[INTERVIEW] John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman on their animated reunion, ‘RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET’

Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman) in RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET. Courtesy of Disney Pictures.

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

The blessing of any sequel is seeing its beloved stars reunite. However, for an animated sequel, it’s not about seeing the talent perform together, but rather hearing their chemistry sonically pop like popcorn once again. And that’s exactly what happens for the two leads of director Phil Johnston and Rich Moore’s RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET.

John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman return to their respective roles as Ralph and Princess Vanellope Von Schweetz in this second chapter in their friendship’s on-going saga. The pair have their bond tested when Vanellope’s arcade game is threatened with permanent unplugging. To save her game, they travel into the expansive world of the internet to find the magical fix-it to the problem. Only a bigger conundrum surfaces – one that might break the two apart.

Unlike what happens with most animated films, the dynamic duo recorded their scenes together. This proved to be an added blessing for the actors, but also led to a few other comedic asides. At the film’s recent Los Angeles press conference, Silverman said they were given creative room to play with their characters.

We get to record together. We get to improvise. They give us a lot of freedom. I think they always book about maybe an extra hour of time than they need, because we get real chatty. There’s definitely an album – like a very rated R comedy album somewhere in the footage of the audio recording, for sure.

Reilly elucidated,

It was a real treat to get into the studio again with Sarah. In a way, like our friendship has [at the time of recording] aged five years since the last film. So it tracks in a way with Ralph and Vanellope. It was a real treat to be able to start at a place of intimacy with everybody.

I think I was one of the first people to insist that we try to be in the room together as much as possible. Because I know the way improv works, it works best in real time. There’s a ton of improvised stuff, which Phil and Rich were very kind to just let us explore things every day.

The sequel handles topics incredibly well – everything from online toxicity, to the end of childhood naiveté. The filmmakers also infuse the narrative with a cloaked social commentary. Reilly stated,

I remember this one really moving conversation I had with [Phil Johnston and Rich Moore] where I realized, the Internet is like the central issue of our time. Our relationship to this technology, its power, and its effect on us, we don’t even quite understand yet. It’s as powerful as like a nuclear bomb. So it was really exciting in the context of an entertaining Disney film to be able to talk about some of these issues in a really real way; Why do we crave the anonymous acceptance of people we don’t know? The way we’re bombarded with commerce on the Internet.

As Vanellope is a Disney Princess, she was officially welcomed into the canon not only by the company property’s previous princesses, but also through a song written by none other than Alan Menken. Silverman, being a huge LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS fan, said of the song recording experience,

It was a dream come true. I couldn’t believe it. When [Phil Johnston, Rich Moore and Pamela Ribon] told me I was going to have a song, we had already been recording for a while. The music was written by Alan Menken and I got to meet him and work with him and rehearse with him. We recorded with a whole orchestra like you see in old timely movies. It was really the thrill of a lifetime.

She later added,

The idea of Disney Princess – what makes it good is that it has grown and changed. That Disney has taken on progress and inclusivity and has grown and changed in positive ways. This movie just faces [classic Disney Princess ideals] head on. Leans right into it. To acknowledge all of that and then shatter it is so exciting. To get to be this kid who becomes like a princess with an attainable waist line and wearing comfortable clothes. I love that Vanellope kind of sheds light on these grown up princesses that are uncomfortable hanging out.

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET is now playing.

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