Sure Wreck-It Ralph is in theaters today from Disney, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to talk about the sequel, right? In advance of the film’s release, we chatted with Director Rich Moore about the origins of the video game movie, why they went with an arcade setting, and where they’re going in ’Wreck-It Ralph 2’:
MTV Geek: So after working in TV for so long, what made Wreck-It Ralph the right project to make the jump to movies?
Rich Moore: The fact that it was about video games… It was really exciting, because I have a real deep love, and appreciation for games and gaming. I was able to develop a story… The heart of this fantasy world that was so genuine, about this simple man wondering what life was about. And that he’s a character in a game having this spiritual crisis. Is there more to life? Is this all there all there is? That made it really appealing to me.
Geek: Is that what you started with then? The character first, and come up with the video game concept second? Or was it vice versa?
Moore: I started with the concept of, what is life like for a video game characters when they’re off the clock. From that came the idea of having a character who was unhappy with his station in life… His situation in one of these worlds. Then the character came out of that. For a while we were Phil Johnston – who’s the writer – and I were developing this idea of a hero character. It seemed like that was the wrong character to be asking these types of questions.
There was a moment when Phil said, “If this were about Mario and Donkey Kong, I wouldn’t want to watch Mario go through this story… I would want to watch Donkey Kong.” It would just be more fun to watch, more fun to give that type of guy an existential crisis, more fun to watch his journey through this worlds, being a big oaf.
It was at that point we knew the bad guy character was going to be the main character. Kind of at the same time, we were trying to develop what the game was about, knowing we wanted it to be an old game, an eight bit game. We’d look at Donkey King and Dig Dug, just for the relationships within the game, and the different characters in the game, and what the situation was.
Geek: Taking a little step back, you mentioned being a gaming geek for a while, what did you start off with? What was the first game that made an impression on you?
Moore: I’m dating myself, but… Pong? [Laughs] I remember as a kid seeing Pong in a pizza place where I grew up in Oxnard, California, and having my ind blown by it. I thought it was a TV. I thought it was just something playing on a television. But then to be able to manipulate the paddle, and the ball with the knob was, in those days, pretty huge to a little kid! It was a simpler time. That was the very first one… Then Asteroids was one, just the concept of it, just cleaning up a bunch of rocks floating space seemed great. And then I liked the more character games that started to come after that, like Dig Dug, and Pac-Man. Those reminded me more of cartoons.
Before that, everything seemed more about spaceships, tanks, and battle zones… Stuff like that. When they started to be about characters like Pac-Man and Dig Dug, I remembered it felt like they were moving forward.
I also liked Street Fighter a lot, but before that, I played a lot of those Laser Disc games. Space Ace… I loved animation, that was my passion as a kid, that and Star Wars. It played a close second to Star Wars. So seeing a game that had 2-D animation in it was really exciting. I loved the whole idea of learning the patterns to see the whole movie. I spent a lot of money on those games.
Then when the arcade started to die down, the last days of Street Fighter, those were really fun… From then on it was home games. I’m ashamed to say I had every console once it came, and sometimes bought two of the same thing. Now? I cannot get my nose off my phone and stop playing Dice With Buddies! [Laughs]
I’m not playing Dice With Buddies right now, by the way. You have my attention.
Geek: Oh, I appreciate that. So I’m curious, given that so much gaming is focused on the home console, and mobile devices, why set Wreck-It Ralph in an arcade?
Moore: That was a really hard decision, to make that choice. There was a lot of hand wringing, and going back and forth, saying, “Should it be in an arcade? Do people under a certain age even know what that is?” Do we try and go for the nostalgia of it, or do we have it all happen in an X-Box? They all live in a computer chip, maybe? There were a lot of different factors making that decision.
It came down to, what would be interesting to sell it visually? It seemed like if it was taking place on a home system, wherever they were going to live reminded me of Tron. It just seemed like it was taking place in a computer world, and all kind of digital, it felt like it was treading the same ground that Tron had taken.
At the studio, people would do these paintings and inspirational art of what it would look like, and and what these locations would look like. When it was cracked, this whole idea of the cabinets are their worlds, and the cords are like train tracks, and they all plug into a power strip that’s their hub… It was so gettable. I would bring people in and say, what do you think of this? And they would say, “I get it, that’s cool! That makes a lot of sense.”
Even my kid, my son who was fourteen at the time, I would say, “What do you think of this idea? If this is going on in an arcade?” and he would say, “I know what that is, yeah. I’ve been to Dave and Busters, I know what this stuff is.” It’s not like the whole idea of arcades disappeared one day. At that point, I would ask if he knew Dig Dug, and Pac-Man, you know who those are? And he said, “Yeah! I grew up with that stuff.”
It hit me… I never saw a Laurel & Hardy movie in a theater when they first ran, when I was a kid. But as a child I knew who they were, and knew the culture of it, what they meant. So I took a gamble that this thing would play really well in an arcade. It seems like since we’ve played our trailer, and stuff that’s been coming out about the movie, people have really embraced and loved the whole idea that we went this route.
That makes me really happy… I think we made a good choice on where we set it. I’ve said to the crew, here’s the thing, if we do another one of these, if we do a sequel to this movie; if we’re that lucky, to revisit this universe… I think you get to make a movie about an arcade once. [Laughs] I don’t think we get a pass a second time. I think it would be really fun, if there’s another one, to get them into home games, or on the Internet, online gaming or something like that. We will be moving into the home soon.
Wreck-It Ralph hits theaters November 2nd from Walt Disney Pictures!