Five things to know from Ralph Breaks the Internet animator Benson Shum
Growing up in East Vancouver, Benson Shum doodled incessantly in his school notebooks. After graduation, he pursued a career in animation working at almost all of the major Hollywood North studios.
From there, he went on to industry powerhouse Walt Disney Animation Studios where his first gig was working on Wreck-It Ralph. Now his work can be seen in the sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet.
Shum was in his hometown on a promotional tour to talk about the second instalment of the series involving video-game tough guy Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) and his best friend Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman) as they embark on an adventure into the vast expanses of the internet from their home in Litwak’s arcade attempting to save Vanellope’s game.
With a resume that includes Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, Moana and more, Shum is incredibly busy. That hasn’t stopped him from illustrating a children’s book titled Holly’s Day at the Pool, which was released in 2017 by Hyperion Books in the Walt Disney’s Animation Studios Showcase Series. If you happen to be at the San Diego Zoo on Dec. 22, he’ll be signing copies of the book at the Kidstore.
Previously, he worked on both Go to Sheep and Hide ’n’ Sheep series written by Jennifer Sattler and published by Simon & Schuster. Shum has a wide variety of illustrations showcased at bensonshum.com too.
Here are five things Shum had to say about the movie and the animation biz:
Arriving at Disney
“I really never expected that this would be where I would wind up, although I wanted to. Being Canadian, there are visa restrictions and I don’t have a degree, and education is one thing they always look for when considering issuing work permits. My many years of experience in the industry was what the company was able to use to hire me.”
“Disney had the idea of the characters going into the internet when they realized it hadn’t been done. I’m glad they did too, because there is something for everyone in this film in the same way it is with the ’net. We really had a lot of fun creating it because there were so many parts involved.”
The princess sequence
“I had the opportunity to animate Mulan, one of my favourite Disney princesses, which was great honour. Ming Na, who voices the character, came in and I got to sit in on her voicing the character and Mark Henn, a 2D animator in the studio who worked on the original Mulan, was our supervisor so that tie-in was a career highlight.”
3D versus 2D
“When you work in 3D, it can be intimidating because it’s so big. But you kind of approach it as you would a two dimensional drawing, thinking of how you would draw it on a flat surface at different viewing angles and then moving the camera around those to capture it all.”
“The next film I’m working on is Frozen 2. But Disney doesn’t do sequels unless the story is really strong coming into it. Ultimately, you come to a project to do the best possible work and that has to include the best possible storyline. It’s a very highly collaborative process working between the story department, animation department and all the others involved.”
Disney Princesses share a scene with Sarah Silverman-voiced Vanellope von Schweetz in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Filmmakers invited the original voice talent to return to the studio to help bring their characters to life.