Director Rich Moore and writer Phil Johnston were joined by John C. Reilly on Facebook Live this morning to announce Wreck-It Ralph 2, which will hit theaters March 9, 2018, nearly 6 years after the release of the original.
Hold on. Did we even know that they were working on this? Yes and no. Thanks to Reilly’s loose lips, it’s been an open secret for quite some time that Wreck-It Ralph 2 was in the works, but today is the first confirmation of its existence. In a separate interview with Collider, Moore (who directed and co-wrote the original and co-directed Zootopia) admitted that not only is there a script but they’ve actually already conducted a table read. At this point, everyone from the first film is expected back other than Alan Tudyk’s villainous King Candy. Moore will co-direct with Johnston, who co-wrote the first film as well as Zootopia.
However, in this the year of sequels (Ride Along 2, The Huntsman, London Has Fallen, Independence Day 2, etc.) no one asked for it’s fair to question whether we really need a Wreck-It Ralph 2. Are there more stories which need to be told with these characters? Didn’t Wreck-It Ralph pretty effectively wrap everything up in a nice little bow? Felix and Calhoun ended up together. Vanellope retook her rightful place as Princess and main character of her own game. Ralph came to term with his insecurities and station in life, and escaped oblivion by preventing the arcade from unplugging his game.
Where’s the Dory? Where’s the character with a tragic backstory which can be filled in and explored in a potentially superior sequel? Where’s the Jessie from Toy Story 2, or the day care of Toy Story 3? What’s the new angle you can take to turn this into an artistic versus commercial exercise (even though we know it’s always a bit of both)? How is that not just another Cars 2?
Moreover, now that we live in a world in which an actual mobile video game has become a surprise hit animated movie (The Angry Birds Movie) and another one is getting its own trilogy (Tetris, for some reason) does that make Wreck-It Ralph seem a bit passe? Or is the world now perfectly primed for a Wreck-It Ralph comeback? It will at least be better than our last movie full of old video game characters, but then again most things are better than Pixels.
Anyway, Moore will only say of Wreck-It Ralph 2‘s story that it will involve Ralph wrecking the internet as the characters all transition into a more modern take on gaming. That’s the obvious new direction to go since the first film dealt with a medium and setting (i.e., the arcade game) long past its relevancy. Will an expansion into online and presumably mobile gaming be new dramatic territory for these characters or simply a new setting and world for them (and the animators) to play in? And what will that mean for the video game universes they all inhabit if they are no longer tied to specific arcade machines?
Hey, give these guys some credit. They’re the same people who just made Zootopia. If they say they have a script for a Wreck-It Ralph 2, it’s probably pretty good, or at least it will be by the time it’s finished considering how many drafts it took them to get Zootopia right (e.g., early on, Nick was the main character, not Judy).
But what we are witnessing is the price of success. Pixar is currently a sequel-producing machine because it has a back catalog of original hits with franchise potential. This has sadly diluted the brand. While I personally think Finding Dory is superior to Finding Nemo, there are many more who think it’s a passable entertaining, but ultimately needless sequel, just like Monsters University. That is an argument which will likely repeat itself when Cars 3, Toy Story 4 and The Incredibles 2 arrive between now and 2019, by which point Pixar will have only released one non-sequel (2017’s Coco) since The Good Dinosaur.
Disney Animation Studios is the far younger studio. It’s only been around, at least as currently constructed, since 2007, and it didn’t really have its first big hit until Wreck-It Ralph in 2012. Subsequent films with obvious sequel potential have been converted into TV shows instead (Big Hero 6, Tangled, both set to debut next year), not dissimilar to the way Disney Animation used to funnel sequels straight to home video instead of interrupting its flow of new movies meant for theaters. So, oddly, as Pixar has seemingly descended into more traditional, risk-averse programming (post-Inside Out, of course) Disney Animation Studios has emerged as the new Pixar, with Zootopia being its crowning artistic achievement to this point.
Before this morning, Disney Animation’s future was Moana this November, a new take on Jack and the Beanstalk called Gigantic in 2018 and Frozen 2, at some point. One sequel you can understand, especially when it’s to the biggest animated film of our time. Two sequels, though, well that’s the true indication that Disney Animation might not be as opposed to sequels as we thought.
To hear Moore tell it, why the hell not go back in for more stories after your work so hard for so long to build up that universe, especially if the fans want more?
This came from two things: the fans, like you said, really enjoying the first film and then just from myself and the crew that worked on the first one, we had a really, really good time making the film. And we really fell in love with the characters, we fell in love with the world. And as soon as the film was finished, I said to my producer, Clark Spencer, like “man, if it were up to me, I would be jumping into another Wreck-It Ralph movie immediately.” Just because I love everything about the first film. Selfishly, it would be so much fun to work with all of those people again. And I had mentioned the same thing to Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, our leaders here at the studio and they said, “well, why not? Let’s do another one.” It’s the type of world that feels like there’s plenty to be explored beyond what we saw in the first movie. And the audience seems to really like it, I think it just seemed kind of like an easy decision to make.
They’ve been working on it for two and half years now, sandwiched around Zootopia. I am conflicted because this upsets the little narrative I’d built up in my head about Pixar being the new Disney and Disney Animation Studios being the new Pixar, but I really liked Wreck-It Ralph. There is so much more you can do with that universe if you open it up beyond the confines of an arcade, and I am excited to see what they come up with. Sequels aren’t inherently bad, not if the creatives involved find a good second story to tell and prevent the whole thing from turning into a glorified toy delivery-machine. Coming off of Zootopia, I trust these guys with another Wreck-It Ralph. What about you?