INTERVIEW: Rich Moore, Director of Wreck-It Ralph

(Originally published on andPOP)

Disney’s latest 3D flick may include some of your favourite video game characters like Bowser, Pac-Man and Sonic the Hedgehog.  However, none of this would have been possible without the guidance of animation director Rich Moore.

But even if you’ve never heard of Moore before, chances are you’re familiar with some of his work.  Having directed episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama, he is actually an accomplished director with two Primetime Emmy Awards under his belt.

Speaking about his new film Wreck-it Ralph during a phone call, Moore let us in on what it was like to create a movie about video games.

Wreck-It Ralph focuses on the bad guy:

An underdog story, the film surrounds Wreck-It-Ralph, a video game villain with dreams of becoming a hero.  Tired of being overshadowed by good guy Fix-It-Felix, Ralph goes on a quest that ultimately brings havoc to the whole arcade he lives in.

Believe or not, “hero” Fix-It-Felix was originally supposed to be the star of the film. But when Moore and screenwriter Phil Johnston weren’t really getting traction with the project, they scrapped the idea and decided to focus the movie on Wreck-It Ralph instead.

“In a feature, the main character has an arc, a journey. They learn something or something changes in that character,” Moore says. “It was tough to build a nice comedic story with a lot of heart around (Fix-it-Felix).”

The flick features appearances by 190 characters and the voice talents of some of Hollywood’s biggest names:

Featuring cameos by Sonic the Hedgehog’s Doctor Eggman, Street Fighter’s Chun-Li and even Paddles 1 and 2 from Pong, the film also includes original characters voiced by John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch and Alan Tudyk.

While working with everyone has been a treat for Moore, he was particularly pleased to have Reilly on board as the title character of Wreck-It Ralph.

Reilly, who was nominated for an Oscar for his work in Chicago, was so invested with his role that he even asked Moore to meet with the animators who created his character.

“(Reilly) was so hands on and so instrumental in fleshing out who Ralph is and what he’s like. Every character he plays feels like a real human being. You really care about his characters and you want them to achieve what it is that they want and desire.”

The film takes place in several different video game worlds:

Just like any arcade game, the movie includes several different locations in which the film’s protagonist must go through to achieve his quest.

According to Moore, the areas Wreck-It Ralph frequents ranges from 8-bit designs (think super simple and blocky like  Super Nintendo games) to a world called Hero’s Duty, a live-shooter atmosphere featuring a lot of dramatic lighting.  However, the hardest world to create was a place called Sugar Rush, a kart racer game which Moore describes as “very whimsical and charming.”

“It’s like Mario Kart mixed with Candy Land because everything in the world is made out of sweets and cookies,” he says. “It was a challenge to our design and lighting department to make sure things looked the way they should.”

Wreck-it Ralph almost wasn’t created:

While video gamers may already be geeking out about this film, it might be hard to believe that it was almost never made.

After hearing that the idea for a video game movie was met with very little success at Disney over the years, Moore decided to take on the project when he started working at the company four years ago.

Having grown up playing retro arcade games like Pong and Asteroids, Moore isn’t one to back down from ambitious projects with several characters and extravagant set designs.

For him, it was just natural to make a film about something he loves. “It’s been great watching the evolution of video games over, 35, 40 years and to see how far they’ve come,” he says.

Joking that his parents used to scold him for spending too much time at the arcade, Moore likes to think his job as an animator worked out for the best.

Laughing at the irony of it all, he quips, “I like to think I proved ‘em wrong!”

Wreck-It Ralph comes out in theatres Nov. 2.


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