The internet is an incredible invention that has revolutionized the entire world. It has altered just about everything we do in our lives, including work, socializing, shopping, and absorbing information -- and in many ways is a great thing. Of course, it has its darker sides as well, and in bringing it to life the new movie Ralph Breaks The Internet is not totally shying away from those issues. It won't cross certain lines, but according to co-director/writer Phil Johnston the animated blockbuster will touch on some serious subjects:
It's a tricky balance, as you know. To some extent, [co-director Rich Moore, producer Clark Spencer and I] were emboldened by the work on Zootopia knowing that audiences are okay and actually eager for a more sophisticated kind of approach in family films to tricky subject matter. Like in Zootopia it was racism, in this one we're dealing, to an extent, with, with online bullying and trolling, but more on an emotional level with Ralph just dealing with self-doubt and insecurity and all those things that I think both parents and kids can relate to.
There were always going to be limits on just how much of the online world could be depicted in Ralph Breaks The Internet (it is a Disney movie, after all), but that doesn't mean that the film will be avoiding the negatives entirely. Specifically, the subject of cyber bullying and the potential horrors of the comments section will be touched on in the animated sequel and showcase that there is a terrible side to the remarkable environment.
I got a special behind the scenes look at Ralph Breaks The Internet a few weeks ago when joining a group of journalists on a tour of Walt Disney Animation Studios, and it was through an coordinated series of presentations about the movie that I understood the full depths of what Phil Johnston meant. When you really think about it, Ralph (John C. Reilly) wasn't left in a super great place at the end of Wreck-It Ralph given the fact that he still hadn't reached a point of self-acceptance. Instead, he still viewed himself through the eyes of others, albeit with the most significant perspective being Vanellope's positivity (Sarah Silverman). Still, only validating yourself by the feelings of others is very dangerous, and it will get downright treacherous when Ralph becomes a viral star on the internet and starts reading what people are saying about him.
Of course, in dealing with the negative side of the World Wide Web Ralph Breaks The Internet will also be positing solutions for audiences. Continuing, Phil Johnston noted that the movie is very upfront with how to deal with problematic people online, namely with advice from Taraji P. Henson's character, Yesss. Said the filmmaker,
We're not dealing with fascism in this movie, but we are dealing with those emotions that kids and parents feel when you're trolled, when a stranger belittles you, and how that makes you feel - and how having a true friend and people who love and support you can get you through that... Yesss' comment throughout there, while it may sound reductive, really is the best advice, which is ignore it, don't feed the trolls, and don't listen to them. And that's something that a guy like Ralph, who is pretty insecure might, have some trouble dealing with.