April 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Watch and Read—Spotlight on Media Tie-ins: Game On! Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph (PG) takes audiences inside the world of video games to tell a humor-filled tale of friendship, heroism, and self-discovery. Walt Disney Studio’s latest 3-D animated release premieres in theaters on November 2. The movie is directed by Rich Moore, well-known for his ground-breaking work on animated TV comedies such as The Simpsons and Futurama.

With his hulking body and sledge-hammer-shaped fists, Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) has been the villain in a kid-favorite arcade video game for 30 years, smashing buildings and causing mayhem throughout Niceland, damage adeptly repaired by the ever-cheerful Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer). Fed up with being another 8-bit baddie, Ralph is ready to take a shot at being the good guy and decides to prove his mettle by earning a medal.

His quest takes him—via power cord—to “Hero’s Duty,” a modern, first-person shooter game starring the stalwart Sergeant Calhoun (Glee’s Jane Lynch) and a mass of evil alien cy-bugs. Next, he crash-lands in the candy-themed kart-racing game, “Sugar Rush,” where he meets spunky Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a feisty and outspoken youngster who is determined to earn a place in the starting lineup despite her propensity for glitching. The two form an alliance, and Ralph believes he has finally made a friend, until events that he has inadvertently set in action—and a carefully camouflaged villain—cause everything to crash down around them. Will Ralph be able to set things right before it’s too late?

Designed to look and sound like an old-school arcade game, the movie’s official website provides a trailer, a selection of behind-the-scenes videos, and a gallery of movie images. A characters option introduces each of the major players with a bright illustration, a bar chart of personality-specific statistics (e.g., “Fist Power” for Ralph or “Heart” for Vanellope), a brief bio, and downloads. Showcased here are some familiar videogame villains featured in the film, including the orange-colored ghost from “Pac-Man” and Dr. Eggman from “Sonic the Hedgehog.” Kids can also try their hand at online versions of the movie’s three arcade games, providing a fun interactive extension to the viewing experience. Each offering’s graphic style, music, and milieu are cleverly suited to its particular era (a classic 1980’s pixilated veneer for “Fix-it Felix, Jr.,” a super-cute Nintendo-esque ‘90s look for “Sugar Rush,” and a hyper-realistic setting for “Hero’s Duty”).

Book Tie-ins: Picture Books

A selection of Wreck-It Ralph books geared to a variety of reading levels will win over movie fans. A “Little Golden Book” version (PreS-K) of the tale recaps the action in a straightforward narrative, briefly touching upon the story’s highpoints. The colorful cartoon illustrations provide just enough detail to delineate events, while emphasizing Ralph’s super-size fists and Vanellope’s perky nature. Illustrated throughout with glossy large-size images, the “Big Golden Book” retelling (PreS-Gr 4; both Random House) incorporates more elements from the plot, providing dialogue along with a bit more character development. In both the narrative and artwork, transitions between scenes set in the different game worlds and in the arcade are clean and easy to follow.

The illustrations evoke the movie animation, and shifting perspectives and close-ups effectively underscore the unfolding action and the characters’ emotions. The text’s clear writing style and basic vocabulary make the book appropriate for sharing aloud or for independent readers. Some of the same images are presented in Wreck-It Ralph: Read-Along Storybook and CD (Disney, 2012; PreS-Gr 4), a staple-bound paperback that presents a more streamlined retelling. Narrated with plenty of expression, the audio CD also includes lines of dialogue performed by the movie actors, lively sound effects, and background music.

A staple-bound picture book zooms in on Ralph’s adventures in Sugar Rush (Random House, 2012; PreS-Gr 2) as he and Vanellope work together to mix, bake, and decorate a kart confection for the race, and their reluctant alliance gradually blossoms into friendship. Fast-reading text and soft-edged candy-colored illustrations convey the events along with the characters’ growing affection. One Sweet Race (Disney, 2012; PreS-Gr 1), an original picture book set in the world of Sugar Rush, stars Rancis Fluggerbutter, a blonde-haired boy with a jauntily angled chocolate-bonbon cap. When he trades his belongings to purchase a souped-up candy racing kart, it proves impossible to control, and he ends up in a wreck with “bubble gum airbag” deployed. Never fear! Vanellope helps him to piece together a homemade vehicle with a “fudge-bucket seat,” “shock-olate absorbers,” and “taffy bear-rakes,” allowing him to triumph and learn a lesson about friendship. Created by one of the movie’s visual design artists, the artwork depicts the sugar-sweet characters, confection-filled backdrops, and racing action.

Easy Reader/Chapter Books

Game On! (PreS-Gr 1; Random House, 2012), a “Step 2” easy reader, recounts the movie’s plot in a concise narrative that utilizes short sentences and basic, often-repeated vocabulary words. Employing clean lines and muted colors, the illustrations add interest and support the text with visual clues. Beginning readers will enjoy re-living the familiar events, as Ralph discovers that “He does not need a medal to be a Good Guy.”

Standing at 9-feet tall, weighing 643 pounds, and continually yelling, I’m Gonna Wreck It! (Random House; Gr 1-4), the film’s hero recounts his story in a lively first-person narrative. Written in an accessible style, this easy chapter book combines simple vocabulary, short and snappy sentences, and humorous black-and-white cartoons to tell “a pretty crazy story about some Good Guys, some Bad Guys, a cute kid, and lots of gooey taffy.” The text clearly conveys the events, while remaining in character with a warmly informal tone and exclamations like, “Mother Hubbard!” The Kapow! cover (Ralph fisting his way through a brick wall), invitingly open format, and protagonist’s perspective will draw readers into the tale.

Clear and descriptive writing, humorous dialogue, and fast-paced plot make the The Junior Novelization (Random House; Gr 3-6) appropriate for both independent readers and sharing aloud with younger movie fans. The prologue sets the scene by introducing Litwak’s Family Fun Center, with its “ringing bells and electronic beeps,” kids racing from console to console, and the fact that the real action takes place when the arcade closes at night. Told in suspenseful chapters, the tale touches upon themes of finding friendship, discovering untapped talents, and helping others. A colorful cover showing the vivacious Vanellope perched on Ralph’s shoulder, the two smiling affectionately at each other, welcomes movie viewers. Eight pages of captioned full-color artwork are nestled within, along with black-and-white images of a pixilated Ralph.

Go Behind the Scenes

Movie devotees as well as readers with an interest in visual design and animation will enjoy perusing the profusely illustrated pages of Jennifer Lee and Maggie Malone’s The Art of Wreck-It Ralph (Chronicle, 2012; Gr 5 Up). Stating that the movie is a bit of  a departure for Disney Animation, the authors point to the involvement of Moore, who brought with him “an edgy animation aesthetic and a bold, risky sense of humor” along with a commitment to creating a film with a modern sensibility. Well-written chapters delve into each of the very different video-game worlds, describing the design process, settings, and character development (at various times, Ralph was envisioned as a troll, caveman, Sasquatch, and gorilla, as shown in the concept artwork).

Other sections introduce “Game Central” (a train-station-like hub through which the characters travel from one game console to another), scenes set in the human world of the arcade, and characters that were cut before production. Commentary from the creative staff is woven into the narrative, along with pull-out quotes, providing an interesting look at how the film’s look and storyline evolved side by side. The handsome pages are filled with concept art, character sketches, story boards, and models (including an amazing built-from-candy rendition of the Sugar Rush town square).

Publication Information

SAXON, Victoria, adapt. Wreck-It Ralph. illus. by Lorelay Bove. “A Little Golden Bk.” Random. 2012. Tr $3.99. ISBN 978-0-7364-2972-6.

BAZALDUA, Barbara, adapt. Wreck-It Ralph. illus. by the Disney Studio Artists. “A Big Golden Bk.” Random. 2012. Tr $9.99. ISBN 978-0-7364-2954-2.

GLASS, Calliope, adapt. Wreck-It Ralph: Read-Along Storybook and CD. illus. by the Disney Storybook Artists. Disney Pr. 2012. pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-142316061-8. w/CD.

O’HARA, Ellen. Wreck-It Ralph: Sugar Rush. illus. by Cory Loftis. Random. 2012. pap. $3.99. ISBN 978-0-7364-2959-7.

RISCO, Elle D. Wreck-It Ralph: One Sweet Race. illus. by Brittney Lee. Disney. 2012. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-142316628-3.

AMERIKANER, Susan. Wreck-It Ralph: Game On! illus. by the Disney Storybook Artists. Random House. 2012. PLB $12.99. ISBN 978-0-7364-8116-8; pap.  $3.99. ISBN 978-0-7364-2889-7.

BAZALDUA, Barbara, adapt. Wreck-It Ralph: I’m Gonna Wreck It! illus. by David Gilson. Random House. 2012. pap. $4.99. ISBN 978-0-7364-2958-0.

TRIMBLE, Irene, adapt. Wreck-It Ralph: The Junior Novelization. Random House. 2012. pap.  $4.99. ISBN 978-0-7364-2960-3.

LEE, Jennifer & Maggie Malone. The Art of Wreck-It Ralph. Chronicle. 2012. Tr $40. ISBN 978-1-4521-1101-8.

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Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.