populated.
Long Lead Press Day for RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET at Walt Disney Animation Studios on August 1, 2018. Photo by Alex Kang/Disney. ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • Netizens have a simple range of motion/emotion and are specific as to the tasks they accomplish.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET – Netizens character visual development lineup by Cory Loftis (Production Designer) ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • If you’re shopping at Amazon.com, they will physically go through the store and put things in their shopping cart for you.
  • Yesss is the most prominent netizen and is designed to constantly be the most current thing out there.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET – Yesss character visual development by: far left, Cory Loftis (production designer) and remaining characters, Ami Thompson (art director, characters) ©Disney. All Rights Reserved
  • In contrast, Knows More is the logo for his website — an old, outdated search engine along the lines of “Ask Jeeves” — retro and clunky.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET – KnowsMore character visual development model sheet by Cory Loftis (Production Designer) ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • He is the only character who has hand-drawn eyes, to increase his expressiveness.

Finally, co-writer Pamela Ribon, Ami Thompson (art director, characters) and Kira Lehtomaki (head of animation) spoke on the development of arguably the most talked-about scene revealed so far in Oh My Disney Dot Com.

Long Lead Press Day for RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET at Walt Disney Animation Studios on August 1, 2018. Photo by Alex Kang/Disney. ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • Early on, it was decided that they needed a “meta” scene where Disney could poke fun at themselves.
  • In one attempt to figure out a way Vanellope could go viral, they thought about her taking a selfie with all the princesses and figured that would break the internet.
  • After writing the Princess scene, Ribon figured either something big would happen or she would be fired.  Moore suggested they just storyboard it as it was.

  • After voicing all the princesses on the scratch track, Ribon ended up being the voice for Snow White in the final film.
  • All the princesses in the scene are the “canon” princesses, which explains why some are not represented.
  • The main challenge for the animators was to make sure all the princesses looked like they belonged in the same world, while translating the 2D princesses into CG.
Artwork from RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET. ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.
Scene from RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET. ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • On looking at the original “Cinderella,” they were surprised to find that her ears were completely hidden under her hairband, so they decided to show them here.
  • To get some inspiration as to how the princesses all move, the animators took a research trip down to Disneyland to see them where they live.
  • Another source of inspiration was the voice cast of all the original (still living) voices of the princesses who reassembled to give input and performances.
The voices of Disney Princesses, including Kristin Bell (Anna of Frozen), Jodi Bensen (Ariel, Little Mermaid), and Auli’i Cravalho (Moana), along with Sarah Silverman (Vanellope in Wreck-It Ralph) and Josh Gad (Olaf from Frozen). ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.
  • Mark Henn, original supervising animator for five of the princesses (Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Mulan, Tiana) and draw relief for Anna and Elsa, was very involved in suggesting poses and acting choices for them.

To pull it all together, here are some images showing the progression of a shot as it evolves through different departments and stages of completion:

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: STORY – Storyboard artists at Walt Disney Animation Studios work closely with the director, heads of story and screenwriters to transform words on a script page into a visual representation—for example in this scene that showcases Ralph and Vanellope’s arrival to the internet. Storyboards are edited together with scratch or temporary dialogue, providing filmmakers with an early idea of how a scene might play out.  ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: VISUAL DEVELOPMENT – Visual development artists, often referred to as “vis dev” artists, are responsible for early visual exploration for what a film’s characters and environments might look like on screen. They gather input from directors, the production designer and other key players in the production to create detailed images that relay the mood, tone and color an animated scene might convey. Vis dev artists work in various media, ranging from traditional paper and pencil to digital paint programs, to create art to inform and inspire the final look of the film. ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: LAYOUT – During the layout phase, layout artists determine approximately where the characters will be positioned and how they will move in a given scene. They also establish where the virtual cameras will be placed. This effort helps directors bring storyboards into the CG environment, while narrowing down the infinite possibilities a scene presents. Animators begin their efforts with layout, adding detailed character performance along the way.  ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: ANIMATION – Animators are responsible for a character’s performance. Given rough blocking from layout, animators bring the characters’ movements to life, adding expression and personality. Artists establish guidelines for each character in terms of expression and movement, and are encouraged by directors to tap inspiration from voice talent performance, and even their own acting skills to refine character animation.  ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: TECHNICAL ANIMATION – The technical animation team is responsible for fine-tuning the animation and simulation in a scene when most elements of the scene are in place. Hair and cloth are physically simulated and add believability to the performance of an animated character—that’s where “tech anim” comes in. ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET CROWDS – A massive world like the internet called for massive crowds—topping those featured in “Moana” and “Zootopia” combined. The sheer number of characters and vehicles in this single shot would be impossible to animate individually, so the crowds department, which was formed at Disney Animation on the original “Wreck-It Ralph” in 2012, created methods to proceduralize the effort. The character asset team creates various body shapes and sizes, as well as costume pieces that can be mixed and matched to create multiple looks. Animators subsequently create a variety of base movements for the crowd characters. The artists in the crowds department then work to procedurally place and animate these elements to build a crowd of characters and vehicles that functions independently. ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: EFFECTS ANIMATION – Effects animators add visual elements to the scene that include atmospheric haze, flames, smoke and, in this case, the holographic look, car trails and motion blur that showcases the busy traffic of the Net Users’ unique vehicles in the internet. ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: SET EXTENSION – While sets in an animated scene are detailed and often extensive, a scene like this introduction to the internet is so expansive that filmmakers have to fill in the areas farthest from the action. Several techniques are utilized in set extension, including matte painting and advanced technology that tells the computer to reduce the detail/data in those areas farthest from the camera to make them visually appealing, but small enough in terms of data that they can be efficiently rendered. ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: LIGHTING – Lighting is among the final stages of shot production in animation, though the lighting department is integral to the look of the film as production gets underway. Lighting artists can place individual lights within a scene, but for a scene as big as the one in which Ralph and Vanellope visit the internet for the first time, technology is utilized to place multiples of similar lights—like those on a building, for example—creating a more efficient process for dealing with a massive and diverse number of light sources. ©2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Featuring the voices of John C. Reilly as Ralph, and Sarah Silverman as Vanellope, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 21, 2018.

Do you love Wreck-It Ralph? Did you know you can see him in MIckey’s Christmastime Parade? Check out our video below – Ralph and Vanellope are at around the 3:00 mark!

Are you ready to see this sequel? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

Jeanine resides in Southern California, pursuing the sort of lifestyle that makes her the envy of every 11-year-old she meets. She has been to every Disney theme park in the world and while she finds Tokyo DisneySea the Fairest Of Them All, Disneyland is her Home Park... and there is no place like home.

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