One of the hardest tasks in making Wreck-It-Ralph was securing the screen rights to characters that are owned by a number of companies, many of them based in Japan. That task fell to Spencer, who decided to wait until there was a completed draft of a screenplay before approaching Nintendo, Capcom, Sega and other video game giants to see if they’d be willing to lend them the biggest stars in their stable.
“ Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Toy Story opened the door for us, because those movies blazed a trail for having characters from different universes appearing in the same movie,” Spencer says. “We told everyone that they would be part of the journey of the making of the movie, that they would get approval of final animations, that they would read script pages and that they would be kept informed of any changes. I think that made the companies felt that they weren’t just signing away the rights to their characters. They were actually going to be integrated into the creative process and have their characters represented the way they wanted. It made the process more difficult, because we constantly had to send animation to Japan, and it would come back with notes and suggestion we had to incorporate. But if we hadn’t done that, those companies would have probably said no.”
The finished film proves the effort was worthwhile. From the lo-res graphics of early coin-operated games to the high-definition sheen of modern first-person-shooters, Wreck-It-Ralph promises to delight anyone who ever played a video game, regardless of age.
“I’m 46, so I guess we were like the test generation for a lot of these games,” says actor John C. Reilly, who provides the voice of Ralph. “I can still remember the first time Space Invaders showed up at the bowling alley where I hung out. It felt like a spaceship had landed there. The whole idea of manipulating figures on a video screen was something that was completely new. All my expendable income went into playing those games, and a lot of my lunch money, too. There was something about those early games, the simplicity of the visual design, that allowed you to imagine what was going on. A lot of the video games today are so sophisticated, they do that work for you. But Wreck-It-Ralph has them all covered, which is why I think the movie is going to connect with a lot of different generations of moviegoers.”