Q&A with the director of ‘Wreck-It-Ralph’

Terese Torgersen

The Daily Sundial got to interview Rich Moore who directed the new hit Disney movie “Wreck-It-Ralph.” The Cal. Arts alumni who studied character animation has previously directed episodes from the Simpsons and Futurama, “Wreck-It-Ralph” being its first blockbuster animated feature.

Daily Sundial: What is your favorite part of being a director?

Rich Moore:
Being a director and working in animation is something I have always dreamed about since I was a kid. The first movie I ever saw was “The Jungle Book” (1967) and after having that experience and seeing that movie in the theater with my family, I knew that somehow I wanted to be involved in animation. After graduating from Cal Arts in character animation, I began working on the Simpsons. I was very lucky and at the right place at the right time and with the right set of skill. In the first season of Simpsons I was promoted to director because they were having troubles finding people who really understood the sense of humor of the show and what the show was trying to achieve. Not only did I understand the sensibility of the show but also from my education I had the skills needed to handle and oversee all the working parts of putting together an animated series. My favorite part of being an animation director would be working with the people or just being with the people working in animation. I like the personality of the people working in this medium, they are probably the biggest group of weirdo’s and crackpots you are ever going to meet. They are so collaboratively and creative and have so much great ideas. Working side by side with these people is such a pleasure and it’s fun to go to work. When I was a kid I wanted to do a job that was fun and I wanted to do something creative that’s what animation has provided.

DS: What prompted you to make a film about video games?

I love videogames. I grew up with them as a little kid that’s when the first videogames started to come out like Asteroid and Palm. I remember seeing a Palm game in a pizza place growing up and I was fascinated by them, because it felt like you were controlling the players something (more) than TV; way back then TV was made for watching and not interacting with. This was all fascinating to me and its been great watching the evolution of videogames over 35 to 40 years to see how far they have come. I started Disney in 2008, someone brought up that they had been trying to crack an idea for a videogame movie over the years with little success. It had been shelved one more  year before I started there. That’s something I know and I can speak of a little bit of authority on videogames and I thought it was kind of ironic because as a kid and a teenager I would get poked several times from my parents “You’re wasting your time at that arcade and no good would come out of it.” I like to think I proved them wrong.

DS: Which specific world took the longest to develop?

A lot of work went into creating each of these worlds and we have a great distinct videogame world in the movie. It’s the world of (Fix-It) Felix Jr. It’s all based on 8-bit design and its very simple and wacky. Everything from the design to the camera work to the lightening of this location is based in 8-bits and simplicity. It has a lot of details, it’s lush, there is atmosphere and very dramatic lighting and stuff floating in the air. It was a challenge to make it as realistic as we possible could. Sugar Rush, which is a car racer (game) that’s kind of Mario Car mixed with Candy Land. Everything the world is made of, is candy, sweet and cookies. That world was very whimsical, charming and playful. Sugar Rush provided the most challenge because it’s made out of cookies, cakes and food. We know how that looks like and it was a challenge to our design and our lighting department. These are the people responsible for making sure things look the way they should look. It’s difficult to make a gummy bear look like a gummy bear.

DS: Was there any worlds left out of the movie?

RM: There was a port videogame world, Extreme Easy Living 2, that Ralph was going to visit on his journey. It was a mix between the Simpsons and Grand Theft. It was very lawless and kind of amoral place where everyone was concerned about their looks and collecting “likes” from each other. Since the movie takes place on an arcade it would make no sense that there would be a game like this. It didn’t come into the story before the third act and it represented Ralph’s low point where he went away, hit the rock bottom at this place. It was too much to ask the audience to learn another game world this late in the story.

It was reported that the film had the most individual characters in a Disney film to this date. What was it like coming up with that many characters?

I guess it has 190 characters. My background is from the Simpsons and Futurama and the Simpsons has a gigantic cast, over the years the cast has grown so big so 190 characters doesn’t seem that much to me. I guess we kind of broke a record, which I am proud of. But we needed that many characters. It’s a big movie and there’s a lot of locations and we have Game Central Station which is kind of a dull world too, which is the transportation hub linking all the games together. It’s where you will be seeing most of the characters. It’s pedestrian and travelers going in and out of different games. If you are doing a scene with Grand Central Station you have to have a lot of characters; it’s a crowd that’s what makes it feel authentic. We designed it to make the world feel lived in. I like ambitious stuff, I like big a cast, big movies, big TV shows. Simpsons in its days were very ambitious so I never want to back down from a challenge or undercut what the movie should be.

DS: How was it like working with such an excellent cast?

It is an excellent cast and it was amazing to work with those four. What’s great about it is I have been a fan of those guys for a long time. I love all of them and the roles that they play. What is great having worked with them now, I’m still a huge fan but now what I really love them as people they are just really wonderful people to know and to work with. They are so collaborative and really right there and believed in the movie from early on.
John C. Reilly gave it all for the character and (was) so invested in it. It’s not often that an actor in an animated film would call up and say “Can I come over so we can talk more about Ralph? I would like to meet the animators.” He was so hands on and so instrumental and really flushing out whom Ralph is, what he is like. Reilly is so funny and every character he plays feels like a real human being with a real heart. You really care about his characters and you really want them to achieve what it is you know they want and desire and I don’t think Ralph is any different.
What was different on this movie than other animation films was that I had the actors record with one another. Usually in animation the actors would be scheduled one at a time to come in and act, its kind of a one sided performance. I thought, people are coming to see this because they want to see the chemistry, feel the chemistry between Reilly and Sarah Silverman and what happens when they play against one another. This was something Reilly was concerned about because as an actor he didn’t want to be in a boot by himself acting against the mirror, he likes to interact with other people. Myself and Clark Spencer (producer) took it upon us to re-patch the recording process.