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Wreck-It Ralph

Year: 2012
Studio: Disney
Director: Rich Moore
Writer: Rich Moore/Phil Johnson/Jim Reardon/Jennifer Lee
Cast: John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer, Alan Tudyk, Mindy Kaling, Ed O'Neill, Dennis Haysbert, Edie McClurg

The kind of movie I should be completely disinterested in, there for a few chuckles but rolling my eyes at the iron-clad three act structure, hoary moral of the story and all the usual Dreamworks Animation-style trappings.

But I loved it, and I'm not so sure it was just because I was a child of the classic gaming era. The premise was inventive, the world-building amazing, the gags top notch and the visuals infused with care by writers, directors and effects people who love retro gaming.

Wreck It Ralph is the bastard love child of Donkey Kong and Rampage, where the huge, orange haired Ralph (Reilly) has to wreck an apartment building while hero Fix It Felix (McBrayer) fixes everything. At night Ralph goes home to the junk pile of smashed bricks nearby, and after 30 years of it, he's had enough.

He tells his support group he's tired of being a bad guy. All he wants is a friend, maybe a medal like Felix gets every night. When Ralph learns that he can get one in another game, Hero's Duty, he goes rogue, blagging his way into the violent first person shooter that's very different from his 2D, 8-bit home.

But as Ralph gets his medal, he unwittingly unleashes a threat to the whole arcade when he treads on and hatches an alien bug egg. He escapes in a flying pod but crash lands in a Mario Kart-style game called Sugar Rush made of fairy floss and candy.

When misfit Vanellope (Silverman) gets hold of his medal and uses it as a coin to enter the race she's been ostracised from for so long, it sets up the second act plot fulcrum. Vanellope needs to win the race, and Ralph has to help her to get his medal back and enjoy his newfound prestige.

Cue Ralph making friends with the precocious little girl, realising what's really important, yada, yada (made most obvious by the crude but loving fake medal Vanellope makes him for helping build her racing car), given a new challenge by the corrupt king of Candyland (Tudky) who has ulterior motives in keeping Vanellope out of Sugar Rush races.

It sets up the usual molasses, but the trappings, design and environments in the game can't help but suck you in and make you love it. The game references comprise everything from major story points to throwaway gags (Felix speaking Q-Bert), and the whole thing is a delight. It's a love letter to a distinctive era so it has a lot of appeal for adults – as many of these modern cartoons do – for a whole other reason.

One thing I really wanted to find out was what legal team got all these characters together. On the Who Framed Roger Rabbit DVD Robert Zemeckis and his team talk about the final scenes where all the Toontown characters come into the warehouse, saying it was such a legal nightmare to figure out how to get that many characters from competing studios together (Warner Brothers and Disney) audiences would probably never see it again.

Did the same wrangling go on for months between Namco, Bally Midway, Activision and the rest?

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