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Interview with Clark Spencer, Producer, on Wreck-It Ralph

Disney Interview

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#1 of 4 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted March 07 2013 - 02:12 AM

HTF recently had the opportunity to talk with Clark Spencer, producer of Wreck-It Ralph...

HTF:  Let me start with congratulations on Wreck-It Ralph.  Almost half a billion dollars in international and domestic box office, and you got the Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature Film.   I want to also thank you very much for screening it for our members back in October at Disney Burbank.

Clark Spencer:  It’s a pleasure.  Thank you so much.

HTF:  I am personally a big fan of your work; Bolt chapter 2 is my go-to home theater demo every time.

Clark Spencer:  That’s awesome.  Thank you, I appreciate that.

HTF:  I remember when the trailer for Wreck-It Ralph came out several months before the film, there was this huge pre-release interest, not only from our members, but from people all over, people that typically aren’t excited about checking out the next Disney animated film.  guys notice this and when did you realize you had something special?

Clark Spencer:  You know, it’s interesting because we spend all this time making a movie,  it takes four years to make it.  We do it in a bubble here in Burbank in this one building.  All the artists are in this building with us and we love what we are doing, but we are really close to it.  So you wonder whether the rest of the world is going to embrace the film that we are making. That trailer came out at the start of E3 [Electronic Entertainment Expo – video game conference].  I will never forget it, we were in a car going to E3 to meet with some companies and the buzz just started to build, people were tweeting and people were telling everyone else on Facebook to go look at it and I thought, wow, this is really hitting in a way I have never seen before.  The key element to me was people who play video games are very critical about movies that are about video games.  We knew that going in and it was exciting to have video gamers actually say “this looks like it could be a great movie”. At that moment and not before, we thought we might have something here, that it might actually work, but up until then, we were just people having this amazing time making a movie and wondering whether anyone else would like it.

HTF:  What do you think appealed to all those people, including the gamer demographic?

Clark Spencer:  You know, it is hard to pin that down.  In this trailer, you can’t tell the whole movie, but I think people got excited because they thought “how the hell are Clyde from Pac-Man, Bowser, Sonic, Q*bert, how are all these characters in the same movie?”.   I think that kind of intrigued people, so I don’t think they expected to see that in the trailer itself.   They also started to realize that they were going to go to these different worlds and that it was going to be comedy because John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, and Jack McBrayer  and Jane Lynch were part of it, so there were a lot of elements that attracted different people to it from seeing the trailer. Then I think once they actually saw the movie, they realized that we did two things:  Often video game movies are made about a video game itself and we didn’t do that.  We created original characters and then the original game and as a result, people come in and they learn about these characters in a way they didn’t know before.  They get to see it set in a world that they are very familiar with, so I think that part really helped in that standpoint. Secondly, we spent a lot of time researching and trying to be true or as true as possible to the real video games.  We hired a lot of people from video game companies to be part of making this movie, so there are a lot of things that are very accurate to video games themselves.  I think people appreciated that attention to detail.

HTF:  Speaking of the cast, they really owned the characters.  I don’t think you could have had a better cast.  How did the casting come about?

Clark Spencer:  You know, that’s a really a good question, and it was an interesting experience. I have been involved in so many movies.  With this movie, from the very beginning as they were writing the script, the director, Rich Moore and the writer Phil Johnston knew they wanted John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, and Jane Lynch.  They knew that, and they wrote the script with those four people in mind for the characters.  Now the great thing as a producer is you realize we won’t have to spend a lot of time exploring who’s the right cast for these roles.  The bad part is what if these people say no?  From the very beginning Jack, Jane, and Sarah said yes, but John didn’t.  He took about a year to agree to come onto the film and he hesitated because he didn’t know if he would like the animation process.  He loved the idea of the film.  It was never about that.  It was always about would he enjoy making an animated film and the big thing he said was “I can only do this if I get to record with the other actors” --- and we never do that.  But because of his request, we changed our process and we actually recorded him with Jane, Jack and Sarah at all times, and I think it profoundly changes the movie.  It’s very natural acting that you actually see from these characters because they were in the room together, acting off of each other instead of being in an isolated booth trying to imagine in their heads what it would be like to have this other character be there.  To me it elevates the film in a way I never truly understood it would until we got into the room and started recording these guys.  I give John C. Reilly a lot of credit for that.

HTF:  Do you actually think you may take that idea and use it on future films?

Clark Spencer:  Yes, 100% sure.  Ironically, as the producer, you usually say no to this, because the complicated part is getting peoples’ schedules to line up and we make these movies over four years, so it is a really difficult task.  It is usually the producer saying it is too hard to do, but after actually seeing what happened, I feel fundamentally as a producer I would always want to give the director the opportunity to have all the actors in the room together recording.

HTF:  Wreck-It Ralph 2, is it official and what might we see?

Clark Spencer:  It is not official.  I will say that it’s such a great world, the world of video games, there is so much opportunity with these characters and because they have been embraced around the world, these are characters people are starting to fall in love with.  I think the chances of it happening are very good, but what it takes is a great idea and that is what I love about John Lasseter who is our Chief Creative Officer.  His point of view is “I only want people to make a movie if it comes from their soul, if it is an idea that they want to do”.  So right now, Rich Moore is thinking about what that idea would be, to make sure it is a really great idea.  Because the world is set in video games, there are so many places we could go and whether we go into an x-box this time instead of an arcade or if we use the internet, there are so many places we can actually send Ralph and Vanellope in terms of the journey that it is almost limitless.  To me, the fun thing is it’s actually one of the things we had on the Blu-ray, this world called Extreme Easy Living 2 which was sort of the Sims meets Grand Theft Auto done Disney style.  It came in at the break between the second and the third act in the early versions of the movie.  So we realized this kind of too late in the movie to introduce a whole other world and we didn’t get to explore it fully.  But because it’s such a great world and when you see on the Blu-ray what we did with that world,  I think you will realize there are a lot of great places we could send these characters.  So Rich just has to come up with the right idea and then fingers crossed, we actually get the chance to make it.

"X-Treme E-Z Livin' 2" Deleted Scene

HTF:  Very good and I really appreciate your time today.  I am a big fan of the movie and looking forward to whatever you are involved in next at Disney.

Clark Spencer:  I appreciate that.

#2 of 4 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted March 07 2013 - 02:20 AM

I was just sent a link to this "mockumentary" about one time Fix-It Felix Jr. high score champion Garlan Hulse, his fall into obscurity and his attempt to be on top again, directed by Rich Moore.  Its pretty funny.

#3 of 4 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted March 07 2013 - 03:45 AM

Thanks for the interview Adam. Having watched a number of behind-the-scenes featurettes on the voice recording process for animated films, I've always wondered why the films insist on recording actors in isolation, when actors rely so much on feedback and collaboration. It seems very often the actors, if they're allowed to be candid, sort of complain about the isolated experience and throw in as a consolation that they could roll into the studio without having to get dressed up or go through hair and makeup. It's great that Reilly had the pull to shake things up a little bit and help people try something different, to the mutual benefit of everyone involved.

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#4 of 4 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted March 10 2013 - 08:07 AM

Thanks for the interview. I just had a chance to screen the BD and wow, what a great film this turned out to be. The gamer in me geeked out, and the film lover in me was touched by the plot, characters and emotional tone of the film. I'm very happy they got one of my favorite actors, John C. Reilly, in the lead role. I think he's one of our most talented actors working today, lacking only the "Hollywood Looks" which keeps him from being the mega-star he should be. Between he and Philip Seymour Hoffman, proof that sometimes (not very often) in Hollywood, supreme talent can overcome that lack of the "Hollywood Look" to still get you top billing.

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