Week 52: Wreck-It Ralph

Give this Movie a Medal!

im gonna wreck it

Originally Released: 2012

2012 was a really good year for animation. When the time of the Academy Awards came around, I was quite torn over which of the five nominees was my favorite. Each was wildly different, but still extremely entertaining (for the record, the films nominated that year were Brave, Wreck-It Ralph, ParaNorman, Frankenweenie, and Pirates! Band of Misfits. If you haven’t yet, go see them. All of them). At the time, I would have been satisfied if any of the films took home the Oscar. But looking back, I think my favorite has emerged, and it is Wreck-It Ralph. Those who took the time to see this movie at the theaters were in for a real treat (and as an added bonus, the short Paperman was the best short that either Pixar or Disney had done in years, and was part of the bill!).

welcome to sugar rush

I said “in for a real treat.” Get it? treat? Sugar? ah ha…haha…ha….treat…sugar…

One common saying at the time is that Disney and Pixar kind of swapped roles when they made the films of 2012. Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph felt more like the innovative, bursting-with-creative-energy Pixar films we had all grown to love, while Pixar’s Brave was a much more traditional Disney Princess fairy tale. I like that description, because it is mostly accurate when describing the films. Wreck-It Ralph is bursting with creativity and its themes and characters have as much depth and heart to them as Sully, Woody, or any other Beloved Pixar staple. Heck, the only thing really missing is a John Ratzenburger cameo voice appearance.

bowser in shock

John Ratzenburger as Bowser? Yes please!

But even sans the Ratzenburger, Wreck-It Ralph has plenty of cameos and easter eggs for any nerd to enjoy. If you like arcades or old-school video games, you will love searching through Wreck-It Ralph to find all the little references littered throughout the film. And alternatively, even if you are just a Disney fan, then the filmmakers included old Disney properties as well for those with the keen eyes. I’ve always thought the easter eggs and hidden references were fun, and Wreck-It Ralph is a goldmine of hidden references.

you win perfect

This is pure genius right here.

But films don’t survive alone on easter eggs. Luckily, the the trio of Ralph, Felix, and Vanellope von Schweetz form an extremely likable entourage. By the end of the film, you want Ralph to win his medal and get a little recognition, you want Felix to get the girl, and you want little Vanellope to be able to race and compete in her game. Wreck-It Ralph trods the familiar underdog story path, but it does so very effectively, and it serves as a great reminder about labelling people and dismissing them based on first impressions. Or, to borrow a phrase from Zangief, “Just because you are bad guy, doesn’t mean you are bad guy.”  

sweet ride

If you’ve read my Disney posts for long, you’ll know by now that I enjoy movies that are entertaining, but I especially enjoy movies that both entertain and have something good to teach. I believe that Wreck-It Ralph fits into this second category of Disney film. It is definitely funny and entertaining, but it also manages to teach  some of life’s little lessons along the way. And what better lesson to teach than that of improvement and change? Even if you’ve spent your whole life as a bad guy, you still have some hero inside of you, and you can do good things. Even if you consider yourself a glitch (weirdo), you know what? You can still do great things. Also, Felix is a goody-goody, but that’s actually presented as a good thing! I like the messages presented in Wreck-It Ralph just as much as I enjoy its entertainment value.

felix gaga

Finally, I can’t mention this film without a quick nod to the animation and artistry. The characters, the environments, the colors, and everything else are just top notch in the worlds of Wreck-It Ralph.

Wreck-It Ralph may not have won the Oscar, but it definitely deserves a medal for its entertainment, creativity, and charm. It’s another great film this decade from Walt Disney Animation.

Vanellope mouth closed

she is cool

She’s cool.

green vs. glitch

Hulk Smash the glitch!

There are some fantastically animated worlds in Wreck-It Ralph.

There are some fantastically animated worlds in Wreck-It Ralph.

guns blazin in strawberry twizzler fields forever

“Strawberry Twizzlers Forever!”

fix it felix

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Week 14: Peter Pan

Childish Awe on Full Display

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Originally Released: 1953

I suspect Walt Disney really connected with the idea of never growing up, which is a big part of the magic of Peter Pan. As an adult, Walt’s career revolved around the idea of reaching back to childhood, as evidenced in the animated films and Disneyland. And who can blame him. A child is free to imagine up adventures such as pirate battles, flying, swimming with mermaids, and just about anything else. And Peter Pan encapsulates this feeling perfectly.

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Peter Pan was in the works for many years before it was finally released in 1953. As a child, Walt was able to see the original play by J.M. Barrie which began its run in 1904. It had a lasting impact on him, and when he began work on feature-length films in the 1930’s, his plan was for Peter Pan to be his second film, after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. However, this did not happen, in part because Walt felt that the skills and animation techniques of the artists had not advanced enough at the time, and needed more refinement and improvement in order to successfully achieve Walt’s vision for the film. Thus the production was shelved for a time, like many of his other early films.

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Production picked up again in the late 1940’s, and this time Walt Disney and his “Nine Old Men,” were able to achieve Walt’s vision and create some fantastic work in terms of animation. In fact, not only was the team able to capture the great spirit of the play, but they also were able to do more, because in animation you can create and do things that simply aren’t possible on stage or in live-action. It ended up being a perfect medium for a story about childhood adventure and wonder.

A sampling of the things I noticed and enjoyed as I watched this time include many of Wendy’s expressions of awe, happiness, and disapproval, Tinkerbell’s sassy attitude, and Captain Hook playing the piano. The flying scenes work remarkably well, too. Then there’s the silly old crocodile. He doesn’t speak at all, but he is a scene-stealer whenever he’s present, with his dog-like mannerisms, good use of “mickey mousing,” and his taunting of Captain Hook.

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Not only does the film work well from an animation standpoint, but it just works as a story and a film. The plot moves along at a nice pace, we learn a lot about the main characters and their strengths and weaknesses, and there is plenty of action, drama, and comedy. To tell the truth, I probably enjoy it more as an adult than I did as a child. It is great entertainment.

Something I found interesting is that a few things carried over from Alice in Wonderland and made their way into Peter Pan. For example, the voices for Wendy (Kathryn Beaumont), Smee (Bill Thompson), and Mrs. Darling (Heather Angel) were the same actors voicing Alice, the White Rabbit, and Alice’s older sister. Another interesting piece of trivia is that the opening song “The Second Star to the Right” was originally written as “Beyond the Laughing Sky,” in which Alice was supposed to sing at the beginning in the meadow before she sees the white rabbit. However, the song was dropped because they felt it was shaping up to be too similar to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Later, though, the composer used the nice melody for the song and rewrote the lyrics to work in Peter Pan.

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This leads me to the last thing I greatly enjoyed about this film: the music. Both the songs and the score are highly entertaining and very memorable. Heck, even a song that didn’t make it into the final cut somehow became a success. I already mentioned the sweet melody of “The Second Star to the Right,” but there is also “Following the Leader,” “A Pirate’s Life,” and more. The music and score really add to the overall feel of the movie.

The animation, plot, and music all combine to make Peter Pan stand out as yet another standout piece of Disney magic. It is a great reminder for us to not completely forget the inner child in us all.

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