I have been waiting for today for forever! Forever being since February when I got to go to Disney for Inspire Days and see them work on the movie. First off, SPOILER ALERT. While there are super awesome technical things that I would love to talk about, there are story points that I would like to also bring up, and that would be hard to do without giving away certain parts of the movie.
Paperman is an amazing short in front of the main movie. It tells a beautiful heart warming love story of the destiny between a man who works as a paper pusher and a woman he met one day by chance. The story was simple and sweet and yet still grounded in what felt very much like reality; meeting love, attempting to achieve love, but then having to slip from your grasp. From here the contrasts between the two characters really showed. While the man fought against the paper airplanes, with annoyance and attempting to go in an opposite direction, the woman showed excitement and actively pursued the paper airplane to follow where it would lead her. I do have a small qualm with the paper airplanes when they start swirling, dancing, and following the man in a line, though. The setting of the world felt very realistic that when the paper airplanes started swirling it felt very out of place and unnatural. Maybe it was a gust of wind moving in a circular fashion which is causing it but the way the planes moved did not look that way and that illusion is broken when they start lining up behind the man. However, it is a small qualm and I don't mind it very much as I watch the journey that slowly brings the man and woman together to form a beautiful ending that warms your heart and make you smile both inside and out.
Done in a stunning black and white, with a single red accent, the short was as visually appealing as the story was beautiful. What's more intriguing to the style was that the short is a blend of both 3D and 2D. Things were modeled, simply shaded, and then lit in Maya. With Disney's proprietary software, Meander, they drew 2D over the 3D which can be seen as the contour lines around the characters and the detail in the hair. What else is amazing about Paperman, the software, is that it is able to interpolate between two poses, using some fancy mathematical formula and coding, so that the 2D is as smooth as the 3D without animators having to go in and draw out each frame. If you're going to CTN, be sure to go to the event on Sunday, Nov 18, 12:00 to 12:45pm where the creators of Paperman will be having an event!
The movie was awesome. There were many extremely fun parts, lots of laughter, and a few parts that tug at your heartstrings. As another review that I had previously read, there is something for the adults, as it references many old school games, and something for the kids with fun and exciting characters. I do find it slightly disappointing though that there were no awesome in movie songs that will become favorites to sing along to, like Tangled's When Will My Life Begin, Mother Knows Best, and Now I See The Light. The many songs that Disney has in their long history of classic animated movies is the one thing that I love about them over Pixar movies.
From seeing the trailers, you generally know what the movie will be about and how it will end. A video game character who is the antagonist in his game gets tired of being treated as a genuinely bad person and goes off to try to prove himself, but without an antagonist, the game isn't unable to function and thus ultimately he will realize he plays an important role and go back to his game. I was a bit worried about how the movie will end because if it just follows that simple plot line it would be boring and cliched. I liked how the issue was resolved in that Ralph didn't just realize that he was important in his own way and go back in resignation but rather Ralph came upon the understanding that, in Zangrief's words, "You are bad guy, but not a bad guy". I started tearing up at this moment as Ralph was falling toward Cola Mountain.
While I find myself really liking the Fix-it-Felix Jr.'s character due to a dorky cuteness that he has as he crushes on Calhoun, I find his transition of perspective towards Ralph not articulated very well. First, when asking for Ralph from other game characters, Felix describes Ralph as just his coworker, but then without any clear motivation on a change of mindset, when he knocks on the door of the Candy Castle, Felix calls Ralph his friend. Then at the end of the movie Felix suddenly got extremely chummy with Ralph kept repeating "my brother".
Meanwhile, Venellope von Schweetz was a slightly harder character to watch in that she is a glitched character and she describes her condition as "Pixlexia". While the pun was funny, what happened after was harder to watch as due to her "disability", Venellope was shunned and bullied by the other candy kids. It succeeded in making the audience feel sorry for Venellope and hate the bullies but it also made you stop and think a little about the actual world. Other than that, the reveling that Venellope is the princess of Sugar Rush is a little offputting and feels like it came out of nowhere. From the glimps that we get of her on the side of the game station, Venellope looks like a possible top racer, but she looks like her glitched version and nothing at all like the princess version of herself. She's not wearing the royal dress, she doesn't have a fancy car like King Candy did, and moreover the candy in her hair is the version from her glitch appearance instead of the red candy dots that she has in her princess version. She is adorable though (and she knows it!) and Sarah Silverman was great as her voice actress.
I love Sugar Rush, it was pretty and pink and glitter all over! It was so fun to see not only the landscape and buildings being fashioned out of candy but the citizens and various items being fashioned out of candy and snacks as well. Knowing a little bit about the concept development story, I know that a team got to go to Barcelona to review inspiration from the buildings there by the architect Antoni Gaudi, and as Gaudi is my favorite architect I had already fallen in love with the world of Sugar Rush. The gumdrops though were one of the most beautiful elements of the world as not only were they coated in grains of sugar but it also achieved the translucency that gumdrops have and a beautiful shadow that shows the light refracted through it.
Another big achievement is how the design of the characters. There are so many different worlds in just this one movie, both the outside human world and the various inner game worlds. While the characters still stay true to themselves and the classic icons are still clearly recognizable, the characters all look like they belong in the same world space of the movie, even the ghost from Pac-Man.
Lighting is a big part of a movie in addition to the animation itself due to how it can tell a story and exhibit the mood of events or characters. I loved the part where the "out of order" sign was put up on the Fix-it-Felix game station and the light immediately changed from that to reflect upon the fear and uncertainty of the Nicelanders. It gives a reason to a change in color to further the story telling instead of just having colors to mimic emotion which can become confusing as to why the light source is changing.
While animated films, such as those from Pixar and Dreamworks, tend to focus on more realistic animation, the movements from Wreck-it-Ralph were very interesting. One example that could be clearly seen is the Nicelanders from the Fix-it-Felix game. The game itself is styled as an 8bit game and the Nicelanders, even though are fully 3D modeled, still move in that jerky 8bit style which was not only interesting to watch, but really sells the idea of the world being a game instead of it just being there is a world behind a game.
Wreck-it-Ralph was a great movie and I would definitely want to go watch it again.