Stop the digital presses! A Wreck-It Ralph sequel has been officially announced, although ever since John C. Reillyhinted at a sequel in development, everyone has just been waiting for word from the Mouse House itself.
Now it is actually happening. The Walt Disney Animation Studios film, to debut on March 9, 2018 – thus supplanting the previously scheduled Jack and the Beanstalk adaptation called Gigantic, to premiere in November 2018 – will see the return of Ralph, Vanellope, and many more. Will the sequel destroy the competition, proving to naysayers that a further entry in this brand will succeed, and shall it add to viewers’ adoration of the animated movie? I have no doubt that Wreck-It Ralph 2, as it is tentatively called, will absolutely nail it!
Wreck-It Ralph 2 will once again be directed by Rich Moore of The Simpsons fame, joined this time by Phil Johnston, co-writer of Zootopia and the original. Reilly and Sarah Silverman will reprise their characters, in addition to the promise of other returning characters and, presumably, their voice actors. That Ralph “leaves the arcade and wrecks the internet” is a promising idea, as it leaves the foundation of the video game atmosphere and dares to enter another intricate, endless space: the worldwide web.
As the first film reconciled with new video game atmospheres (the battle-based Hero’s Duty versus ’90s-era racing games and even more antiquated arcade games), Wreck-It Ralph 2 tackles a subject Disney has yet to approach in animated form. The internet is full of possibilities and, as the tongue-in-cheek concept art suggests, Disney will put its spin on how social media, online shopping, search engines and other digital platforms operate. How Ralph plays into this is not clear enough in such a brief and vague press release.
Yet its March 2018 premiere comes as both immediate and surprising. Obviously this film has been in development for at least a few years, considering the relatively fast turnaround. The sequel arrives in theaters just five years and four months after the original, which is even sooner than the much-anticipated sequel to Frozen. At the earliest, Frozen 2 could debut in 2019, which would put it around the same timeline of taking more than five years. However, considering that Frozen is a global phenomenon, whereas Wreck-It Ralph is beloved, but to a certain extent underrated compared with recent Disney animation hits like Tangled and Frozen, that it is getting a sequel shows the company’s investment in this brand. Thus, I say, props to Walt Disney Animation Studios and, The Walt Disney Company in general, for that matter.
Consider how Wreck-It Ralph barely has a presence in the theme parks (save for a new sweet shop on the Disney Dream ship), only a solid representation in Disney’s video game and merchandising markets, and much less in other sectors of the company. The 2012 movie earned a respectable, yet not terribly impressive $471 million globally on a $165 million budget. Since studios only attain half of earnings, it essentially made around $140 million without taking into account advertising costs. On the other hand, Big Hero 6 earned $657 million worldwide on a similar budget. However, that will not see a theatrical sequel in the near future, but rather a television series to premiere on Disney XD next year. Similarly, a Tangled animated series premieres on television in 2017 on Disney Channel. Apparently Disney views the future of Wreck-It Ralph as belonging on the big screen. Like the eponymous character, it has a huge personality and major potential.
I suspect Wreck-It Ralph fever will only intensify over the coming couple of years with this film’s announcement. It will generate more interest from fans and gamers, especially if rumors prove true that we will see the addition of familiar properties in the sequel. Additionally, Wreck-It Ralph 2 benefits from the fact that its predecessor was very well-received. It is not nearly akin to how many studios create sequels based on the fact that the first one earned a ton of money. Yet Disney will need to “step up its game” and find ways of integrating Wreck-It Ralph more in its company culture. For one, more character appearances in the parks would benefit visitors’ familiarity. Perhaps developing new digital content, such as low-budget promotional shorts in the vein of how the first film had retro-style commercials, would be useful.
Yes, ardent fans have sought more from the lovable lug, but in order to capitalize on a sequel, Disney has to use all of its forces and platforms to demonstrate it has an investment in making Wreck-It Ralph 2 bigger and better than the original. Anyone can identify when a studio cares about its product. The lack of company energy in The Good Dinosaur and Alice Through the Looking Glass was apparent in their low performance at the box office, further hampered by mediocre reviews.
Disney making the sequel is a good sign, but that follow-through must come through in all divisions. Perhaps most pivotal is that Wreck-It Ralph 2 has to be a good story. The internet idea intrigues many of us, no doubt, yet it cannot appear dated by the time of its release. The movie is already one of my five most anticipated films from the studio that we know of to premiere over the next three years, alongside next year’s Beauty and the Beast, 2018’s Toy Story 4, and Mary Poppins Returns, and 2019’s The Incredibles 2. It is Ralph‘s duty to sustain that excitement for all of us eager viewers who want to see this good bad guy have a good movie.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, released on the first and third Thursdays of each month on Geeks of Doom.