How Ralph Breaks The Internet gathered 13 Disney princesses in one scene
As glimpsed in the latest trailer, the Wreck-it Ralph sequel Ralph Breaks The Internet sees arcade hero Ralph (John C. Reilly) and pint-sized pal Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) travel to the world wide web and the official Disney website, where Vanellope encounters 13 of Disney’s princesses, from Snow White to Moana — the first time they’ve all appeared on the big screen together. The scene was “in the very first version of the film”, says producer Clark Spencer, originating from the observation that Vanellope, as heir to the throne of the Sugar Rush kingdom, is technically a Disney princess herself. In the first storyboard-based screening, “It played through the roof.”
As Disney own the copyright to all 13 princesses, using the characters didn’t require Who Framed Roger Rabbit-esque corporate negotiations. But the Mouse House’s top brass were still made aware of the scene, and Disney CEO Bob Iger attended an early screening. “We weren’t asking for permission,” explains Spencer. “If they didn’t enjoy that bit, there might have been a different conversation, but everyone’s been incredibly supportive.” More importantly, the filmmakers reached out to every living director involved with the princesses, seeking their blessing, and advice.
All of the surviving princess voice actors participated in the film. Recording required chess-like coordination, assembling 13 in-demand actors from around the world. Despite minimal dialogue, the directors were keen to be in the booth each time. “Mostly because it felt like we’re asking people to do something that’s a little crazy! If you read the pages by themselves, you might think, ‘I don’t know about this thing.’ But once you describe how it’s fitting within the overall story, they had fun with it.”
For many of the princesses, this is the first time they have appeared in CGI. The animators referred to the original movies for expressions and movements, and recruited veteran animator Mark Henn, who worked on five Disney princess films, to maintain a level of authenticity. A bigger challenge was staging: placing the ‘camera’ in a way that gives 14 different characters roughly equal footing. Spencer was only confident it worked when it debuted last year at D23, the convention for the Disney faithful. “That was the test,” he says. “To hear 8,000 people laugh like that was a moment I’ll never forget.”
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET IS IN CINEMAS FROM 26 DECEMBER
Producer Clark Spencer spoke to Empire in London on 3 July, after showing us some early footage from the film. Clockwise from left: Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) finds herself surrounded by a load of mistrustful Disney princesses; Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope hang out with living algorithm Yesss (Taraji P. Henson); Vanellope and Ralph enter the world wide web.