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Disney In Depth: Book Review: The Art Of Wreck-It Ralph
Brett Nachman   |  

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"The Art of Wreck-It Ralph" cover

Releasing your video game controllers and picking up a book hasn’t been easier since the release of Chronicle Books’ recent coffee-table beauty The Art of Wreck-It Ralph. It’s game on to explore this eye-catching, mind-blowing, and precisely-designed volume of exquisite artwork!

Disney’s attractive attention to detail carries through in this work from Chronicle Books. The Wreck-It Ralph touch literally permeates through each of the thick, glossy 160 pages. To the book’s benefit, the filmmakers behind the groundbreaking action-adventure flick serve as its writers. Disney-Pixar’s John Lasseter lends a kind, thoughtful preface to director Rich Moore’s reflective foreword. Jennifer Lee, Wreck-It Ralph co-writer, and Maggie Malone, director of development at Walt Disney Animation Studios, seamlessly translate all of the fascinating film content to each portion of their co-authored book.

On to the content. When Rich Moore entered the project in 2008, he immediately encouraged creativity and collaboration. That positive work environment influenced animators to form many novel designs, matching the equally-original storyline, which experienced constant developmental changes. Lee and Malone take us on this passage in an easily-palatable format, with relatively-minimal writing against brick-laid backgrounds and alongside concept art.

Wreck-It Ralph

From that point forward, the chapters are organized according to the film environment. Wreck-It Ralph comes first, with a variety of telling digital art and storyboards expressing his loneliness. I loved looking through all of the early monster and ogre-like concepts for Ralph, portrayed in a mix of artistic styles as varied as graphite and liquid acrylic. Quotes from key individuals intermingle with the glorious artwork. Felix receives solid concentration, as do the squad of Nicelanders. One image resembles Mr. Lasseter. Nice touch, guys.

I found the focus on environments equally-impressive. Game Central Station, the penthouse found in Fix-It Felix, Jr., and other structures are given a great amount of exposure. Lighting played a decisive role in the bright mood of the Grand Central-esque transportation hub, much in contrast to the first-person shooter framework of Hero’s Duty. That section alone could warrant an entire art book, I’m sure, as images of vehicles and landscapes come in plentiful supply. Even Sergeant Calhoun, the Jane Lynch-voiced warrior, boasts eight pages’ worth of designs. I found some insight into her look as quite motivating, since at one point animators gave Calhoun the ability to camouflage, but “there were concerns that the camouflage might make it hard for the audience to relate to her.”

Ralph boasts "freakishly big" hands, as evidenced in this Disney Quest figure.

Now did I find every little rendering as appealing? Certainly not, but that is what art books like this are so capable in accomplishing. They show the progression of designs to their final, often best-looking state. I almost wished there was more written content in the Hero’s Duty portion, as opposed to all those pictures of Cy-Bugs. But that echoes more of my greater interest in the other worlds than anything else. There is no way one could write off the virtuoso design work, though, and this was carried out even more flawlessly with the Sugar Rush portion.

Yum alert! Each drawing of this lip-smacking vista elicits hunger, and rightfully so. The animators traveled to candy markets all over the world, including Germany, to discover new sweets and replicate them with a twist in Wreck-It Ralph. Pink and orange appropriately represent the dominant colors in this tasty locale, full of anything enticing. Looking at these digital concepts truly took my breath away as it simultaneously increased my appetite. The images are all large and simple to probe the minute, colorful candy-like designs. Among my favorite pages to look through were the race track courses, containing some sour obstacles.

The Sugar Rush section also allows film fans to more closely examine the painstakingly-created components not as conspicuous on the screen. The animators even built a messy, delicious-looking diorama that would be duplicated to some extent in the finished film product. I would be negligent if I did not recognize Sarah Silverman’s syrupy and sassy Vanellope Von Schweetz, whose contagious fun oozes into the early drawings. The book importantly notes how her clothing matches her outcast status, and demonstrates that at nearly every stage of the story Vanellope’s spirited style was reflected in her visually larger-than-life head.

Vanellope’s candy-racing competitors, and their respective vehicles, crave thorough attention, too. Luckily they receive just that, each image showcasing a different genre, be it ice cream sandwich or snow-cone. Then there are the names. Taffyta Muttonfudge is only one of the most inspired names to come from a movie that also featured characters like Jubileena Bing-Bing, Crumbelina DiCarmello and Floyd Orangeboar. Then there’s the villain. Jim Reardon, head of story, writes that King Candy was developed out of the “idea of Ed Wynn, a lovable old vaudeville actor, playing against type, as a mob boss like a Tony Soprano.” The cartoonish bad guy with a bow tie and crown looked slightly different in earlier versions.

The book concludes with a peek into the other movie settings, including Tapper’s and The Arcade. I was beginning to feel a little disappointed with the idea that this would be how the book would end, even if the content was cool. Luckily, there’s a “bonus level” that focuses on rejected characters and ideas like General Lockload, Calhoun’s boss. I was most interested in a scrapped Sims-like world called Extreme EZ Livin’ 2, which would have given off a luxurious and sophisticated vibe. Of course not all great theories come to fruition.

Prepare for game over. The Art of Wreck-It Ralph is a must-own for film buffs, budding artists and Disney fans. The amount of stirring art techniques found in each page, as well as the great insight into the movie’s evolution, make this a worthy entry in any book collection. The Art of Wreck-It Ralph will surely serve as an entertaining and enlightening holdover before you likely pick up a copy of the film, arriving on home video in mere weeks. Set your wallets for go, and race toward this book right away.

Grade: A

This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter to discover Disney news and updates on upcoming editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom. Have a good week!

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