Ralph Brokers Many Internet Licensing Opportunities

If there’s one thing Disney can absolutely be counted on providing, it’s sequels to its money-making franchises. 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph has been prime territory for a “part 2” since its initial release and while the big budget follow-up effort manages to expand its digital confines while keeping the original’s character dynamic largely intact, the property continues to feel more contrived and less organic than similarly themed stablemate the Toy Story franchise.

Ralph Breaks the Internet is a 2018 American 3D computer-animated comedy film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. It not only boasts being the direct sequel to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, it is also Disney’s 57th feature-length animated film with its 112-minute runtime.

It was built on a budget of $175-million and managed to turn a sizable profit, grossing $529.3 million at the worldwide box office (compared to the original’s $165-million budget and $471.2-million gross).

The tale this time around centers on the primary two characters of the original (Ralph played by John C Reilly and Vanellope voiced by Sarah Silverman) on a slightly larger mission than simply trying to escape the restrictions of their respective games to better understand the digital world beyond when a broken steering wheel on Vanellope’s arcade cabinet means the permanent unplugging of her coin-operated game.

It’s off to the internet for the game heroes in effort to procure the required funds to purchase a replacement unit from eBay (one of countless licensed names to expect here). How do they intend to do this you ask? Simple – by running a Bitcoin scheme that will drain the very real currency out of human investor accounts. Kidding, that would be a very disturbing lesson in so friendly a franchise. They decide to dedicate their digital lives to an email campaign claiming to be the prince of a rich oil-producing nation seeking you, a long lost relative, requiring only your credit card number to confirm your legal identity so that you can claim your $7.4-million dollar inheritance immediately.

Got you again. The actual plot, though really no less ridiculous, sees our heroes hoping to make a viral video so successful that it becomes monetized and thus earns the $200 for the plastic steering wheel the old fashioned way: hard work, identity forgery and total suspension of disbelief concerning the line between reality and silliness. This, of course, not before the gang decides to pull a scheme to cheat their way to virtual loot theft in another racing game called Slaughter Race. If there are moral lessons hidden among the plot of Ralph Breaks the Internet, one might consider those homages to the video game tradition known as “easter eggs”.

In execution, the film largely delivers on its mission to entertain so long as the viewer never, at any point, stops to ponder how any of this stuff really makes sense. The concept of a hidden and magical world existing just beyond the attention span of we humans is a popular one in Toy Story’s tremendous wake – witnessed in everything from Gnomio and Juliette to The Emoji Movie. The Wreck-It-Ralph franchise seems a theoretical slam dunk; combining the charm of that formula with the abundant possibilities of video gaming (there are even hints of Tron and Ready Player One in here) but the sequel, like the original, lack the butter-smooth and warm fuzzy logic that made Toy Story one of the most beloved franchises of the medium.

What is here has its share of puns, humorous bits and clever homages to gaming past and present but hides these behind a sensory overload of branding both real and fictitious (you’ll visit eBay, IMDB, and Google but Youtube will be replaced by BuzzTube), real video game characters will mingle with made-up ones (like our leads), and, unlike the Cars franchise, you’ll certainly get a glimpse of actual human interaction with this digital world.

All in all, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a decent film that will appeal to fans of the original. It never strays far from the formula that made the first entry successful, for better or worse. Perhaps the biggest victim in the whole affair is Sony Animation who took ridiculous amounts of flack for its 2017 Emoji Movie; some going as far as to say it was a story that didn’t need to be told, only for 2018’s Ralph Breaks the Internet to come remarkably close to the same premise to critical acclaim. The power of marketing can never be underestimated. In fact it would make a decent villain in a movie about what movies really do when no one is looking.