When I did get into the gaming scene, I wasted no time wasting my time on retro arcade classics such as Donkey Kong and Pacman. My first home console was a GameCube, so I also spent my apprenticeship on the more traditional side of gaming with Zelda and Metroid.
Taking all this into account, try to imagine my excitement when I saw the trailer for Wreck-It Ralph, featuring bad guys from a wide range of gaming universes. From a generic zombie to Clyde (one of the four Pacman ghosts), right up to Sonic's Dr. Eggman and the big fire breather himself, Bowser (err, from Mario), they are all there. My inner child screamed out with glee.
The fact that this was to be the 52nd animated classic only aided my advertising of the film to my Disneyphile girlfriend, and it comes as no surprise that we booked into the see the 3D version the day after release.
Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly - one of very few high profile actors to feature in a Disney animated classic) is the demolition man often foiled by in-game nemesis Fix-It Felix. He also finds himself being left out of certain social events, leading Ralph to think that no-one appreciates the role he has. Ralph hops into other games in Litwak's arcade in an attempt to win a presitigious medal which he thinks will earn him more respect. As Ralph inadvertently starts to cause havoc, he loses his medal to a glitching racer called Vanellope von Schweetz who has her own use for it.
|Ralph wondering who designed such irregular fire escapes|
Where Wreck-It Ralph differs though is that it captures two completely different audiences. The bright animation and child friendly dialogue appeals to the younger viewer and family markets (of which, unsurprisingly, there were many in the cinema - even at the 8pm showing), but there are also a huge variety of nods to gaming from the 1980's right up to modern day.
There is the obvious Halo-esque shoot-em-up that Ralph finds himself in when seeking his medal, but even more impressively there is a massive array of characters, many of which even I'm unfamiliar with. On the more subtle side, there are also a number of events - I recognised the Metal Gear alert along with a pleasant nod towards an old cheat code I've used many times. Even the Disney studio got in the act with an amusing 8-bit start screen.
Wreck-It Ralph isn't as refined as other Disney films though and the minor characters felt a little rough around the edges. Vanellope starts to irritate on occasion - although this could be because I kept forgetting that I'm not the primary audience. This apparent lack of development could also, in part, be put down to Disney falling foul of its own high standards of character rich stories (The Lion King and The Jungle Book to name but two). In that respect, Wreck-It Ralph falls a little short of its contemporaries.
As I was growing up I learnt that there was a whole range of truly terrible, lazy games based on films, and as I reached my teens I learnt that this was the same case in the film industry. Where Wreck-It Ralph does succeed is that it proves that the two industries can be married together (in film, at least).
Perhaps it just takes a little 8-bit effort and a lot of Disney magic to prove it.