CalArts alum and Emmy Winner Rich Moore is the director of Wreck-It Ralph, one of the most anticipated animated films of 2012. Featuring the voice talents of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, and Jack McBrayer, the film centers on a Donkey Kong-like 8-bit character who dreams of being a hero after serving as the villain of a coin-op arcade game for over 30 years. When he decides to game jump to become the hero he always wanted to be, he accidentally sets of a chain of events that could prove to be the end of three arcade games.
In our interview with the director, Moore talks about shocking Disney animators, the differences between Disney and Pixar, finding real arcades, and Saturday morning cartoons. hit the jump for more.
Rich Moore: What do you got? Turn it over?
MovieViral: Is that the Five?
Moore: No, the four. Does anyone have the five?
I’m sure someone does.
What was it about this film that made you want to direct it?
Well, number one, being able to make a comedy at Disney was really appealing. Phil and I from the very beginning was like ‘Let’s try and make this the funniest animated comedy that we can make,’ but then the flip side of all of that is the fac that we were able to get tremendous heart into the movie, and I think that is the hallmark of a comedy, it can make you laugh, but it can also take you to that point where you are in love with these characters, and you want to see them be happy and see their relationship get kind of broken, and feel that emotion for them, it speaks to the heart of the film. The fact that it is about video games is something that I love, that’s a part of my childhood, well my whole life actually. Something that’s been a part of my life, something that’s close to me and to be able to depict this worlds or this universe of worlds that come from things I used to play as a kid and continue today is really fun.
Is one of your hopes to bring arcades back?
They’re gone? Yeah, well, we still have them in places like Dave & Busters and Chuck E. Cheese, but not like the glory days.
But those aren’t really arcades, they’re bars with overpriced card system that doesn’t quite add up to how much money you put into them.
I think someone has a resentment. Did you used to work there? But it be fun if they did come back. I know there is on in LA called the family arcade, I think it’s on Vermont, it’s in KoreaTown.
I should check that out.
Yeah, and over in the valley on Sepluveda, what’s it called? Castle Park? The Adventure Golf Course. I grew up in Ventura, near by here, and we had Golf and Stuff by the 101, that had a great arcade that I wasted a lot of time on.
This might be a question of who is your favorite baby, but who is your favorite character and why?
Ooh, that’s hard, I love them all so much.
Any of them you gravitate towards to?
Well, ooh, that’s really really hard, because let’s be honest, they are really like they’re kind of reflections of myself or people that I know and love. Boy as a main character I love Ralph, and what I love about him is the fact that he’s so simple, he’s an 8-bit character and he’s carrying this very complex dilemma, in his mind and there are times where I felt ‘what do I do, this is all so overwhelming,’ I can identify with that so much. I see myself a lot as a kid in Vanellope, and my daughter, just that kind of dogged belief, a feeling that she has inside, which has been kind of my experience in the field of animation, which is kind of believing, ‘I can be this,’ ‘I can do this,’ with very little evidence to back it up with. I admire her faith and vision, and Felix’s innocence and to the point of gullibility i can see a lot of myself in that too, and Calhoun’s strength of character and forcefullness. How about King Candy, Sonic!
The lines between Disney and Pixar have been blurred this year. Pixar came out with Brave, which was a little Disney-esque, and Disney is coming out with Wreck-It Ralph which is a little Pixar-esque, can you talk about those differences?
Yeah, I would say what we call the Pixar sensibility, it goes back even further, almost to a CalArts sensibility, because so many of the people who were creative, kind of instrumental people at Pixar came from that school, it definitely does have a storytelling, tone, sensibility to it. John [Lasseter] is from there, Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft, Jeff Pidgeon, Pete Docter, all these people were classmates of mine, Andrew and Pete were classmates, I think what we know as the Pixar style is the CalArts style, and so myself being at Disney at this time I too am bringing that sensibility from those classrooms from CalArts to Disney, and infusing what is the Disney style fairy tales and storytelling with what I have been steeped in as a student at CalArts. Now Brave happened is a good question, how something that seems very very sconced and that classic fairytale storytelling is very interesting to me. And I think that’s something that Brenda Chapman, who is also a classmate, brought to Pixar a that time, it speaks to her early experiences with Disney and DreamWorks, in that kind of fairytale storytelling, but believe me, at our studios the subject has come up a lot times, especially when we were making Wreck-It Ralph, they were saying ‘This seems like Pixar,’ ‘This seems like they should be doing it at Pixar, shouldn’t we be doing Brave,’ the comparisons were not lost with the people at the studios. It’s fun to hear that you are observing it from the outside. I could understand how a Wreck-It Ralph could happen at Disney, how Brave developed at Pixar is a bigger kind of mystery, but I think they did a it beautiful job with it, it was kind of there first journey into classic animation storytelling, I thought it was a beautiful movie, I really enjoyed it.
Are jerky 8-Bit style animations easier or harder to animate?
You’ll be surprised that it is harder. Remember I am working with animators who are trained in the classic Disney style of full character animation, squash and stretch, and personality animation, but when a new director comes in an says ‘I want to take everything you know and throw it out the window and make it limited,’ and there is this thing in animation called twinning, when the figure is symmetrical and both arms are doing the same thing and you don’t do that in animation because it does happen too much in nature and everyday life. And when I said to them ‘I want you to twin the poses,’ they were shocked, there was just this kind of a look on the animators’ faces like I had to tell them ‘Everything is going to be alright, it’s going to be okay, you are going to have to trust me on this,’ and its for the effect of 8-bit people, and we are depicting them with full volumes, and everything’ but I wanted their actions to duplicate what we know on the screen of those games, and it was something that took a lot of trust between myself and the animation staff, and it was kind of like being Columbus sometimes, oh ‘there’s land, don’t worry it’s going to work, you’re going to love it when its all done.’ It was fun to watch the medicine taking. Because people aren’t mind readers, people can’t imagine something, i can’t expect them to get it in a snap. It took a little time for them to get it and then you can’t get them to stop. SO it was more of a challenge, it didn’t happen overnight, it took some nurturing.
What were some of your most influential Disney animated movies?
Well I would have to say, The Jungle Book, is the big one, because it was the first movie I ever saw as a little kid, and that was huge, and looking back at it now that was the reason what I am doing what I am doing today, it was the thing that kinda started me on this journey, I didn’t even know how they did it, what was entailed, but seeing that movie, I wanted more of this, I like this, I like the experience of going seeing that movie, because my whole family went, and I remember the drive home in the car, and ‘wow this feels like Christmas,’ you know, everyone is happy, my dad, my mom, my brother, my sister, my grandmother was there, we all liked the same thing, it was all kind of very unifying moment, i remember it being a really special moment in my life as a young person. I would see all the re-releases of Disney movies, but I loved Looney Tunes cartoons on television, those were really really special to me, where if they were on, everything had to stop, and there is something about the timing of them, the type of jokes, the pace of them I really love. I love all animation, I have to admit, I love the worst animation, I love really limited cartoons, that I’ve gone back and looked at as an adult thinking ‘oh I love that and I want to see that again,’ and they are horrible.
Oh I would get the new TV Guide come Saturday morning and mark off Inch-high Private Eye, Hong Kong Phooey, The New Adventures of the Adams Family, and sit there. Religiously, a fanatic, I’ve gone back, and they are great as the rest of them, but some of them are really really special, that was made for me as an audience, that spoke my language, that doesn’t says a lot of good about me.
That’s the problem with the old G.I. Joes and Transformers
Oh yeah, you just invest in them and fill in a lot of the gaps and a lot of the flaws with your imagination. I love those, I love the old Hanna Barbara, the Flinstones, The Jetsons, I even love those weirdo Popeye cartoons, the Paramount Popeyes, the Jay Ward Popeyes, the King Syndicate Popeyes.
Was there a little Popeye DNA leaking into Ralph?
The Jay Ward yes. A lot of that DNA slipped into The Simpsons I think. And I love not just Rocky and Bulwinkle, but I also love Super Chicken.
John [C. Reilly] mentioned you recorded in the same Jungle Book booth, was that something that came full circle for you?
Yes, I am still trying to wrap my head around it, so yeah it was, because it would have pictures of Phil Harris on the wall and Sebastian Cabot on there, like wow, ‘This is where they recorded The Bear Necessities,’ and all those songs I would listen to on a record over and over again, trying to relive that experience, so it’s an interesting journey.
Wreck-It Ralph opens in theaters on November 2nd.