'Wreck-It Ralph' Director Rich Moore Has Plenty of Game, Literally (Q&A)

7:27 AM PST 10/31/2012 by John Gaudiosi
David Livingston/Getty Images

The avid gamer puts all of his virtual experience to good use in Walt Disney Animation Studio’s 3D movie set in the world of arcade games.

Although Walt Disney Studios has had success with its TRON film franchise, which has been revived of late with the 3D movie TRON: Legacy and the TRON: Uprising TV series; Wreck-It Ralph opens up a whole new world of cross-promotions and interactive engagement. The 3D computer-generated film takes viewers on a journey through the history of video games from the 8-Bit arcade days to today’s cinematic first-person shooters.

REVIEW: 'Wreck-It Ralph'

The Simpsons and Futurama nimation veteran Rich Moore chose Ralph as his feature directorial debut, in part, because he knows games inside and out. Moore lived through the arcade heydays and continues to log a lot of hours at home playing the latest Xbox 360 games. Even at work, the director had a replica of the film’s arcade built inside Walt Disney Animation Studios, fully stocked with classic games starring many characters that make cameos in the film. Moore explains how he’s been preparing for this movie since he was a kid, and how he ended up turning a fictional arcade game into a real-life hit, in this exclusive interview.

The Hollywood Reporter: What video games did you play growing up?

Rich Moore: I’m part of that original generation that came up playing video games, that pumped a lot of our allowance into video games. We financed the rise of video games. I started playing them in the Straw Hat Pizza Palace at the Carriage Square Mall in Oxnard, CA. Games like Pong and Death Race 2000 -- if you remember that old one, it was driving a car around and killing pedestrians, like the movie. From there, Space Wars, of course. We can’t leave out Space Wars. Asteroids, of course, and then from there Pac-Man and Venture. Sinister was so scary because you’d sit inside the thing and the voice was so deep, and it was so sinister. Then Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace; I pumped a lot of money into those. Don Bluth, I hope you’re living large on my quarters.

THR: Is there a particular video game memory that stands out for you?

Moore: When I was young, I was on a real hot streak with Crazy Climber. There was a good three-week span where I couldn’t get that game out of my head. I could not get back to the arcade fast enough to try and climb up there and not get kicked by a potted plant this time. That one got under my skin.

THR: How big an arcade gamer were you?

Moore: I spent a lot of money and time at pizza places. Golf and Stuff in Ventura, right off the 101, was my hangout. Skating Plus, right behind it, always had a good selection of games. That was the place to be when you were from Oxnard back in the ‘80s.

THR: What are your thoughts on console games?

Moore: I made the jump to the home games with the Nintendo. I remember the N64 coming out. That was a beautiful day. I still grieve for the Dreamcast. I loved that system; I thought it was great. Space Channel Five, I ran a hot one on that. It got under my skin. Xbox, I love it. This last year while making Wreck-It Ralph, I’d work during the day and then go home and play Saints Row: The Third. I was like, “What am I doing? I’m making a movie about a video game, and now I’m coming home playing this game? Go to bed!” I just couldn’t put it down. I just had to get through the whole thing.

THR: How did your gaming background help with exploring this world of Wreck-It Ralph?

Moore: I was able to explore it with legitimacy. When you’re making a movie about something, you should know about whatever it is and have some understanding of it. I felt like it was something that I was steeped in since I was a kid.

THR: So you’ve been researching this movie for a long time.

Moore: It was research. It was all research. All those people that said, “You’re spending too much time at Golf and Stuff,” come on. It paid off.

THR: What’s the story behind the Fix-It Felix, Jr. arcade machine?

Moore: It began like, Wouldn’t this be cool to take it out at Comic-Con to promote the movie, to have an actual game made from the fictional one that’s in the movie? We wanted to have something that we could take around and show to people, and we wanted to make sure it was done right; that it felt like it was from that time period. It was all programmed using the 8-bit boards and everything, by people that really knew those kinds of games really well. It did not happen overnight; there was a lot of going back and forth and me playing it saying, “Can we add this and that?” or “How can we make it feel that it has the pace of one of those old games?” It was a collaborative effort.

THR: How did you get those cool retro arcade cabinets?

Moore: At first we were cannibalizing old game cabinets for ours. When it became apparent that people around the country wanted to have them, like at the Disney Parks, it became apparent we had to make over 50 of these things. We decided we’d better start building these from the ground up, because we don’t want to be known as the studio that gutted 50 Donkey Kong machines and put them to death to make our Fix-It Felix, Jr. games. They are now made from scratch, and I’m so proud of them. I think that’s so cool, and just really fun to play.

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