Disney's animation department has seen its share of ups and downs over the years with Pixar taking the spotlight away from what was once considered the gold standard and basically the only game in town. Now you also have Dreamworks and 20th Century Fox raising the level of competition to even greater heights to the point where Walt Disney Animation Studios has lost some of its former luster, but hopes to regain that former glory with an all new hero in Wreck-It Ralph.
Who Is Wreck-it Ralph, you ask? He is, of course, the arch nemesis of Fix-It Felix who has been repairing his apartment building and defending it from Ralph for decades inside the Fix-it Felix videogame The two have gone at it for so long that Ralph has grown weary of always being the bad guy and feels like he's missing out on the friendship and admiration that Felix receives from the residents of the apartment building he is forever tasked with trying to destroy. Ralph is literally left out in the cold during a celebration that again favors Felix and leaves the pixelated anti-hero looking for a way to obtain glory and heroism for himself.
Against the advice of his fellow video arcade villains who routinely gather in a support group for bad guys who aren't bad people, Ralph decides to sneak into one of the arcade's other games to achieve the heroic act that he hopes will help him gain favor with the people back in his own quarter-eating console. What Ralph finds is a world filled with cutting edge graphics and fully realized characters the likes of which his 8-bit brain has never seen before. As he meets new friends, he also unwittingly sets off a chain of events that may lead to every game in the arcade being overrun by a swarm of mutating bugs and a classic villain once thought to be shut down forever.
After watching this movie, I was surprised at just how thoroughly entertaining it was as I honestly wasn't sure what to expect going in. Fortunately, director Rich Moore and a team of screenwriters kept the focus on quality characters to drive the story while utilizing the various video games to give them a world of adventures to explore. I could see this becoming a franchise as there are hints and glimpses of a whole slew of games that could be explored in future installments. Again, what is key here is how good the characters are and I was pretty impressed with both John C Reilly as Ralph and Sarah Silverman as the spunky Vanellope von Schweetz.
I am by no means saying that Felix and Ralph are the next Buzz and Woody, but this is just a fun movie with a lot of heart. One of the other characters I really enjoyed was the bad-ass lady super soldier Calhoun played by Jane Lynch with her high definition graphics and extremely advanced artificial intelligence which was a great counter to the other, more primitively designed characters from the Fix-It Felix game. In many scenes her highly trained and fine tuned military persona steals the show and makes you wonder what other adventures she could find herself in both in and out of her own Hero's Duty video game.
While the movie is both fun and charming, I'm not sure how memorable or long lasting it will be in the grand scheme of things. If Disney can find a way to market it properly (That is what they do, right?), then maybe this can become a franchise we will see more of, but I could see it just as easily fading into obscurity like a once popular videogame that no longer commands the attention of kids and their pockets full of quarters.