A Different Game From A Different Time
Not only does Wreck-It Ralph pay tribute to video games by implementing classic characters, it also does a great job illustrating just how much the medium has evolved over the last 30 years. While the titular character was born in the world of 8-bit games, over the course of the movie he also ends up in “Sugar Land” – a Mario Kart-type game from the 90s that features a world made out of sweets and deserts – and “Hero’s Duty” – a Halo-type shoot-em-up where the user has to fight off an invasion of deadly space bugs. Because the aesthetics of each game are so different, obviously that has a major effect on the animation and look of the movie.
“Since this is sort of our throwback to the ‘80s, we’re looking at really simple shapes, geometric shapes and repeating patterns,” said Cesar Velazquez, an effects animator for Disney, when discussing Ralph’s home, the game “Fix-It Felix Jr.” “’Sugar Rush’, is more cartoony, with cartoon physics, and very charming effects. Hero’s Duty [has more] sort of state-of-the-art, realistic effects.”
While the film doesn’t keep its 8-bit characters in 8-bit for the entire movie, instead being realized as more fully-formed CG figures, it was a challenge for the effects teams to maintain their movement and look. The residents of “Fix It Felix Jr.” turn at hard 90 degree angles and they hop up stairs instead of stepping.
“We kinda knew what these characters looked like as far as game play,” said Renato Dos Anjos, an animation supervisor on the film. “Like a 1980s video game, 8-bit video game, from the era. But with that they're really based on this really simplistic kind of style of animation where it's just a couple poses to represent an idea. And bringing that into the worlds, you know, we see one of the characters to evolve and to act properly. [It] took a lot of studying, trial and error - some things worked, some things didn’t. And the process of scoping that style was somewhat difficult. Everything, and every character starts with flow of design, you know, with hand-drawn design. And we have to kind of interpret that inside a CG world.”
“Hero’s Duty,” on the other hand, presented a completely different kind of challenge, because rather than trying to keep things simple the idea was to make everything as realistic as possible, matching the incredible effects that can be found in the most recent generation of console games. Accented with plenty of triangles, which we were told were visually representational for “violence, and action, and tension,” the area’s color palette also works to make acid green a trigger color so that the audience knows to feel the tense about the events in the movie.
Conversely, “Sugar Land” is filled with plenty of soft pastels, light reads and circles. “Everywhere you look cute, cute, cute, whatever we can do to get cute out of the movie,” said Mike Gabriel, a member of the team’s visual development team.