While away in Los Angeles as a guest of the Disney movies department, we were able to visit the animation studios where all the magic that you see on the screen is first thought of and put on paper (and/or computer!).
The single most important realization that I came away from this experience with was: the importance of people. Many animators, many voice over actors, and also many regular office staff participate in the process of an animated movie. I did not know that before the “famous” actors come in to do their voice over work, the folks in the office will stand in and lend their own voices to begin the preliminary work needed to bring these films to the big screen. Also, of the dozens of animators on staff, each one may only get a 2 minute segment placed into the actual movie, and they may have worked on that piece for months or longer. So now when I see the credits rolling at the end of any movie, I realize that each individual name is someone who worked very hard on the project, and specifically for this movie, may be someone I met and drew a character with, worked in the voice over room with, or just passed in the hall. They are integral to these projects, something us movie viewers rarely realize, and will receive more respect from me than before, because before, the rolling credits meant it was time to run out of the theater.
As an example of the time spent on each facet of the project. look at the artwork of the various attempts at Ralph himself:
Wow. The halls were filled with pictures from pieces of the movie, and there was even a video game room to inspire the video game center in the movie: inspiration all around for the animation artists, that seem to live and breathe each project for possibly years a at a time, to bring the Disney audience the best possible product. I am sworn to secrecy, but part of the building was starting to turn “cold!” Ralph is about to hit the theaters, so the newest animation project is starting to take over the building!
Another intriguing part of our conversation was about the worlds in the movie. Basically 3 different video games (worlds) needed to be created. The desire for authenticity that drives the creation of those worlds was far more than I would have thought. Visits to Spain to get Gaudi like house structures correct were just one aspect of the process (not a bad work trip!). Which brings me to a discussion of the world where a lot of the action takes place: “Sugar Rush.”
Sugar Rush is a combination of Candyland and a Nascar race! This would be considered a girls video game in the real world, and I liked that it was all about girl power, they were car racers, not some of the less active stereotypical girl characters that use make-up, work in kitchens, and play with babies. This is a trend in the way girls are portrayed, they can be race car drivers, doctors, or anything else they choose. I liked that empowering aspect of the film.
OK, so the cars were girly and feminine, but they were cars nonetheless! And made of my favorite food, candy! And as a group, we were asked to make these candy cars for ourselves, and a contest sprung up! Yet another highlight of our trip, creating our own versions of the candy cars in the movie! Delicious!
I thought I was a sure winner, until I saw the other contestants!
There might have been some auto body eating along the way, but there is no video proof of that!
But of course that wasn’t all! We also got to work with some of the actual animators! We had a drawing demo with the head of animation on Wreck-It Ralph – Renato dos Anjos, and animator Kira Lehtomaki. They walked us through the process of simple drawings and guided us as we made our own characters in the movie! We literally started by drawing a C and a W and then it turned into Vanellope! Far more simplified for us, but having them allow us to see their process was yet another exciting moment in our animation building tour. Additionally, listening to the process of taking the directors thoughts, trying to get them on paper, and then sometimes reporting back what might work better, taught us how the best movie comes about from the collaborative efforts of many.
Now that I have met these folks, and know their names, do you understand why the rolling credits at the end of a movie have more meaning?
And now I set up the teaser for the best part of the day. We all did a voice over for the movie. Yes, I am a character in Wreck-It Ralph. No, you won’t see me on the big screen, but you will see me in the movie right here on the blog, next week!
Official site: www.disney.com/wreckitralph
Like Ralph on Facebook: facebook.com/WreckItRalph
Follow Ralph on Twitter: https://twitter.com/wreckitralph
Disclosure: Disney invited me on a press junket and paid all of my expenses. No other compensation was received. All opinions are always 100% my own and honest.