Monday 3 February 2014

Munir's Disney Retrospective - Animated Classic #52: Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Last Week's: Munir's Disney Retrospective - Animated Classic #51: Winnie the Pooh (2011).

After the more quiet and charming Winnie the Pooh, Disney Animation came firing back on all cylinders with their next film. It was something very different from anything the studio had attempted before, and it seemed like an unlikely endeavour from a studio that seemed more "traditional" in the view of most people. Nonetheless, Wreck-It Ralph came at the perfect time for WDAS, as it helped it reinvent itself and find a new identity, as a pioneer of new and fresh stories, while also developing new technology to match them.

Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of Ralph, the bad guy in a video game called Fix-It Felix, Jr. Like many "bad guys," Ralph is good at heart and wants everyone to see that, but the "Nicelanders" (the ones that live in his game) see him only as a nuisance. In an attempt to be seen as a winner, Ralph exits his game and goes to "Hero's Duty" where he steals a medal. But things go awry and he ends up in another game, "Sugar Rush," where he befriends an outspoken girl named Vanellope; together they must uncover an evil plot that could affect the entire gaming system. This light synopsis does not do justice to how good Wreck-It Ralph is. Director Rich Moore and his crew have craftd a letter of love to all video gamers ,while also providing top-notch entertainment to the non-gaming community.

Every time I see Ralph I'm amazed at the level of inventiveness and freshness the story has. Sure, a bad guy who wants to be good has been done many times before, but the merit in Ralph is that it takes that familiar premise and executes it with wit, humour and heart. Screenwriter Jennifer Lee (Frozen) imbues the story with well rounded characters and surprising twists that give the story much more depth and a more satisfying arc. Like most films from this era, Wreck-It Ralph has a cast of excellent and flawed characters that complement the story perfectly. Ralph is your regular guy, someone that means well but is also a little clumsy and sometimes makes unfortunate choices, but in the end he has a heart of gold and protects the ones he cares about. Vanellope is a lonely girl that looks tough on the outside but is really fragile on the inside, someone who really needs someone to connect with. Felix and Calhoun provide the comic relief and they are one of the best pairings that the studio have created. And King Candy is one of the most frenetic and evil villains in all of the vast Disney canon. He looks like a crazy and deluded guy, but he is a really threatening and manipulative character with a big secret. All of these characters have depth and many layers; this makes for one of Disney's most enthralling casts in recent memory.

The animation and design is simply stunning. The whole world is brimming with breathtaking sceneries specific to each game. Fix-It Felix, Jr. has the look of a classic 8-bit game, while Hero's Duty is a latest-generation, ultra-stylized first person shooter game. But by far, the best of the bunch is Sugar Rush. A colourful, energetic game full of eye-candy (pun intended) and hyperactive characters. The animators really did extensive research to produce believable yet imaginative worlds that take the viewers to a whole new level of entertainment.

But, all the razzle-dazzle wouldn't mean a thing if the story was dull or inert, and thankfully that isn't the case. Wreck-It Ralph has a compelling story of two outcasts just wanting their lives to mean something. That's a universal premise that anyone can relate to and makes for a great film. The friendship between Ralph and Vanellope is the core of the movie and their relationship grows on you as the film progresses. There are many touching moments between the two throughout the movie, like the sequence where they build a car and then Ralph teaches Vanellope to drive. That's one of my favourite scenes because of how it combines character development, heart and great animation in just one scene. It really shows you what the movie is about.

The music by Henry Jackman complements the story well as it adapts to the constant change of worlds, effectively changing from an action-oriented tune when they are in Hero's Duty to a more childish, high-energy one when they are in Sugar Rush. The music gives the film the proper ambiance to immerse the viewers into this world.

Walt Disney Animation Studios has been known mostly for their fairy tales films and more traditional stories, and that's perfectly fine. The Princess and the Frog, Tangled and, most recently, Frozen has proved that the studio is the unquestionable king of fairy tales but what John Lasseter and his crew has accomplished is that now the studio is not afraid to take risks and produce wonderful and original films like this one. Brimming with inventive characters, a fresh story and stunning animation, Wreck-It Ralph is proof that a new studio has been born and that it's here to stay. Rating: 5/5.

Next Week - Animated Classic #53 Review: Frozen (2013).

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