Walt Disney Animation Studios used the Wall Street Journal’s technology conference to talk about how animators portrayed the internet in the film Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 and build some Silicon Valley buzz for its Nov. 21 opening.
Producer Clark Spencer said the internet provided an intriguing environment for the film’s two central characters, Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), to explore, as they search for a replacement part for Vanellope’s broken arcade game, Sugar Rush.
“The internet has two sides to it. It has this incredibly powerful side that connects people,” Spencer said. “It also has that dark side that preys on people’s insecurities. It was that duality that appealed to us.”
The film represents the internet as a vertical place, where websites are stacked one on top of the other. Defunct sites, like GeoCities and Napster, inhabit a subterranean “oldernet.” Below that lurks the darknet, a nefarious place populated with credit card numbers and mothers’ maiden names and inhabited by tricksters.
The modern internet is a shinier, bustling place occupying the surface.
Artists drew design inspiration from a visit to the data center at One Wilshire Blvd, a building that houses internet connections for the entire West Coast, with tens of thousands of computer servers and miles of cabling connecting the region with the Asia-Pacific.
“It inspired the development team to think of the internet as a city,” Spencer said. “The various sidewalks are connection points.”
The film finds playful ways to represent familiar internet services like Ebay, which is depicted as a cavernous, neon-lit auction house with gavel-wielding auctioneers driving up the bidding as the time runs down.
BuzzFeed and YouTube appear as a conglomeration, BuzzzTube, a social media platform that distributes viral videos — and dishes out some pretty harsh comments.
“On the internet, do not read the comments,” Gal Gadot’s character Shank advises Ralph in one scene. “I should have told you that. This place can bring out the worst in people.”