Ralph Breaks the Internet, from the Inside

Vanellope von Schweetz and the Disney princesses.

Among the many qualities of the Wreck It Ralph sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet, the attention to detail is at the top, alongside an age-appropriate message against co-dependence. The film places the leads –the titular Ralph and Sugar Rush’s champion Vanellope von Schweetz– in the world wide web. The hectic vastness of the internet is impressively represented, both the seemingly infinite number of offerings and corresponding visitors.

For a year and a half, animator Benson Shum worked mostly on the Ralph character (allowing him to ‘act’ and ‘emote’), but also participated on the rest: “Even if it’s a background character, you want to animate it as well as the front ones.” Vanellope presents additional challenges, as she glitches and pops up at a different side of the screen within a second: “We have to anticipate her movements. There is a lot of thought into how we get her from this side of the screen to that side. We have a tool that makes glitch lines, pixilation in between.”

Benson Shum. (Photo by Alex Kang)

A graduate from Capilano University in Vancouver, Shum has been involved in a number of Disney Animation productions, including the first Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia and Moana. According to Benson, the animators are encouraged to give their two cents: “We would animate a first look, sit down with the director and the supervisor and analyze if it’s going in the right direction. There is a shot of Knowsmore –a search engine– who whenever he gets scared jumps and bounces. I really wanted to push it and make it more cartoony and the directors went with it.”

Shum also worked on the most-buzzed about scene of Ralph Breaks the Internet, when Vanellope meets the Disney princesses: “The head character designer made them look like they would fit into the world of the Ralph movies. The 2-D animated films (the princesses come from) have different styles, so they were all redesigned.”

In addition to his work as animator, Shum also illustrates children’s books, “Go to Sheep”, “Hide ‘n’ Sheep” and “Holly’s Day at the Pool”, the latter one showcased by Disney. “The studio wants to encourage the artists to create their own stories and illustrations. I submitted my idea and representatives from the publishing house Hyperion and the leadership of the studio chose it. I’m very lucky.”

Ralph Breaks the Internet is now playing, everywhere.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.

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