Zach Parrish, Supervising Animator on Wreck-It Ralph, admits that his job on this film was something he was born to do. As a lifelong video game fan and an individual obsessed with Disney animation, his work on a film with a video game villain named Ralph (John C. Reilly) as its main character... is clearly a match made in heaven.
“It was something that I always had an interest in. I’ve always had an interest in animation, specifically Disney animation. And, I was a video game nut,” Parrish said in our exclusive interview.
When asked what his ten-year-old self would think of what he has been doing for the last 18 months on Wreck-It Ralph, he wavers. “The logical ten-year-old me would say that makes sense,” he said and laughed. “The other half of me would say, ‘Get out of town.’”
Movie Fanatic is in Burbank at Walt Disney Animation Studios and we’ve been shown almost 25 minutes of the upcoming animated film that explores what would happen to an 8-bit video game villain, who after thirty years wondered if there was more to life.
As shown in the recently debuted Wreck-It Ralph trailer, the adventure takes him out of his Fix-It Felix, Jr. game where he is the bad guy and shows his journey to become the hero. He ventures into two very different worlds at the arcade where he’s existed for decades: Hero’s Duty, a first-person shooter war game, and a Mario Cart meets Candy Land game called Sugar Rush.
Parrish admitted that having three such varied animation styles was a welcome challenge for the animation supervisor. “I liked that it kept me on my toes. I had to develop different bags of tricks,” he said. “To be able to be so versatile and keep yourself fresh is great in my line of work.”
The Disney animation department spent tens of thousands of hours (and are still at it!) trying to nail down the intricacies of the different video game worlds and making them feel cohesive, yet still 100-percent different from one another.
“There are a lot of rules we had to break from our traditional sense in order to make this film. There was some dipping into really old school Disney and pulling in a lot of different references,” Parrish said.
“It was difficult to flip your mind constantly from shot to shot. It was very specific on this, whereas other films have one style for the whole film.”
When asked which of the three worlds was the most enjoyable to work on, Parrish said it feels like choosing a favorite child.
“I worked a lot on King Candy, I was the lead on that character in the Sugar Rush game, which is super fun because he’s a really broad character and comes from a lot of different angles. He has a lot of that old school 2D mentality to his design and animation,” Parrish said.
But, if he had to choose one aspect of the Wreck-It Ralph world, it wasn’t a locale so much as a relationship.
“I really enjoyed the emotional stuff between Ralph and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman, whom Ralph meets in Sugar Rush) because of how much heart and strength it had to it -- and how pivotal it was to the show. This movie has a lot of comedy, but for me it’s that emotional core that carries it.”
Working on the same scenes over and over could be tiresome, but hearing his lead actors perform their parts was a continual joy and inspiration.
“It’s relieving in that the actors do so much of the work for you in a sense. You know exactly how to draw them by their performance,” Parrish said.
In the scenes we saw, Silverman blew us away with her uncanny range. “Watching her as an actress is such a joy. It was amazing -- the variety that she has, from ridiculous comedy to that deep sentimental area to really sweet moments. She’s all over the place and never misses. All of the voices in Wreck-It Ralph have just nailed it. You get invigorated every time you do a scene with that kind of casting.”
While touring the Disney Animation Studio offices, one thing struck Movie Fanatic: A framed poster with the multitude of incarnations that the character drawing of Ralph went through (photo below).
“Because of the many different directions this story could go, the ever-evolving story, we went through a lot of designs. Ralph had more of an opportunity to change completely in form and shape and color because he could be anything. We’re creating an original character from an original game,” Parrish said.
“Whereas Rapunzel, she’s going to be a girl, she’s going to have long, blond hair, Ralph could be absolutely anything. It was an organic path and once they started getting close… you just felt it.”
Above all else, Parrish and his team are tickled pink at finally being able to show off part of their labor of love to Movie Fanatic. “It’s even more rewarding when it is something we’re so proud of as well,” he said. “It’s awesome to have other people sharing the excitement that I’ve had for such a long time.”
Look for Wreck-It Ralph when it lands in theaters in November and more from Movie Fanatic and our trip to Disney Animation coming soon.