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Why “Wreck-It Ralph” Destroyed the Competition

December 18, 2012

I finally caught up with the smash Disney cartoon Wreck-It Ralph, which was still playing to a packed house of kids and their parents in its seventh weekend of release. Its domestic box office total now stands at $168 million, surpassing its $165 million budget—and that revenue figure doesn’t include the hundreds of millions more it’ll rake in overseas, on DVD/Blu-Ray/On Demand and from merchandising (roll over, Bob the Builder!). Meanwhile, DreamWorks’ Rise of the Guardians has hauled in only $71 million, less than half of its $145 million budget, and its holiday theme will soon make it colder than Santa in a Speedo. (It’s estimated DreamWorks could take a $45 million write-off for Rise). So what made Ralph such a commercial wrecking ball?

Savvy marketing on the part of Disney, for once. The studio got Ralph into theaters three weeks ahead of Rise, giving it time to build momentum and word-of-mouth. A trailer scored by the aptly named band Fun’s irresistible single “Some Nights” (not heard in the film) made the film seem hip, as did the vocal cast—relatively cheap but cool stars like John C. Reilly (as the  overgrown-outcast title character—call him Shrek-It Ralph), 3o Rock‘s Jack McBrayer (perfectly cast as relentlessly upbeat Fix-It Felix, Jr.), Glee‘s surprisingly sexy-sounding Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman and more.

The most important factor in the film’s success, however, is its winning concept—by creating a world in which videogame characters speak to each other and engage in adventures when humans aren’t around, it’s like a digital version of Toy Story. But the film deals with videogames from 30 years ago—Ms. Pac Man, Q-Bert and the like—so it appeals to nostalgic parents as well as their offspring.

Now the question is: Will Wreck-It Ralph—which feels like a Pixar movie even though it was produced by Disney’s in-house animation division (headed by Pixar vet John Lasseter)—crush Pixar’s Brave as well as the rest of the competition for the Best Animated Film Oscar? They’re going head-to-head at the Golden Globes, where the other nominees are Rise, Hotel Transylvania and the probable winner, Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, which is also a Disney release. Still, if kids were allowed to vote for the Oscars, I’m betting they’d pick Ralph, based on the giddy response in the theater where I saw it, compared to the stony silence that greeted Frankenweenie. And don’t be surprised if Ralph returns with sequels to wreak even box-office havoc.

Did Wreck-It Ralph destroy you? Post a comment!

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One Comment
  1. insiderhedge permalink

    Reblogged this on Parrot Reviews.

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