Ralph Breaks the Internet is the sequel to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph. In Ralph Breaks the Internet, video arcade game villain Ralph (John C. Reilly) and his fellow outcast Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) risk it all by traversing the World Wide Web in search of a replacement part needed to save Vanellope’s video game, ‘Sugar Rush’. Ralph and Vanelope quickly realise that the internet has them way over their heads, and must rely on the ‘netizens’ (the citizens of the net) to navigate their journey.
When it comes to animated films, most actors don’t actually get to work together. They record their lines separately, and might not even meet in real life. Part of the charm (and hilarity) of this film is thanks to the fact that the cast actually recorded together in one room (and were even allowed to improvise). “We did it together”, Silverman says. “We got to record together. We got to improvise, we collaborated a lot and the script itself was fantastic. They always booked an extra hour because we’d get real chatty. There’s definitely a very R-rated comedy album somewhere in the audio recording footage [laughs]”.
“I think that’s what sets these movies apart”, Reilly agrees. “That feeling of heart and real emotion. Because as we were talking, we were actually looking into each other’s eyes. I’ve done other animated work where I didn’t meet the other actor – ever. I’m sure there are practical people saying, ‘it doesn’t matter, it’s just a voice’, but to me, it does matter, and I think it really comes across on film. The fact that we were in one room gives the film a soul that it might not have had otherwise.”
Reilly and Silverman had a great time working on the first film, and they relished the opportunity to have so much fun a second time around. “It was a real treat to get into the studio with Sarah again”, Reilly says. “In a way, our friendship has aged 5 years since the last film, just like Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship. It was a real treat to start in a place of intimacy with Sarah. We knew each other and learnt how to work together on the first film, so when it came time to start the second film, we could start from a very advanced place in terms of the relationships, and you can really see that in the film. I think I was one of the first people to insist that we try to be in the room together as much as possible. Because I know the way that improv works – it’s best in real time. There’s a tonne of improvised stuff; that’s one of the great joys of doing audio work, as there is no pressure of the sun going down.”
Although the film is hilarious and full of great improvised lines, it also tackles important themes that children are sure to relate to now and as they grow older. In Reilly’s eyes, the film is symbolic of growing up and making the transition from the comforts of childhood to the big bad adult world. “We play with lots of metaphors in the film, and the idea that the arcade is like the childhood arena of their friendship, and then the internet represents this larger world beyond that as they grow and mature. Ralph really worked hard to get a friend in the first film, and he was kind of like ‘ok – got it, rest of life solved’. And then Vanellope starts to grow and mature and wants to feel like she belongs somewhere, and it’s not her candy game. I think a lot of kids and adults are finding a lot of stuff in the film that they can relate to, in terms of how relationships evolve.”
Reilly, who has two kids, also hopes that the film encourages kids to be true to who they are.
“You know how when you do something that is unhealthy, and it makes you unhappy, but you do it in a mindless way and get caught in those patterns? Or when you chase after something, like the hearts in this movie, without really thinking about why you’re doing it? I hope that after seeing this movie, kids might walk away with an ‘aha’ moment, and question what they do, why they do it, and whether it’s really what they want. Once they’ve thought about it, they might choose to do things differently.”
As a father, Reilly’s top priority is acknowledging the independence and individuality of his children. “You can only really know through your personal experience with the child. The most important thing for me is seeing who the child is as opposed to who you want them to be, or who you think they will become. If you have more than one kid, it’s different for each one. So, basically, recognising the humanity of that person, and accepting their distinct identity which is separate from you.”
The film is also about overcoming insecurities, which both Silverman and Reilly (and, well, every human) can relate to. “My insecurities change,” Silverman says. “Currently I’m grappling with being the age I am. I have never been this age. It’s the oldest I have ever been, but I think to myself it’s also the youngest I will ever be. I have conversations with myself where I’ll go ‘look at the cellulite on your thighs…’ And then I’ll go, ‘You know what? I’m strong and my body works, I love these thighs, they help me walk and move’.”
“I have worked really hard not to let my insecurities slow me down,” says Reilly. “I think that’s one of the important things that every person in their life has to do; learn not to judge yourself and be kind to yourself inside of your own thoughts. But I think I am definitely insecure. I think it’s partly because my mum always used to say to me – literally every time I’d leave the house – ‘don’t wear out your welcome’. I spent most of my days worrying that I was bothering people, and going from house to house.”
Despite the insecurities that came with childhood, part of Reilly wishes that we could go back to these pre-internet days. “I’m a pretty vintage human being [laughs]. Even though it is wonderful to have all of the choices that come with the internet, it was also wonderful to have an objective truth,” Reilly muses. “You know, it was like – this is what is going on in the world and this is what we are all dealing with. Instead of what it is now, which is all of these versions of what is going on in the world depending on what site you are on. I think the human race could use a unifying way of communicating again.”
Silverman also wonders whether the increasingly digital 21st century is heading in the right direction. “For kids these days, the internet is all they know. And I wonder whether that’s good or bad. It’s like anything really, in doses it’s great, but you can definitely have too much of it. I think there’s a lot of good with the internet. It’s brought the world a lot closer, it’s made it a lot smaller. And of course, there’s a lot of terrible things about it. A lot of misinformation, a lot of chaos and a lack of knowing what is true. But there’s also learning truths about the world and other people that I would never have known. Waking up to my own white privilege had a lot to do with the internet for what it’s worth. It’s a very complicated relationship that we all have with the internet, and we have to try to find a healthy balance.”
If the internet is good for one thing, Silverman says, it’s trying out jokes. “For a comedian, if you have a funny thought and you want to put it out there, it’s great to have an audience.”
So far, Silverman has lent her hilarious and unique voice to a range of animated film and TV characters (she has had parts in American Dad!, Bob’s Burgers, Futurama and The Simpsons, to name a few). One thing she hasn’t had the chance to do until this film, however, is record her own Disney princess song. “It was kind of a dream come true [laughs]. I couldn’t believe that I was getting my own song. The music was written by Alan Menken, and I got to meet him and rehearse with him. He wrote Little Shop of Horrors, my favourite musical, and he also wrote so many iconic Disney songs. I got to record with a whole orchestra like they did in old-timey musicals. It was so much fun.”
Silverman is also really glad that the concept of being a 21st-century princess is very different from how it was in original Disney films (in which princesses had one goal – to be saved by a handsome prince). “The good thing about being a Disney princess these days is that the times have grown and changed. Disney has taken on progress and inclusivity and has developed in really positive ways. And this movie really faces this idea head-on.”
“As a comic,” Silverman says, “we end up in diners late at night after shows. Who also ends up at diners late at night are young people coming out of dance clubs. And I would see young women in half-shirts and sky-high heels – and they’re freezing cold, they’re shivering and their feet hurt. I just wish I could tell them that they do not have to be uncomfortable to deserve love. Boys are not raised to think that they ever have to sacrifice comfort to be loved. It just always struck me… These girls don’t think that they can get love without this insane amount of physical discomfort. To acknowledge this in the film, and shatter these ideas, is really exciting. And so is the chance to play this kid who becomes a princess with an attainable waistline and comfortable clothes!”
Ralph Breaks the Internet will open nationwide on Boxing Day.