'Wreck-It Ralph 2' directors on internet-breaking, meme-filled teaser: No rabbits were harmed

·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

In Wreck-It Ralph, a reluctant 8-bit villain journeyed through every game in the arcade and emerged a hero. The sequel unleashes Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) and his friend Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) on a journey through bigger, more exotic digital territory: the World Wide Web. The first trailer for Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 (watch it above) gives audiences a peek at Ralph and Vanellope’s online adventure. As directors Phil Johnston and Rich Moore told Yahoo Entertainment in an exclusive interview, turning the internet into a fully realized animated world was — well, about as hard as you’d think.

“We looked at what we did with the first Wreck-It Ralph movie, kind of the personifying of the video games that the different characters live in, and we thought, well, what if we did that to the internet?” said Moore.

“And then you realize how vast and expansive the actual internet is,” added Johnston. “And so it became like, we’re going to do a movie about New York City, but there are a billion stories in New York City. So once we started designing the internet, the hard part was ‘OK, what story are we going to tell in this place?’”

The story that emerged, the directors told Yahoo Entertainment, is one about how friendships grow and change over time. “It’s sort of like two small-town friends going to the big city,” Johnston explained. “And one of them relates in a way that is familiar to me, in that I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and moved to New York and had a life there that is very different than the life my friends who still lived in Wisconsin had. So that’s kind of how we’re thinking about Ralph and Vanellope. Vanellope is instantly very comfortable in the internet, this big exciting place, and Ralph is more a guy who loves his home. He loves the arcade. And so the internet is putting their friendship to the test.”

Like both the original 2012 film and the directors’ more recent Disney hit Zootopia, Wreck-It Ralph 2 promises to deliver its heartfelt message in a flurry of quick-witted banter, topical humor, and sight gags. In the trailer, the characters explore eBay (conceived by Moore and Johnston as a “gigantic swap meet”), get distracted by clickbait, and crash an iPad app. And that’s just the beginning. Johnston promises that the characters will visit familiar internet game sites, though he won’t reveal which ones. Neither does the trailer show the film’s most buzzed-about scene, a reunion of the Disney princesses that takes place at the fan site OhMy.Disney.com.

“We imagined at this website that a lot of the characters from the Disney films exist as avatars, so it gives us a chance to have a scene with Vanellope and the Disney princesses,” said Johnston. (Vanellope, a character who began as a glitch in the candy-themed racecar game Sugar Rush, became a princess at the end of the first film.) “And we were really lucky to work with all the original actresses who voiced these characters.”

That clip delighted Disney fans when it was shown at the D23 Expo in July. Still, Moore and Johnston acknowledged that such high-concept scenes are tough to explain to anyone who hasn’t see the film. “The people in the audience really enjoyed it. The people on the internet reading about it, they wondered, ‘How? What? Vanellope is at a website with the Disney princesses?’” Johnston said with a laugh. “To which I say, ‘Just trust the people who were in the crowd at D23.’ It makes sense. It’s a pretty great scene.”

Another thing the directors can assure audiences: No rabbits were harmed in the making of Wreck-It Ralph 2. “He regenerates!” Johnston said of the bunny in the trailer, who explodes after devouring too many stacks of pancakes. “He’s a little video-game app character, and he’s perfectly fine.”

<i>Ralph Breaks the Internet</i> teaser poster. (Image: Disney)
Ralph Breaks the Internet teaser poster. (Image: Disney)

Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: