We send our best and brightest Disney otaku to interrogate the Disney producer on Japan’s new release, Ralph Breaks the Internet.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the winter season, Disney buffs across Japan are gearing up for December 21, when Disney’s sequel to their video game mash-up blockbuster Wreck it Ralph finally releases. Though in the Western world we know that sequel as Ralph Breaks the Internet, in Japan it’s releasing under the moniker Sugar Rush: Online (the original Wreck it Ralph was titled Sugar Rush in Japan).

Here at SoraNews24, no one was more excited for the return of Ralph than our resident Disney aficionado, Daiichiro Tashiro. So when the opportunity arose to interview the movie’s producer, Clark Spencer, Daiichiro could barely sit still with excitement and nerves.

You see, Spencer isn’t just the producer for this film, a sequel to Ralph and Vanellope’s 2012 adventure, which sees them venture into the vast world of the Internet to save Vanellope’s native video game Sugar Rush. Spencer also produced the original Wreck-It Ralph, furry smash hit Zootopia, adorable alien flick Lilo and Stitch, and even the hair-raising princess adventure Tangled.

▼ For Daiichiro it would have been enough just to meet this man, let alone interview him.

Daiichiro: “Thank you so much for making time to speak with us today. There were so many bits in your new film that wowed me!”

Clark Spencer: “Why, thank you! I’m so happy to hear that.”

Daiichiro promised Spencer that he had a whole host of thoughts and questions to ask after watching the film, which seemed to get a good reaction. With all the formalities out of the way, Daiichiro dove in.

Daiichiro: “Some of our readers might not know what a film producer does. Could you explain your role in the film-making process for them?”

Spencer: “Oh, that’s a good point. Well, the producer has the job of doing everything to ensure the idea in the director’s head comes together in one product. That means doing lots of different jobs, like thinking of ideas for the story, assembling huge teams of over 400 people and organizing production schedules.”

Daiichiro: “Sounds like a job that requires a lot of thought.”

Spencer: “Oh, for sure. I think the most difficult thing for a producer is getting the balance right. You obviously want to encourage the creator’s creativity, but you also have to work within these realistic confines: the production schedule, the budget and so on. How do you get the most out of your creatives’ ideas while staying within your fixed schedule and budget? That’s what makes balance so important, I think.”

Daiichiro: “In Ralph Breaks the Internet, we’re shown real-world companies like Google and Amazon. Is there anything else you wanted the viewer to notice, that wasn’t pointed out as dramatically?”

Spencer: “Hmmmm… You mean Easter Eggs, don’t you?”

Daiichiro: “Yes, Easter Eggs!”

Spencer: “Well… There are definitely a lot of Easter Eggs hidden throughout the film, but I think the joy comes from spotting them yourself. I really want the people who watch the movie to scout them out.”

▼ Japanese marketing materials highlight businesses well-known to local viewers like Rakuten, LINE and Yahoo!

Daiichiro: “Do you have a favorite one in particular?”

Spencer lapsed into thought, muttering “a favorite one…” which made an already nervous Daiichiro sweat a little harder. He hadn’t meant to put him on the spot like that. After apologizing for asking such a tough question, Spencer surprised him with a great answer.

Spencer: “There is actually a Stan Lee cameo in the movie. He was just a monumental influence for all of us in the field of animation and we wanted to honor his achievements somehow. We decided on his cameo long before he passed away. If you spot him in the movie I’ll be delighted.”

Talk next turned to the gorgeous environments showcased in the movie.

Daiichiro: “I was really impressed with how the team conveyed the ‘world’ of the Internet. I kept thinking ‘If the Internet existed physically it would look exactly like this!’ How did you come up with the look and feel for it?”

Spencer: “That part was really tough, because it wasn’t like we had a real location to use as a basis. We did a lot of things to reach our final look for the Internet, but it boiled down to two main things.”

“Firstly, research. By talking to some of the earliest pioneers of the real-life Internet, we crystallized this idea…that the Internet is founded on those old websites that they built, and the new stuff is just built on top of it, like piled on top. That gave us the idea that the world of the Internet should be vertical.”

Daiichiro: “Yes! I definitely got the vibe while watching that the lower parts of the Internet were ‘older’ and then the higher up they got, the more modern it felt.”

Spencer: “Exactly! Oh, and the other major inspiration, the second one, was Tokyo.”

Daiichiro: “Wh-Tokyo?!”

▼ Tokyo.

Spencer: “We had this image of the Internet as somewhere where someone is always logged on, and it gives the impression of a place that never sleeps. Kinda like Tokyo, right? And Tokyo also has a skyline filled with tall buildings and skyscrapers, and the landscape is littered with signs and billboards: just like the world in Ralph Breaks the Internet.”

This revelation was a lot for poor Daiichiro to take in. Once he’d gathered himself together again, he had another challenge: ever since he’d seen the preview trailers he’d wondered how they’d come up with the famous scene where the Disney princesses star together. Now was his chance to find out!

Daiichiro: “There is a scene in Ralph Breaks the Internet where we get to see many Disney princesses in the same place. I think it’s the first time we’ve ever seen this many princesses together in one scene, at least as far as I can remember. Were there any big challenges in putting that sequence together?”

Spencer: “Well, when we first thought of Ralph diving into the Internet we thought it would make sense for him to visit pretty much any other world that existed. It seemed perfectly natural to have Vanellope, who’s a princess in her own game, meet all the other Disney princesses.”

“I told the director: we need two things to make this scene work. First, we have to have fun writing it and really sell the hilarity of these princesses interacting with each other as co-stars. Second, we have to portray all of them while emphasizing their individual personalities. We had two writers for the screenplay, Phil Johnston and Pamela Ribon, who managed to do both – they were instrumental in bringing that scene to life.”

Daiichiro: “Those two did a really great job.”

Spencer: “We needed to have this punchy, modern scene and they just nailed it. We showed their script to the Disney Company and they were like “Alright, you can have the Princesses co-star in your film.”

Finally, the conversation turned to the stars behind the stars: the voice actors.

Daiichiro: “I absolutely love Ralph and Vanellope’s voices. How did you decide who to cast?”

Spencer: “There’s something I always do with casting: I find an actor’s other works and just listen to the audio, and pair it with the image of the character. If it seems like the character would really talk like that, with that voice, then it’s meant to be.”

Daiichiro: “I never even thought of that! Searching for voices from other films, and matching it with the character design…”

Spencer: “Voices are especially important in the world of animation!”

Daiichiro: “There’s one more question I’d like to ask you about the voices… In Japan, many aspiring voice actors are studying the craft right now, dreaming that one day they might star as a Disney character. Do you have any words of advice for them?”

Spencer: “Create opportunities for people to hear your voice. That’s vital. Record your voice, get it out there, let people know you have the chops as a voice actor. The other most important thing is just to never give up on your dream.”

The advice left Daiichiro stunned, wreathed in inspiration. Being told not to give up was good enough advice from anyone, but coming from a Disney employee it held an extra level of weight. It was like Cinderella herself was singing “If you keep on dreaming, the dream that you wish will come true”!

Spencer: “It’s a really wonderful job, being a voice actor. It’s fun, but not everyone can do it. Think about it: those people can enter a studio with no props, no make up, no costumes, and still breathe life into a character. I think most voice actors really love the work they do.”

▼ Gal Gadot, who voices the character Shank in Ralph Breaks the Internet

Here Spencer gave a little smile, which really underlined his impressive Disney aura. Daiichiro noted he seemed very kind and grateful while talking about the work that voice actors do, which really impressed him. He thanked him for his wonderful advice before moving on to his final questions.

Daiichiro: “Many Japanese people love Disney products and Disneyland and so on, and to us the Walt Disney Company seems like a magical place. How is it to work there? Is there something special about it?”

Spencer: “Oh yes, incredibly special. When I was young my grandparents ran a movie theater, and I used to watch my grandmother sell cinema tickets while I was sat on her lap. After she was done selling tickets, she’d take me into the theater itself and we’d watch the movie. I saw Snow White and Bambi and Dumbo that way. I think that’s why as I grew up I had this real urge to work as part of the film industry.”

Daiichiro: “It sounds like it was fate.”

Spencer: “But I never once imagined that when I grew up I’d be working for Disney, making films like the ones that brightened my days as a boy. Working as a producer, no less! And now I get to come to Japan and share my work with you all, and it’s very much like a dream come true.”

Daiichiro was so moved by this. The more Spencer spoke the more he worried he might start to cry. The producer’s love for Disney was palpable, and especially easy for Daiichiro, a die-hard Disney fan himself, to notice. Not wanting to risk sobbing in front of Spencer, her simply uttered “Yes, it is”.

Spencer: “Disney Studios gathers the most talented animators in the field from all over the globe, including Japan. I get to work with those people every day, people just bursting with talent, and make stories… And if those stories succeed, they’ll last in the minds of people long after I pass away. That’s just incredible to me. It’s an honor to do this job.”

Daiichiro: “It sounds like a real dream of a job. Thank you again so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us.”

Spencer: “The pleasure was all mine!”

Because he was so nervous at the chance to talk with a producer from his dream company, Daiichiro often stumbled over his questions and had difficulty getting the words out. Spencer always smiled at him kindly and gave him the space to talk, as though to imply he should just take things at his own pace. It was like he was imbued with Disney magic himself!

Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 is out across Japan from December 21, and Daiichiro really recommends it to anyone wanting to celebrate modern-day friendship and enjoy the fruits of the team’s labor – including Clark Spencer’s, of course. And keep an eye out for those Easter Eggs!

Photos ©SoraNews24
Ralph Breaks the Internet images: Disney
[ Read in Japanese ]