How ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ Wrecked All the Rules of Animation

Director Rich Moore Moore tells TheWrap what the basic animation rules are — and how he refused to play by them for 'Wreck-It Ralph"

When Rich Moore joined Disney in 2008 after stints on “The Simpsons,” “Futurama” and MADtv, the historic animation studio had just shelved an idea for a movie about videogame characters.

Studio exec John Lasseter encouraged Moore to pursue his own ideas along those lines, and game-fanatic Moore was happy to do so. On the way to the movie that became “Wreck-It Ralph,” Moore told TheWrap he took a sledgehammer to some of the usual axioms of animation.

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The result was not just a box-office smash and Golden Globe and Oscar noms but top awards for the movie, Moore's direction and screenplay, music and voice acting Saturday night from the International Animated Film Socity, ASIFA-Hollywood (At left, Moore with his Annie).

Also read: 'Wreck-It Ralph' Smashes the Competiton at the Annie Awards

Moore told TheWrap what the basic animation rules are — and how he wrecked them for "Ralph."

Rule: Start with the story.
How they wrecked it: It would be easy to start with plot and action and adventure, but I think that was where some of the previous videogame-centric movies have started, to their detriment. I really wanted to start with a character, and the character‘s struggle. I fell in love with the idea of taking a simple character from an '80s arcade game and saddling him with this very profound struggle: What‘s the meaning of life? Why am I here? Why do I do this job? I thought, “That‘s pretty juicy.”

Rule: Don’t write for copyrighted characters if you don’t own the rights.
How they wrecked it: When the story was in its infancy, it was way too early to go to videogame companies and ask about the rights to use their characters. So we just moved forward as if we had them and took it on faith that when the day came, we somehow would be able to work it out. I didn‘t want to limit our creative group and say, “I know we really want Pac-Man, but we might not be able to get him, so let‘s make up our own version of Pac-Man.” It just seemed like if we started down that road, that‘s probably the direction it would have gone. And to me it was way too important to have the actual game characters in the movie. We moved forward hoping that it would all come together, and it did.”

Rule: Record voices separately.
How they wrecked it: [Lead actor] John C. Reilly‘s one reservation was the process. He had heard that it was just standing in a booth for several hours alone and acting against nothing. And he said, “That does not appeal to me. I don‘t think you‘re gonna get my best if we do it that way.” And when he said that, I was like, “Why do we have to do it that way?” It is traditionally done that way, but why not have two or three actors in there at the same time and record it like you would any other scene in a movie?

Rule: Establish a consistent style for the  entire film.
How they wrecked it: In making animated films, the artists and technicians are always looking for a ground zero. They want a style they can point to and say, “This is the movie. This is how the characters should move, this is what it should look like, this is how the camera moves … ” And I was saying, “No, the old 8-bit charcters move this way. The newer, more modern characters are more hyperrealism. The Sugar Rush characters are more cartoony with a bit of old classic Disney and an anime influence.” I was really going against the grain of what wants to happen normally on a movie like this, and it really speaks to the trust and faith of our crew that they were able to hang in there.