Wrecking Royalty: How Every Disney Princess Assembled for the 'Ralph' Sequel
“I wrote the scene and I read it and then I had a panic attack,” laughs screenwriter Pamela Ribon, who cowrote “Ralph Breaks the Internet” with Phil Johnston. “I’m either going to be fired or this might be a big deal.”
The sequel to 2012’s “Wreck-It Ralph” doesn’t hit the big screen until November 21st, but the scene she’s talking about is already a fan favorite. In it, Sarah Silverman‘s Vanellope meets every animated Disney princess when she visits OhMyDisney.com inside the world wide web.
“I brought it in and Rich [Moore] read it,” Ribon continues. “The first thing he said was, ‘Do you think we can get away with this?’ Then he said, ‘I think we should just board it and see what happens.'”
As it turns out, the first scene that Ribon wrote is almost exactly what ended up making the final cut.
“[Vanellope] is a princess,” says Ribon. “She is also a President, as she has clearly stated. I believe that a woman can have more than one title. I felt like, ‘Of all the princesses, I’m the one in the hoodie. I love my comfy clothes.’ So I had this idea in the back of my head. When we were working on this movie and all got together after ‘Zootopia’ in 2016, we knew we wanted to do something meta. There are all these different parts to the internet and we wanted to have a scene where Disney could poke a little bit of fun at itself.”
Ribon turned to her friend, Elise Aliberti, who Ribon had met when she first started working with Disney.
“When I met her, she said, ‘Oh, you’re working on ‘Moana’? Could you maybe never let her have a love interest? Can her mother live? Is that possible?!'” Ribon laughs. “I was like, ‘You’re my new best friend!'”
A key angle in making the scene fit the story was to look at Vanellope as an unconventional Disney princess and to let the royal assembly react to her as such.
“I assumed that if [Vanellope] met the Princesses, their first question to her would be, ‘What kind of princess are you?'” says Ribon who, oddly enough, literally became one of the Princesses. Everyone working on the film grew so fond of Ribon’s scratch recording that she wound up voicing Disney’s first animated heroine.
“People got attached to my Snow White,” she smiles, “so I am actually Snow White in the final film.”
Of course, an awful lot has to happen between the inception of the scene and the final cut.
“Our big challenge was designing the princesses so that they all look like they come from the same world,” explains Charter Art Director Ami Thompson. “Tiana, Snow White and Ariel, for instance, were all drawn in 2D and we had to convert them into CG. We realized that, even then, they are all drawn really differently. Some are realistic and some are cartoony. We ultimately decided to design OhMyDisney website versions of the princesses.”
“While these ladies are being built in CG, we really need to figure out how they’re going to move,” adds Co-Head of Animation Kira Lehtomaki. “As Pam and Ami alluded to, there’s so many different people involved in the process — hundreds and hundreds — that we actually had a ‘Princess-Palooza’ lab where we all got together to help build these princesses. We had modelers, riggers and simulation artists with Ami guiding the design, sculpting and hair choices.”
Naturally, the best way to learn about how Disney princesses act is to ask them and, as fantastic it may sound, Disney had two very easy methods at its disposal for speaking directly with fictional characters.
“If we’re going to figure out who these ladies are and what makes them special, we have to go to the source,” Lehtomaki continues. “We took the tough journey down to the happiest place on Earth and spoke to these ladies in person. We asked them the tough questions and really studied their gestures. Mulan, especially, was very instructive.”
Not only does Disney have easy access to the fictional princesses by way of theme parks, they also have the original voice talents. In “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” every surviving actress returns to voice her respective character.
“It was amazing that they came back to voice their characters again,” says Lehtomaki. “Most of them have lived with these characters for the majority of their careers. They know them inside and out and bring so much of who they are to these characters. Paige O’Hara and Jodie Benson, who played Belle and Ariel, have actually known each other for years because they’ve been doing the Disney thing for so long. They have really great insight about how the princesses would relate to each other, even though we haven’t actually seen them together before.”
Audiences don’t have long to wait before they can see the Disney Princesses in action on the big screen. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is set to hit theaters everywhere November 21st.
Looking for more “Ralph Breaks the Internet?” be sure to check out these other behind the scenes looks and check back next week for a conversation with directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston!