Ralph Breaks The Internet is bringing the Internet to life and making Walt Disney proud and I’m excited to share all the details with you.
I had the opportunity to sit in various presentations and learn what it took to animate this groundbreaking movie from some of the brilliant minds who made it: Larry Wu (Head of Environments), Ernest Petti (Technical Supervisor), Renato Dos Anjos (Co-Head of Animation), Natalie Nourigat (Story Artist), Moe El-Ali (Crowds Supervisor), Josie Trinidad (Co-Head of Story), Dave K. Komorowski (Head of Characters), Cory Loftis (Production Designer), Jason Hand (Story Supervisor).
First we sat with Natalie Nourigat (Story Artist), Jason Hand (Story Supervisor), who has worked on Moana and Zootopia, and Josie Trinidad (Head of Story), who has been part of the The Princess and The Frog, Wreck-it-Ralph, and Zootopia teams. They shared the production process of Walt Disney Animation Studios with us in storyboard form, which was very creative and easy to understand.
The Ralph Breaks The Internet Story
At Walt Disney Animation Studios story is continually being worked on and everyone works closely with the directors to visualize the script in a very simplified way.
At Disney Animation, a story starts with an idea from the directors, maybe something from their own life or observation. Rich Moore and Phil Johnston came up with the idea of Ralph and Vanellope going to the Internet, which is such a great extension of the first film and it allows for a lot of possibilities and allows you to explore the friendship of Ralph and Vanellope that we all love so much.
In my interview with the Ralph Breaks The Internet Directors, we learned how they do research, and that it’s brought to the story department, so they start crafting the story and discussing characters, structure, theme, dialogue, entertainment, and the story starts to take shape and it goes to script writing. We saw pictures of the story artists working on scripts on whiteboards.
After the script is made, it’s scheduled to for a screening. The script is divided among the different story artists, and each works while thinking about what the character wants, what the character needs, digital guides, staging, clarity, and entertainment.
They shared that the great thing about the story department is that they’re constantly sharing ideas with each other and constantly collaborating on their efforts. We saw pictures and videos that evidenced the great chemistry between them and how they make each other laugh.
The next stage of the story process is the pitch, which consists in having their drawings projected up on screen, going through and do the voices and the dialogue, telling what’s happening in the story.
At the end of the pitch they’re automatically given new ideas, everyone is jumping in, and contributing to it. They do a series of revisions before sending them to editorial where the editors will take and time all the drawings with sound effects, sound tracks from other movies, and then voice recordings.
They take all the voice recordings, sound tracks, story boards, and cut it together and they we have their first screening where the directors will introduce the movie to a theater full of Disney Animation cast members and they watch the movie from the beginning to the end, to then meet and get more thoughts, notes, ideas and ways to make things better.
Even though the artists are protective of their ideas, they are testing them up until the very end of the production and keep working on it until everyone agrees with that it’s the best movie they can make!
We laughed so hard looking into the research and collaborative work that went into trying figuring out how to make Ralph or Vanellope go viral. They were very intentional in what they chose even after spending a lot of time on that idea. For example, they thought about Bob Ross videos, they tried memes like “two kinds of people” but discarded it because it felt like it was dividing Ralph and Vanellope, or they did the meme factory and a meme generator, but these felt cruel because it involved Ralph getting hurt to make people laugh. I can’t wait for you to see what they finally came up with, but I can tell you it will feel as familiar as a YouTube video genre.
Let’s look at the numbers: they have about 15 artists on the story crew, and 10 total screenings they show in-house. They had about 45 sequences total in this film, and of those 100 of those sequences were cut and there were 7,883 total sequence versions! Any little change is addressed with the whole team, and there were 283,839 storyboards drawn on this movie!
One of the major challenges for the story artists was to make Ralph Breaks The Internet real and believable, so having directors who are open-minded, and listening to everyone’s feedback made all the difference.
The Web’s Wide World
Larry Wu (Head of Environment), Matthias Lechner (Art Director for Environment), and Ernie Petti (Technical Supervisor) then took us on a journey on how they created the Internet – so that Ralph could break it!
When they describe being asked to design the Internet as a world, they call it “fascinating but also quite daunting”, they had to do a lot of research to find out what the Internet is, and bring the physical aspect into it!
When Ralph and Vanellope arrive at the Internet, they arrive at the Internet Hub. It looks like a large metropolis, with structures that resemble buildings and represent the websites, and when you go in, it’s a whole new world!
They also had to find new innovative ways to expand the render to be able to handle all the things IN the Internet. I was in awe as we were showing all the shots with buildings and screens as far as the eye can see.
Something unique about the crew working on Ralph Breaks the Internet is that they enlisted the aid of the entire art department to come up with all of the designs! They had the whole art department to themselves for 2 weeks, which “doesn’t happen very often.”
They also incorporated several of our favorite websites into the movie to really immerse us into the Internet world! They have eBay, with hundreds of little auction booths, the Amazon design is inspired by boxes, Twitter has little birds tweeting out content, Snapchat’s videos and content floats up and disappears just like the real thing, Facebook is a big book, and they even have a Google town!
It was so much fun to get this special peek into the world-building, and, speaking of sneak peeks, stay tuned and I’ll tell you more about the all the detail that went into designing the Oh My Disney scene in Ralph Breaks The Internet with all the Disney Princesses that actually broke the Internet!
The Internet itself is HUGE, in real life, but even more so in Ralph Breaks the Internet! I was impressed to learn that they had to design and build 150 unique master sets. Of all of them, they say the Internet Hub was the biggest challenge.
All of these master sets included over 6,000 individual assets! They brought a lot of them from past films, but even then it was a starting point and a lot of additional work had to go into it.
And in order to do all that, there are about 1.9 million render hours happening. Per day!
With the scale of Ralph Breaks the Internet, it’s mind-blowing that they’ve created more on this movie with the same time-frame as other movies.
Populating The Internet
Later that day, I sat 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) to learn about how they made the characters we will see on Ralph Breaks The Internet.
In preparing for the film, they already knew that they had to strategize how to create all these characters. On Wreck-It-Ralph (the original), there were several different worlds, and cameos from other games, so they had a total of 223 unique characters, with 421 variations of those characters. On Ralph Breaks The Internet, they ended up with 434 unique characters, and 6,752 variants!
They started by pulling over all our characters from the first film. And, since Disney keeps moving forward, it’s no surprise that their technology has changed and improved quite a bit since then. They enhanced the characters, while keeping them true to their look and personality, and making them easier to animate!
In the Internet, there are two categories of characters, net-users and netizens.
Net-Users are us! When we log on to the Internet, there is a simplified version of us running around. They came up with plenty of wardrobe outfits for the net users, but had some firm rules in place to not make the design too complicated. Net-users have a simple head, lots of nose and face options, different hairstyles, and they played around with how they move and act!
Netizens are the workers of the Internet, so to speak. When you send an email, one of them delivers it in a virtual little mail truck, or when we click on something and add it to a shopping cart, they are actually pushing your virtual cart to check you out.
I love how creative and imaginative the Disney Animation team is, and that they have so much fun with what they do. They love to play around with the websites and through this “play” they come up with magnificent ideas!
Ralph Breaks The Internet introduces us to several new characters, and one that I’m most excited about is YESSS!
YESSS is a specialized Netizen, and basically the curator of cool on the Internet. She’s the most up to date, and Dave told us that they wanted to make her as fresh and hip as possible. For a long time, they actually thought of making YESSS a lot younger, since it’s kids and youth who are in on the “cool”, but they decided to bump her age up a bit, since she’s an entrepreneur, baby!
YESSS is an algorithm that monitors the Internet, and I love how they came up with ways to reflect her digital nature through her appearance. She has circuitry and a digital screen in her dress, a faux fur style fiber-optics coat that can blink and change patterns, and even her hair has data flowing through it!
She constantly changes outfits, and hairstyles throughout the film and they had to come up with ways for her to switch between them all. Even though I’m not as fashion savvy as YESSS, I totally admire and appreciate the work they put into researching hairstyles, runway photo shoots, and fashion week for the ideas. As they put it:
“When you’re making a movie about the Internet why not use it at the same time?”
Knowsmore is another specialized Netizen, and I love him! He’s an older search engine, who happens to also be the advertising mascot for his own website. He fits right into his own logo and the animators said that they love “that 60’s advertising feel to him.”
Putting eyes on Knowsmore was a little challenging, because they wanted to give a nod to 2D animation without making him too life-like, yet showing him going through a lot of emotion and a wide variety of expressions. They eventually decided to animate him by hand, which makes him so unique.
When asked how they cope with the stresses and demands of their job, they cleverly quoted Wreck-It-Ralph, taking it “one game at a time.” They plan and work together to figure out what problems they need to fix and overcome.
On the subject of legacy, we think of the man, the myth, and the legend: Walt Disney. Imagine what he would have to say seeing how far his dream took the world!
“I think he would be proud. I actually have a photo of him on my door and I always look at it every day and I try to make him proud. “
“Walt was an innovator. I hope we are doing him proud, because with every film we are pushing the limits.”
Stay connected for more updates by liking WRECK-IT RALPH on Facebook, following WRECK-IT RALPH on Twitter, following WRECK-IT RALPH on Instagram, and visiting the official RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET website. The official hashtag is #RalphBreaksTheInternet and our event hashtag is #RalphBreaksTheInternetEvent.
Elayna is a homeschool educator, single mom of 4, founder of the Positive MOM Community, award-winning Storyteller, Story Strategist, and Student of Pain. She’s a bestselling author, internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, and 3x TEDx speaker. To receive a gift from Elayna, click HERE.
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