It’s Debate Day here on Trope and Dagger! Today, we’re picking the very best Disney animated feature has made using computer animation! To check out Andy’s obviously wrong pick, go here: Big Hero 6: The Best CG Disney Movie. Now, let me tell you all about Disney’s greatest computer animated feature, Wreck-It Ralph!
Spoilers for Wreck-It Ralph Ahoy, duh! If you haven’t seen it yet, go and watch this awesome film and come right back!
Ever felt unfulfilled? Like an outcast, a loser, unloved and unwanted? We’ve all felt this way at one point or another in our lives. Some feel that way more often than they don’t. It’s a horrible feeling, debilitating to the point of hopelessness sometimes. It’s a feeling that Wreck-It Ralph knows all too well.
Wreck-It Ralph, voiced perfectly by John C. Reilly, is a villain. He’s a bad guy in a video game where he shows up and destroys a building where people live and the hero of the game, Fix-It Felix, Jr., voiced by the awesome Jack McBrayer, shows up and fixes the building. If Felix is successful, he and the residents of the building all throw Ralph off of the roof into some garbage and the game is over. Even though without him there would be no video game, the other characters in the game all dislike Ralph, keeping him exiled to his brick heap off to the side while they all celebrate a successful day in the game without him.
Why do they do this? It’s not like Ralph has a choice in his role in the game. He and Felix can’t just switch spots and Ralph is suddenly the hero of the game, that wouldn’t make sense to anyone who plays Fix-It Felix, Jr. Ralph is stuck in his role, and yet everyone hates him for it. He even goes to a support group for villains of games, almost all of them needing help coping with being so hated simply for being who they’re supposed to be. These are some deep psychological issues that Wreck-It Ralph is tackling. As Zangief says “you are bad guy, but this does not mean you are bad guy.” As in, simply because your role is to be a bad guy, that doesn’t make you a bad person, at least not in the world of the video games. How many movies, much less Disney fare, even question what makes a bad guy a bad guy? Why they are what they are?
But Ralph has a hard time accepting this, as he is a flawed, nuanced protagonist. Most other Disney CG films shy away from this sort of introspective character. Sure, some may be misunderstood or flawed in their own way, but it’s rare when a character is so aware of his role in life and questioning why things have to be this way. Is it his own fault for being hated? Is he a bad person for wanting to be a hero? Does one have to accept the life they are given, or is it possible to change your lot? Is the only thing one is able to really change is an attitude?
Before going further, one of the highlights of this movie is the way that it utilizes cameos from video game characters. Not only is it fun to see characters we know and love, they serve an important purpose in building the universe and importing essential information to the audience in an entertaining way. Even those who aren’t big video game fans can appreciate the familiar faces that show up. Such good utilization of licensed characters.
Then there’s Vanellope Von Schweetz, voiced fantastically by Sarah Silverman, the adorable glitch found in the Sugar Rush video game. She is another outcast, similar to Ralph in that the rest of the game’s inhabitants dislike her, feeling that she shouldn’t be there simply because she is a glitch. She is the embodiment of pluck, unwilling to give up even though all the cards are stacked against her. She and Ralph are kindred spirits, both longing for acceptance from people who couldn’t care less about them. We’ve all been there, wanting to fit in even though we shouldn’t put any stock in others’ opinions, and it is heartbreaking to watch them on screen. But nevertheless, she is optimism personified!
Things are complicated in the video game universe that Disney created. Villains aren’t happy being villains, heroes can be oblivious jerks, soldiers can develop PSTD from killing Cy-bugs and drown their sorrows in a bartending video game. It’s a surprisingly complex and adult world that has been created for Wreck-It Ralph, and not many Disney works would even touch on themes such as these, much less their computer animated fare.
Was the animation in Wreck-It Ralph top notch? Of course it was, the animation was gorgeous. The car races were exciting, the environments were lush and fully realized, all the characters were bright and expressive, and the small touches, like how the penthouse residents moved in a choppy manner like an 8-bit character would, were wonderful. Especially impressive, though, were the scenes with the Cy-Bugs from Hero’s Duty. The sheer number of creatures that would fill the screen when the Cy-Bugs were attacking was astounding. They were frightening, they were overwhelming, they were incredible. Also, when King Candy, voiced by the awesome Alan Tudyk, turned into the Cy-Bug monster at the end, it actually made me uncomfortable. He was an actually scary monster, and I can’t recall the last time a Disney villain made me squirm some. I loved it.
But the amazing animation and the nightmare-inducing villain aren’t what make Wreck-It Ralph the amazing film that it is. It is the heart of the main characters that make it how fantastic it is. Vanellope’s determination to not only enter the race, but to be the best racer there is inspirational. It’s her determination that exposes King Candy for the monster he truly is, the duplicitous Turbo, then ultimately the Cy-Bug/King Candy/Turbo monster, and it restores her to her rightful place in the game. She knows in her heart who she is supposed to be, and just like Ralph, isn’t willing to accept the rejection of others.
Then, the only reason that Ralph is able to save the day at the end of the film is by embracing his affinity for wrecking things. He knows that he can smash Diet Cola Mountain and defeat the Cy-Bugs, and when he is plummeting towards the mountain, accepting his fate in order to save Vanellope, reciting the mantra he learned from his support group and clutching the “You’re My Hero” medal Vanellope made for him, it is one of the most touching moments of any movie I’ve ever seen. Not only does Ralph save her, but she saves him at the same time, both physically and metaphorically.
This is the best Disney computer animated movie ever because it’s not afraid to tackle the themes of rejection, loneliness, and self-acceptance. The characters hurt one another sometimes, even when they don’t mean to, and it’s devastating. They are down on themselves, they want to be someone other than themselves a lot of the time, but in the end they learn who they really are inside. Sometimes, accepting who you are is the hardest thing there is to do, but there are always those who will accept you and love you for who you are.
Or, in other words, the message is: Fuck the Haters! Wreck-It Ralph is, bar none, the best computer animated Disney movie there is.
So, what do you think? Is Wreck-It Ralph the best computer animated Disney movie there is, or is Big Hero 6? Or are we both insane people with no taste? Sound off right now: