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Virtuoso Reality: How The Void brings 'Ralph Breaks the Internet' to life

This Wednesday, Ralph and Vanellope are heading inside the internet for their all new big screen adventure. Anyone will be able to catch up with them at theaters all over the country, but those who have access to a Void location are in for an extra special treat. Thanks to the new experience, “Ralph Breaks VR”, fans can go one step further and actually enter a digital world that looks, feels and even smells just like the real thing!

Anytime we make an experience, the first thing we ask ourselves is, ‘What would people want to do if they were to actually step into that world?’” explains Curtis Hickman, Chief Creative Officer and Founder of The Void.

Head inside the Internet with Ralph Breaks VR.In much the same way that Georges Méliès translated stage magic into cinematic spectacle as the medium dawned more than a century ago, Hickman is using his background as an illusionist to define a new frontier in entertainment. Players enter the experience wearing a special vest designed to simulate all sorts of physical interactions, from getting hit with an exploding milkshake to being electrocuted by a malfunctioning electronics panel. Not only does the VR helmet transform The Void arena, it actually transforms the players into animated Netizens. Fellow players have their movements mimicked right down to the shape of their mouths when they speak.

I worked very much on magic theory for over a decade,” Hickman continues. “I designed illusions for guys like David Copperfield and Criss Angel. From the very beginning, The Void was about asking, ‘How can we bring illusion design and technique to VR in a way that hasn’t been done before?’

“Ralph Wrecks VR,” developed in partnership with ILMxLAB and Walt Disney Animation Studios, marks the fourth release from The Void. In addition to to other licensed properties (“Ghostbusters: Dimension” and “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire”), the company recently launched an original horror experience, “Nicodemus: Demon of Evanishment,” set at the 1894 Chicago World’s Fair.

“It’s just this serendipity,” explains Hickman, who years ago envisioned the original “Wreck-It Ralph” as the perfect license for The Void’s special kind of magic. “It just fell into place. We were like, ‘We have to do this!'”

Head inside the Internet with Ralph Breaks VR.Although “Ralph Wrecks VR” borrows characters and designs from both “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” the narrative unfolds as something all its own. It features two completely original locations. The first, Dunderdome, has users work as a team to fight against “Space Invaders” inspired 8-Bit aliens. The second, Pancake Milkshake Diner, arms players with special pancake and milkshake rifles. If you’re really looking to stack up those bonus points, remember: The bunny gets the pancake, the kitty gets the milkshake.

At ILM, we try to make everything look real,” says Lead Experience Designer Jose Perez III. “Our dinosaurs have to look real. They can’t just look like cartoon characters. On this, there were a lot of questions about, ‘Is this going to feel right? Are they going to feel disconnected because it’s an animated world?’ But that reality winds up clicking a lot faster because you don’t question it.”

As impressive as the technology is right now, the potential is nigh unlimited. That’s why the talented men and women behind the scenes are constantly studying the different ways new players enter The Void.

“One thing we’re looking at right now are the walls,” says Jade Grimmius, Director of Global Partner Performance. “If it looks like you can lean against them, you should be able to lean against them. We have to be really careful about the indicators that we give guests. What we’re trying to do is make them believe that they are, in fact, in the internet and in this world. We’re saying. ‘Trust us. Trust this space.’ So we have to be very careful about how we use that trust.”

Of course, sometimes things happen that no one can predict.

Head inside the Internet with Ralph Breaks VR.“During the early testing, before we had gotten our first public experience, there was this kid,” smiles Hickman. “He was on the vista, standing on the edge of it. He was looking around and he goes up to the edge. It looks like a cliff face in this jungle. He jumps, head first, as if he was going to dive into the jungle! …He dove for it. Thankfully, we had someone right there to catch him before he got hurt, but that was definitely one of the craziest things I’ve seen. Someone who thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just swan dive off this cliff!'”

“There are all these little moments of surprise and delight where maybe we didn’t anticipate what people would do but,” adds Grimmius, “because they do and because the world is so believable, it’s so enjoyable to see.”

“Ralph Breaks VR” will open the same day as the film, Wednesday, November 21st, at seven locations. You can preorder tickets by clicking on any of the links below:

Disney Springs at Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, FL
Downtown Disney at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA
Glendale Galleria in Glendale, CA
The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian in Las Vegas, NV
Cinemark West Plano in Plano, TX 
The Rec Room in the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
The Rec Room in the Toronto Roundhouse in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

In the meantime, please check out the full trailer for the experience right here:


Silas Lesnick is the Senior Editor of Moviebill. He has been covering entertainment news out of Los Angeles for more than a decade. You can reach him via e-mail or on Twitter.