Ralph Breaks the Internet is just a few weeks away! There is so much thought that goes into making any one Disney animated movie, and this film was no different. The story beats, visual gags, and jokes that we see in the finished product are the result of countless conversations and lots of storyboards (keep reading for a breakdown of those numbers!)
We recently spoke with Head of Story Josie Trinidad and Story Artists Jason Hand and Natalie Nourigat at an event at Walt Disney Animation Studios, and gathered some insight into their processes in developing the story of Ralph and Vanellope’s next adventure. Here is what we learned:
The story team re-watched the first movie early in the process.
Said Nourigat: “That was a good reminder. We’ve already set up these two very defined characters that people like. Let’s not forget who they were. “
Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship was always at the forefront, but they will go through their fair share of challenges.
Nourigat expressed how developing the story was not always easy for her: “When you’ve got a sequel, you know who the characters are, and they should still act like themselves, but they have to change too, for there to be a new story … For me, that was already a very challenging concept.”
“We’ve talked a couple of times about this idea of this True North, which was the story of Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship,” said Hand. Sometimes, ideas were scrapped because they did not serve that ultimate focus.
“Without giving the ending away,” said Trinidad, “I think we were always [wondering], ‘OK, we’re gonna test Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship and see how it changes as they go from the … small town arcade to the big city of the Internet.’ I think we were always questioning, ‘How is this going to end? How will this change? Strengthen, ruin their friendship?’”
The performances by the film’s leads, John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman, provided inspiration as well. “Any time you hear a new line from Sarah Silverman or John C. Reilly, it’s like, that’s them. That’s who we’re drawing,“ said Nourigat.
The story is constantly being developed and re-worked throughout the entire process.
Trinidad praised her coworkers for being able to work collaboratively, calling it a “controlled chaotic process”:
“The team is great at collectively putting ideas together. And Rich [Moore] is wonderful at combing through the movie over and over again to make sure that as new elements are put in, that they start to track.”
As a result, the story team knows that they cannot get too attached to any one idea. Ultimately, the idea that’s best for the film wins. Trinidad added: “I love that it’s so collaborative because I get very distracted by all the great ideas. And I kind of want to be open to all of them.”
Conceptualizing the Oh My Disney scene was no walk in the park.
The team is made up of Disney fans who loved having the opportunity to work on this memorable scene.
“We tried 10 million versions of that [scene],” said Hand. “And it was really hard to figure out what it is. Who is she going to interact with? What was the best version of that? … That one took a long, long, long time.”
At one point in the movie, Ralph has to find a way to go viral.
“How to make viral content is a question everybody’s asking. It’s not a simple formula, as it turns out,” added Nourigat.
In order to break this story, the team watched countless online videos. According to Hand, they watched “everything that you could think of. We watched all of them. Like, seriously, all of them.” Sounds like fun, tbh!
Ultimately, it takes a lot of storyboards.
Nourigat broke down the development of the story by the numbers: “We had about fifteen story artists on our story team. We had about ten screenings, including an audience preview. 45 total sequences are in the film and … there were 153 total sequences boarded. So over a hundred sequences were thrown out of the movie. [There were] 7,883 total sequence versions: that’s every kind of iteration that each artist does that makes a change on these sequences. A whopping 283,839 storyboards drawn for Ralph Breaks the Internet. No big deal. Just another day in the life of a story artist.”
Now that is a big number! We loved chatting with the Ralph Breaks the Internet story team, and can’t wait to see their hard work come to life on November 21 when Ralph Breaks the Internet hits theatres.