Whenever we think about the upcoming movie Ralph Breaks the Internet, we can’t help but be completely amazed that the Walt Disney Animation Studios team working on the film turned the internet into an entire world. Think about it: they were somehow able to translate the internet’s countless websites, social networks, and vast capabilities into a walkable landscape housing characters new and old, and make it feel like a working city. It’s pretty amazing, and certainly wasn’t easy!
We spoke with Matthias Lechner (Art Director, Environments), Larry Wu (Head of Environments) and Ernie Petti (Technical Supervisor) after watching a presentation about what it was like to build this metropolis. The team started by doing some research and visiting a building in Los Angeles that director Rich Moore told us “houses all of the connections for any internet communications in North America.”
“What really baffled me is the realization that the internet is basically just service and wires. It's never really in the air,” said Lechner. Once that realization sunk in, the team zeroed in on focusing on function before form, using their research trip as inspiration.
“It was really interesting to see … the physical side of the Internet and ... what a mess it is in some way … There's miles of cables,” Lechner recalled. Those cables inspired much of the cityscape, in particular the transit system in the world of the internet, which you’ll see pictured here.
“The overwhelmingness of the internet is something that I think we brought into the movie,” noted Petti.
“Because it is so big,” Lechner added, “you have to make a battle plan ... How many buildings do we need? How could we make those buildings seem more [connected]? ... Once we had that, I think that the rest went easier.”
The layout of the city wasn’t the only challenge: the team also had to create unique buildings to house each website mentioned in the movie.
“Every website they go to has a world of its own as well,” said Wu. While there’ll be new sites created just for the movie, like BuzzTube (where Taraji P. Henson’s character Yesss can be found) you’ll also recognize a few familiar, real-world websites, like Oh My Disney and others (you should definitely be on the lookout for Easter eggs during scenes at these locations; they’re everywhere!)
All over the world of the internet you’ll also see countless billboards and signs—and these signs are in many different languages! “The signs are international because the internet is international,” said Lechner. “So you'll find different languages all through the movie.”
Along with these different languages, be sure to look out for other amusing details in the scenery as you watch: “the traffic [lights resemble] that little traffic light that you have on top of your browser window,” Lechner told us, for example.
“We also had this idea [that] the Internet's always under construction, always new things popping up,” said Wu. Wonderful details like this serve to remind us of all of the thought and care that Ralph Breaks the Internet team put into every detail that will appear on the screen.
Said Petti: “All of those had to be designed and built, and this was a really daunting task … at a certain point we enlisted the entire Art Department.” They did this to complete a particularly daunting scene.
Ralph even makes a brief stop at the dark web! Take a look at the concept image below for a sneak peek:
Hilarious, amazing, iconic, fantastic—and slightly frightening! Get out of there, Ralph!
To get a sense of how just one frame in the film is developed, check out the gallery below. These progression photos show the layered process of building a shot from Ralph Breaks the Internet, from story art to finished product:
That’s a whole lot of Disney movie magic right there! The world of the world wide web looks so vibrant and incredible. We are so ready to watch this all come to life when Ralph Breaks the Internet breaks into theatres on November 21.