Wreck-it Ralph Stars: Gamers Rule!
By: Lynn Barker
Whether you ever played old-school arcade video games or not, we’ll bet that you’ve heard of a lot of them (ask your parents); Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, Space Invaders, QBert, Sonic the Hedgehog and tons more once took up as much time as texting does now.
In the new animated Disney film Wreck It Ralph, an old-school videogame bad guy, leaves his game at the arcade to explore many other games both simple and more high tech and modern. Ralph really wants to be a hero for a change. In the sweet racing game “Sugar Rush” he meets a flawed little racer named Vanellope. Their friendship leads to Ralph becoming a new kind of hero and Vanellope finding her true place in life.
Ralph is voiced by wonderful character actor John C. Reilly (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Step Brothers, Talledega Nights, Cirque Du Freak) and Sarah Silverman (School of Rock, The Muppets, "The Sarah Silverman Show") is the voice of Vanellope, an adorable female racer who happens to be a “glitch”, shorting in and out of her game until she’s not wanted. Of course, these two misfits help improve each other’s lives.
Let’s check in with the two actors on recording their voices together and creating such fun characters. Sarah first.
Kidzworld: Hey Sarah, where did you get that wonderful, feisty little girl voice for your character Vanellope? Is that your own childhood voice?
- Sarah: There was very little searching for that voice. It came in like a minute. I just looked at the character and she’s so scrappy so I just sped up my voice and (in Vanellope voice) talked like this like I had a permanent cold.
Kidzworld: What was your favorite thing about Vanellope?
- Sarah: I think her strength and perseverance and her scrappiness. Especially in the beginning, she's obnoxious and precocious. She’s tough, but like any tough kid, she’s tough because she’s protecting this scared little girl (inside), this rejected kid who just wants to play with everyone else. It’s a survival skill. That kind of makes her everyman… or every girl.
Kidzworld: Are you a gamer? Do you have a favorite video game?
- Sarah: I’ve probably gotten deepest into Nintendo 64 “007 Golden Eye”. I know every room, every back room. I know where the guns are hidden (laughter). I love it. I actually found a Nintendo 64 and have it now. I (asked on) Twitter and somebody in my neighborhood was like “I have it”. I looked at his Twitter profile and was like “Okay, he doesn’t look like he’ll murder me”. He came over, played with us and left it there and let me have it. Very sweet.
Kidzworld: Did you play arcade games as a kid?
- Sarah: Yeah. There was an arcade by my house in New Hampshire called Space Center and the Dairy Queen had a game called “Joust” that I mastered between dipped cones. It was hard. It’s this really weird most gawky, long, awkward bird you’ve ever seen but it has tiny wings so how can it fly? Punching the button is what makes it fly so you’re like…(she repeatedly punches an imaginary button).
Kidzworld: Did the Vanellope character evolve a lot in her “look”? She ends up looking a lot like you.
- Sarah: It was really cool because she had red hair in the beginning when I saw a few brief sketches. Disney takes so much time. That’s why they’re amazing. They hone and redo things and they’re re-sketching and rewriting until everything is so layered and rich. As the sketches came in, each time they came in, I saw her eyebrows and a little black ponytail and I was like “Awwww. It was really cool”.
Kidzworld: Did you like the way they dressed her?
- Sarah: Yes! They put her in a hoodie! Today I’m in my fancy jeans and blazer but I loved her hoodie. I loved her upside down Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup skirt. I do think candy is poison and not healthy for kids but I do love it.
Kidzworld: Vanellope’s game is called “Sugar Rush”. Which candy is your favorite?
- Sarah: That’s like saying which is your favorite child. I like Sweet Tarts. I love Nerds Rope, Smarties. But, on the chocolate side, KitKat, Twix, a regular Hershey bar, Cadbury eggs. Ummmm, Cadbury eggs. Dove bars. I’d eat a dove bar every day if I could.
Kidzworld: Yum! Is there a lot of your personality in Vanellope?
- Sarah: I think so, yeah. Obviously, her voice and the interpretation of the lines but I felt so connected to this character, even just before I got to record, just the script. She is so scrappy and aggressive. I think people are so aggressive so that no one else can get there first. I just related to her insecurities and her strengths that come from it; those ways that you can survive because you’re scared.
Kidzworld: How about her need for speed as a racer?
- Sarah: I don’t have a need for speed but if I’m alone in the middle of the night on a freeway, I would probably have some fun. But I’m more of an “Ooo, ah, oh sorry” (she indicates driving and dodging people).
Kidzworld: What was it like to work with John C. Reilly?
- Sarah: It was awesome. We got to record together which was unique and to just be able to look at each other and improvise and talk over each other. To be able to overlap or go in a completely bizarre direction, really, I think it helped. What they took from it kind of gave it the dynamic between us that you wouldn’t get if we were each alone in a booth. There is definitely an audio blooper reel to be had.
Kidzworld: I’ll bet! What kind of relationship do Ralph and Vanellope have; father/daughter, brother/sister, friends?
- Sarah: I think a combination of those. They’re like family. (It’s like when) you grow up and move out of your home and are alone, they’re both loners and we find our own families as adults and they found each other. They found family in each other. I think, in lots of ways it’s paternal and also sibling-ish.
Kidzworld: Do you think Vanellope is a new kind of Disney Princess? She seems to have other ideas.
- Sarah: I’m so happy because I think Brave was the first Disney/Pixar movie that had a girl hero that wasn’t saved by a boy. I feel like this is the next step where it’s revealed that the power is in you. You had it the whole time. You can click your heels together and go home. She rejects the norms of that and says “I’m gonna be me but I’ll be the President”. She still has humor and spunk. I’m honored to be that girl.
Kidzworld: On the joke “Call of doody”, was that you?
- Sarah: (laughs) I can’t remember. If it wasn’t me, it was inspired by me and I’ll take credit that because I’m obviously obsessed with doody. If you’ve seen my Comedy Central series, we had a politician named May Kadoody (laughs). That was awesome. It’s universal.
On to John who voices Ralph.
Kidzworld: John, did you know from the outset that you had the voice for Wreck-it Ralph?
- Reilly: It was a process of becoming perfect for the character or the character becoming perfect for me. When we started out, I was this horned monster, with a single horn and orange skin. It was a videogame character, so it could be anything. All I had to be was the bad guy. One of the reasons why it seemed such a personally connected to the way I sound and am, is because (I was brought) in for story meetings and they solicited my ideas, and let me improvise ideas while I was recording the voice.
Kidzworld: Did you base Ralph on anybody you know?
- John: (He’s like) some of my family in Chicago; ex-football player kinds of uncles. Guys with guts but with a soft heart inside. So we just did that.
Kidzworld: What was it like working with Sarah? You got to work in the booth together a few times, right?
- John: Yes. I heard how animation (usually) worked and I thought, “That doesn’t sound fun at all”; coming in alone, and saying your lines, and having to react to a recording that someone else has already done, like a canned situation. I think having someone with you, the little subtle things in your voice that you do to communicate with someone when they’re right in front of you is different. It’s very hard to reproduce. Sarah’s so funny, she’s such a great improviser and she has such a quick wit, that I knew, if we have her there, we’re going to firing stuff back and forth.
Kidzworld: There are a lot of real videogame characters in the film. Do you have a videogame you wished made it into the movie?
- Reilly: The big one that’s the glaring omission is Mario. But I guess Mario, his agent wasn’t too keen. He’s developing some of his own projects. I think the filmmakers poked a little fun at him. That was the one character they had a hard time getting.
Kidzworld: What superpower would Ralph want?
- Reilly: The ability to accept yourself and love who you are and enjoy life is a pretty big superpower that we’re all struggling to have. Personally, I would choose teleportation.
Kidzworld: Did you do on research any video arcade games to get into Ralph’s world?
- Reilly: I knew a lot of them because I was of the first generation of this stuff. I remember when “Space Invaders” arrived at the bowling alley. It went from pinball machines to “What? I can manipulate the TV?” There weren’t even computers at that point. At least, not in my world. Probably in a laboratory I suppose.
Kidzworld: Did you go away from home searching for your dream when you were younger as Ralph does in this?
- Reilly: I grew up in a pretty tough working-class neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. There was some culture there but not a lot. It was like the muscle part of the city. I wanted to get out and do plays. I’d been doing plays since I was about 8 or 9 years old. I was anxious to get out and experience the world. I stayed within a 10-block area until I was about 18 years old. I didn’t dream of being an actor because that was so far out of my experience. I knew that was what I liked to do and then it just turned into my job. I was really lucky that way.
Kidzworld: Do you see another story for Ralph?
- Reilly: Yeah. He’s a great character and he’s got a lot of heart. The world of videogames keeps expanding so I’m sure a creative mind could find a place for him to go.
Also included in theaters is the wonderful short film Paperman about a young guy’s love for a girl he sees from afar. He’ll do anything to get to know her and this black and white animated film is a tribute to both love and cool filmmaking style.