Updated: Mar 4, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
“RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2018; PG for some action and rude humor; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, iTunes, Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: Six-part “How We Broke the Internet” featurette
WHAT an endeavor!
This heartwarming follow-up to “Wreck-It Ralph” (2012) is the biggest Disney animated film ever made. There are over one-million characters just in one shot as 8-bit Ralph (John C. Reilly), video-game mayhem artist, and his best friend, Sugar Rush racer Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), are propelled into the land of the Internet.
“We wanted to expand the world of the arcade and get into something much bigger. Think of the arcade like a small town and the Internet as a huge city.” ― co-director/writer Phil Johnson during the six-part “How We Broke the Internet.”
It opens with Ralph and Vanellope in Litwak’s Family Fun Center & Arcade, drinking root beer, telling stories and having belching contests. But wide-eyed glitch princess Vanellope is bored by her wins and racing around the same old candy track. So Ralph sneaks into Sugar Rush and plows a new off-road track for her. Frantically, her human player tries to get Vanellope back on course and breaks the steering mechanism. Game Over! A replacement wheel for the ‘80s game costs more than the console’s worth.
The game is unplugged leaving Vanellope and the other racers up for adoption. Ralph’s gaming partner Felix (Jack McBrayer) and his bride of six years, Sgt. Calhoun (Jane Lynch), take the girls in. In the empty power strip slot, Mr. Litwak (Ed O’Neill) installs a wi-fi router and moves into the 21st century. Ralph and Vanellope decide to explore the Internet on their own to find a new wheel.
Disney’s design for their Internet world went through a number of stages, first with floating clouds. “We thought that [was] an awesome metaphor. We nailed it on day one!” says co-director Rich Moore. Then they shared the idea with the IT guys, who Moore says, “Aren’t dummies.” IT instantly killed that approach saying, “It’s not really how the Internet works.”
The animators then decided to go on a field trip for an insider's peek into the workings of the Internet, much like when the artists visited Norway for “Frozen” and the South Pacific for “Moana.” This trip was much shorter, a quick hop down I-5 to downtown L.A. to the One Wilshire building, which houses the connections of the entire West Coast Internet. “We saw the box where Siri lives. We paid our respects,” Moore says. But there was nothing there other than tubes and wires.
Back at Disney headquarters, the animators purchased a bunch of electronic gear and broke it open. The motherboards and their varying shapes looked like a city to them. Circuitry became highways in the movie, says production designer Cory Loftis. Internet developers told them the systems were much like Rome; all built on top of each other. “Nothing goes away,” says producer Clark Spencer, astonished. The animator’s Internet is extremely vertical with Netscape Navigator, Myspace, and old memes like the hamster dance buried at the bottom of the multilayered universe. For scale, they broke into websites that looked like skyscrapers, and inside hectic, but fascinating worlds.
Ralph and Vanellope come to the Internet center core dotted with the giants: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Fandango and Pinterest, arriving at the doorstep of KnowsMore, Disney’s version of Google. He’s a delightful character based on 1950’s animation, hand-drawn with huge librarian glasses and extremely expressive. Actor Alan Tudyk is the voice of KnowsMore; he was also the voice of King Candy in “Wreck-It Ralph.” KnowsMore is a mix of Truman Capote and Droopy. “He’s insanely good,” says Spencer. When Vanellope types in her search description for the steering wheel, it gets one hit: Available on eBay.
She and Ralph arrive at the huge online selling center and find the controller in a sea of bidding windows, with only 30 seconds left. Unfamiliar with eBay, they shout out random numbers, accidentally bidding $27,001.
The rest of the tale follows their pursuit to raise a “buttload” of cash to quote Vanellope, to make the purchase within the next 24 hours. They’re first off to the gritty online game “Slaughter Race,” hoping to steal a red hot race car owned by Shank (Gal Gadot, “Wonder Woman”) and her gang of thugs. Then it’s off to BuzzzTube and clickbait artist Yesss (Taraji P. Henson) who creates mindless videos for massive online profits. She turns Ralph into an instant viral superstar, but will he get enough hits and likes to win a hefty paycheck?
Vanellope ends up at the Oh My Disney! website, filled with hundreds of cameos and Easter eggs from Disney’s library of films. You’ll spot Mickey Mouse from “Fantasia,” “Star Wars’” Imperial Stormtroopers, Buzz Lightyear from “Toy Story,” Groot from “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and a room full of Disney princesses from Snow White to Moana.
The “How We Broke the Internet” featurette uncovers the design and movements of the Netizens and Net Users who inhabitant the movie; how Disney hired a world-class auctioneer from Oklahoma for the eBay scene; the creation of Double Dan, a creepy virus that nearly wipes out the Internet with an endless stream of Ralph’s and a super-monster, Ralphzilla.
A video highlights 11 animators who got a chance to get behind the wheels of suped-up cars at a California racetrack for a true feel of racing and making 180-degree turns on a dime. They mounted eight GoPro cameras on each car that became the base for their Slaughter Race animation. “BuzzTube Cats” shows a number of brief cat animations from riding a turntable to chasing tails and getting scared by a GI-Joe toy. There are also five deleted scenes in varying stages of animation.
Since animation is rendered in 2K (2.39:1 aspect ratio) we didn’t expect much difference between the upconverted 4K (disc & streaming) and the HD versions, but boy was I wrong. The added clarity is quite evident in the finest detail on Ralph and Vanellope facial close-ups and their overall costumes to the massive wide shots of the Internet cityscape.
HDR10 and Dolby Vision contrast toning add to the overall cinematic experience with deeper and richer blacks, and much brighter and controlled highlights. The color palette is less overtly orange, and richer and deeper from the brief Sugar Rush scene to the Slaughter Race action sequences bathed in yellow/orange smog. The blues and purples of the Internet cityscape are also more striking.
The 4K version features the Dolby Atmos eight-channel soundtrack with plenty of effects, and uplifting orchestral cues with strings, woodwinds and electronic instruments blending from British composer Henry Jackman (“Big Hero 6” “Wreck-It Ralph”). Sarah Silverman gets her own Disney-esque “want” song, written by super composer Alan Menken, the master behind Disney’s animated musicals from “The Little Mermaid” to “Tangled.” It was recorded live with the orchestra. Gal Gadot gets a duet moment with Silverman. The HD versions include a powerful eight-channel DTS-HD soundtrack that won’t disappoint.
The Oscar-nominated “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is an intimate buddy tale, with plenty of wit and charm as the duo discover the amazing Internet and brief glimpses of its indulgent and addictive behavior.
This is one for the collection.
― Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer