While Ralph Breaks the Internet features the return of many characters from Wreck-It Ralph, the change in location required a new cast of fresh faces. And since this cast of fresh faces represents the citizenry of the world wide web, the filmmakers at Disney Animation went right to the source to design these people and the world they inhabit.
Here’s how the new characters in Ralph Breaks the Internet came to be, and how they interact with a world comprised of so many familiar (and a few newly invented) brands and companies.
The Characters of the Internet
The internet world in Ralph Breaks the Internet is comprised mostly of two types of people:
Net Users: Virtual avatars of internet users like you and me who are exploring the web from a computer or phone. They all have the same height and rounded blockheads, inspired by the icons on an iPhone. They move in a way inspired by how someone moves their mouse from left to right, going from one spot to another in a smooth movement. Their facial expressions are elementary, almost like emojis. The users are not sentient, but being controlled offline in the real world.
Netizens: Full-time citizens of the internet that make it all happen – they are visualized versions of how everything happens when you type in a search on Google to bid on eBay. Netizens are colored, round or lengthy to distinguish themselves.
This character is voiced by Taraji P. Henson and is a computer algorithm that heads a popular trend site called BuzzTube, which is essentially what you’d get if BuzzFeed and YouTube had a baby. Yesss can keep up with the latest trends in real-time, transforming her looks, fashion, and hair to the trend of the moment. Yesss tells our heroes they could make money by creating viral videos, kicking off the larger plot of the movie.
Yesss is one of the most advanced netizens on the internet. In the initial designs, Yesss looked like a slightly older sister to Vanellope. She was aged up, but they kept the idea that she’s very current to the hot trends. She’s not a real person, she’s an algorithm, so instead of having a fur coat, she has a fiber optic coat that changes colors. Disney animators modeled a lot of the motion of her jacket by referencing Cruella DeVille. There are numerous other details to note. For example, Her earrings are not attached to her head – they are floating holograms under her ears.
BuzzTube is a trend site which is described as a combination of YouTube and Buzzfeed. The building is structured like a volcano, and the more likes its content gets, the higher it grows. Inside the BuzzTube building, we see tons of videos playing on the walls and ceilings. The animation department was given a bunch of baby models and cat models and told to create something that would look like a video on the internet to create these videos.
Buzzaholic was an early name for the BuzzTube website, which can be spotted in the early concept art.
Knowsmore is a search engine, but a lot older. Think something more like Ask Jeeves than Google. After admiring the epic amazingness of the internet city, Ralph and Vanellope approach the “Search Bar” to try to find eBay. Behind the bar is a purple oval-shaped man wearing a graduation hat. As Ralph begins to speak, Knowsmore begins trying to auto-fill the rest of what he’s going to say. It’s a hilarious bit.
Moore and Johnston played around with the idea that he looked like a light bulb, or he was a lot smaller and appeared on your shoulder, but they went in a different direction. They decided to start with the logo of Knowsmore that features the character. They hand drew the animation of his eyes in his glasses. The hand-drawn animation takes place on the computer animation in the same kind of way that Maui’s tattoos were animated in Moana. Alan Tudyk voices Knowsmore, and they videotaped his performance during voice capture and used his movements as inspiration for the character.
Fun Easter Eggs and References
There are countless little Easter eggs in the wide shots of the city. Vandals in the city can be seen hashtagging graffiti on a wall. Someone is cleaning up a data leak. The clock on one building is the loading wheel that you get while you’re waiting for something to load on your computer – this is explained as the time that is spent traveling between websites is the time that is spent loading on your computer.
The city has email boxes and junk mailboxes. The speed limit signs are valued in megabytes per second. The street signs are in several languages because the internet is international. The traffic lights look like the minimize/maximize buttons on top of a window in Mac OS. The internet is always growing, so some buildings are under construction, which looks like a 3D printer is busy creating a new website.
The Websites and Internet Brands
The internet world in this movie is filled with tons of tech brands we know and recognize, but that wasn’t always the case. When Disney first started developing the sequel, they planned to have parodies of internet brands in the world, which is why you see internet logo parodies in the first concept art that was released for the film. But the further they got into development, they realized that the internet should be populated with all the companies we know and how the virtual world looked and worked would be the fun of it all. The producers claim that they were able to use any brand name without permission of the companies, so there was no licensing involved in most of the logos you see on screen.
The buildings of the internet world each represent the websites and services that make up the internet. But because this is a virtual world, the interior space inside these buildings isn’t limited to the exterior space of the structures. The inside of the buildings is their own virtual world inside the computer system.
Not only will you see logos of brands you recognize, but the filmmakers populated the internet with brands from around the world so that the internet would feel international in scope, just like the real world wide web.
Real World Websites
The real world websites featured in the movie include:
- eBay, which is a big cavernous building filled with hundreds of thousands of auction booths, arranged by aisle.
- Amazon’s building, which looks like its made out of boxes.
- Twitter is a bunch of trees with blue birds flying to and from its branches.
- Snapchat is a yellow haze of videos going up and disappearing into nothingness.
- Google is a gigantic building towering over everyone.
- OhMyDisney.com looks like a futuristic version of the iconic Disney castle, surrounded by a bunch of small motel sites, echoing Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Inside the world is split into the different brands: Star Wars, Marvel, Disney Animation, and Pixar.
To get the voice of the eBay auctioneers right, the production employed the help of Brian Curless, the reigning U.S. champion auctioneer. He had never been anywhere west of Colorado, but he flew to Walt Disney Animation Studios to answer questions from animators and provide the voice of the auctioneers in the eBay sequence.
Ralph Breaks the Internet storyboard artist Laura McMullen had never used eBay, and to do research for the film, she decided to bid on an item. She ended winning an auction for a black velvet painting of a cat, and the crew thought it was so funny that they put a parody of the painting in the movie’s eBay sequence.
- Director Phil Johnston, who does a great imitation of John C. Reilly, recorded the scratch voice for Ralph, and director Rich Moore and screenwriter Pamela Ribon did scratch for Fix-It Felix and Vanellope.
- Ralph Breaks The Internet will be the 57th animated feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios.
- The movie Wreck-It Ralph doesn’t exist as a Disney movie inside the world of this film, so don’t expect to see any references to the first film in the Disney internet fan zone Oh My Disney section of the movie.
- Fix-It Felix and Calhoun have a role in the film. When the Sugar Rush arcade game breaks, all the candy racers need a place to stay and Felix and Calhoun take them in and become their parental figures.
- Princess Leia wasn’t included in the princess scene because she’s not part of the company-canonized Disney princesses label (which is a real mistake if you ask me).
- The Disney-owned comic book company Marvel makes an appearance in the Oh My Disney world, and we do also see some cosplaying Net Users.
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