"Ralph Breaks The Internet" Was Originally About Social Media Addiction

By Maggie Ethridge 11/26/18

The original storyline of Ralph Breaks the Internet focused on social media addiction and the obsession with getting "likes" and affirmations.  

Image from "Ralph Breaks The Internet" which was originally about social media addiction
Photo via YouTube

Ralph Breaks the Internet is the follow-up to the popular animated movie, Wreck-It Ralph. Sarah Silverman and John C. Reilly voice the video game characters Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph, two unlikely friends.

The sequel—now playing in theaters—was almost a tale of internet addiction, according to the film's producers.

Wreck-it Ralph is about arcade-game character Wreck-It Ralph who doesn’t want to be the bad guy in the game anymore. After years of being the bad guy to good guy Fix-It Felix, Ralph takes action: he hops through video games to prove that he can be the hero. But while on this hero’s journey, Ralph accidentally unleashes a deadly enemy to the entire arcade.

Wreck-It Ralph meets Vanellope, a video game character who thinks she is the bad guy, when actually she is the princess destined to win the game.

The sequel sees Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope beginning a journey inside the world wide web to find a replacement part for Vanellope’s game. Without the replacement part, Vanellope will cease to exist in the virtual world they inhabit.

Producer Clark Spencer told Yahoo Movies UK that the original concept went down a darker-themed journey. In the original movie plot, Vanellope became obsessed with her online status and growing her social media affirmations, echoing the experience of many young people in the modern world.

“In the very beginning we did want the story to be the concept of being caught up in the Internet,” Spencer told Yahoo Movies UK earlier this year. “So there was a story told where Vanellope, being the younger character, actually got caught up in the ‘likes’ and she started to feel like that was giving her the affirmation she needed.”

Social media addiction is a growing concern as generations of children are growing up spending hours a day engaging online.

However, the filmmakers felt that the plot wasn’t authentic to the strong character of Vanellope they had created. Spencer told Yahoo, “It made us take a step back and say: what’s a different story we can tell that still deals with those elements of the Internet that are complicated?”

Spencer continued. “How do we deal with comments? How do we deal with the word ‘likes’ and what does it mean for someone? That idea of affirmation through this kind of anonymous body of the Internet.”

Ultimately the storyline focused on how identity is created and understood through how we spend our days, and what we identify with.

“What we wanted to say is: What would it mean to a character if their game actually was gone?” Spencer told Yahoo. “Do they define themselves by their games rather than who they are? It’s sort of like do I define myself by my career or do I define by myself as an individual or as a person? That is a key element of what we explore with Vanellope.”

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Maggie May Ethridge is the author of Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From a Marriage (Shebooks, 2014) and the recently completed novel, Agitate My Heart. She is a freelance writer published in Rolling Stone, VOX, Washington Post, The Guardian and many others. Find her at her blog Flux Capacitor or on LinkedIn or Twitter.