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"Ralph Wrecks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2" to feature brutally funny send-up of the Disney Princesses

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"Ralph Wrecks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2" to feature brutally funny send-up of the Disney Princesses

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Back when he was promoting "Zootopia" 's theatrical release, screenwriter Phil Johnston shared this great behind-the-scenes story about one of the more memorable / infamous moments from that 2016 Walt Disney Animation Studios production.

You know the scene that I'm talking about. The one where Chief Bogo (i.e., the gruff old water buffalo character who was voiced by Idris Elba) tries to persuade office Judy Hopps (i.e., the naïve new hire voiced by "Once Upon a Time" 's Ginnifer Goodwin) to let go of her illusions when it comes to life in the big city.

"Life isn't some cartoon musical where you sing a little song and all your insipid dreams magically come true," Bogo tells Hopps. "So let ... it ... go."

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Given that this is a character in a Disney animated feature who is making this brutally honest statement, this moment in "Zootopia" couldn't get any more meta. But as you might have guessed, there were those in upper management at the Mouse House who didn't think it was particularly funny that the punchline for this joke came at "Frozen" 's expense.

After all, that highly praised Chris Buck / Jennifer Lee film had sold more than $1.2 billion worth of tickets worldwide. More to the point, "Frozen" had won two Academy Awards for Disney Studios: One for Best Animated Feature in 2014. And the other for the very song that "Zootopia" was making fun of.

"I honestly didn't think that they'd let that joke stay in the movie," Johnston stated. "There was actually some talk of softening what Chief Bogo said. Or - at the very least - removing the word 'insipid.' But I was like 'No! That's exactly what this guy would say.' That's the thing. You always have to go back to the character and that's what Bogo would say."

Phil Johnston

Mind you, given that "Zootopia" would go on to earn almost as much as "Frozen" (Its worldwide box office total was $1.02 billion) and it would also go on to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for Disney Studios ... Well, the lesson that Johnston & his clever collaborators (i.e., "Zootopia" director Rich Moore & producer Clark Spencer) seemed to have taken away from this experience is that sharp, biting, self-referential humor can sometimes really pay off.

Which brings us to Phil, Rich & Clark's next project for Disney: "Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2." Even though this sequel to 2012's "Wreck-It Ralph" (which - FYI - Johnston, Moore & Spencer all had a hand in) won't actually arrive in theaters 'til November of 2018, it is already blowing up the Internet today. Largely because of the footage that was screened yesterday at the D23 EXPO during the "Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Upcoming Films" panel. Which featured some of the meanest, sharpest, funniest, self-referential humor in Disney Company history.

Before I get into a description of this specific sequence, you first need to have to know a little bit about the storyline for "Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck It Ralph 2." Which (obviously) is a sequel to Walt Disney Animation Studios' November 2012 release, "Wreck-It Ralph."

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"Wreck-It Ralph 2" starts off with Litwak's Family Fun Center & Arcade (Which is where the "Sugar Rush" & "Fix It Felix Jr."  game where Vanellope von Schweetz and Wreck-It Ralph "live" are located) finally getting its very own website. Which means that - thanks to Wifi -- Vanellope & Ralph now have access to the World Wide Web.

Which is a fortunate coincidence. Given that - at this exact moment in the movie's plot - Vanellope's video game, "Sugar Rush," has broken down. And unless a specific part can be found to repair this video game, Mr. Litwak's going to be forced to pull "Sugar Rush" out of his arcade.

So - with the hope that they'll be able to find the part necessary to make this repair somewhere out there on the Web - Vanellope & Ralph begin surfing around the Internet. Which is how they eventually find themselves at OhMyDisney.com. Which is this one-stop-shop on the Web when it comes to all things Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar & Disney-related.

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Anyway ... As Wreck-It Ralph & Vanellope are scoping out OhMyDisney.com, they see a passel of Disney Princesses pass by (And who's keeping the crowd at bay as Ariel & associates are headed back to their break room? A squad of Stormtroopers from "Star Wars").

As soon as von Schweetz sees the extra-special treatment that all of this cartoon royalty is receiving, she turns to her OhMyDisney.com tour guide and says "Hey, what's the big deal with those broads?' Vanellope is then told that " ... "Those perfect models of femininity are known as the Princesses." Von Schweetz' immediate response to this news is "Let's go mess with them." When Vanellope is then told " ... The Princesses are off limits. You can't go messing with them," she laments "Now that's all I want to do."

Which is why - when no one is looking -- von Schweetz uses her glitching ability to gain access to the Disney Princesses' backstage break room. But things do not go well when Vanellope tries to introduce herself to this crowned crew. Startled to find this diminutive intruder suddenly in their midst, Belle & her buddies immediately go into defensive mode. First Pocahontas threatens to brain von Schweetz with her combination walking staff / Indian Club. And then Cinderella takes off one of her glass slippers and - after cracking it in two by suddenly slapping that shoe down on the edge of a nearby coffee table - threatens to cut Vanellope with its jagged edge.

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But before it gets all "Game-of-Thrones" -y back there in the Disney Princess break room, von Schweetz blurts out "I'm a princess too." Which - as you'll recall from the end of the first "Wreck-It Ralph" (When Vanellope's code was finally restored, she was revealed to be [I'm quoting Sour Bill now] " ... the rightful ruler of Sugar Rush, Princess Vanellope")  -- is true.

So the Disney Princesses then begin quizzing von Schweetz to determine exactly what kind of cartoon royalty she is. Rapunzel asks "Do you have magic hair?" Cinderella follows that by asking "Do animals talk to you?" asks Cinderella. Snow White wants to know "Did you eat poison?" Von Schweetz responds in the negative to all three of these questions. When Ariel asks her, ""Did you make a deal with an underwater sea witch who took your voice in exchange for a pair of human legs?,"  Vanellope's immediate horrified response is "No! Good lord, who would do that?"

That's some really sharp, funny writing there. But what really makes this sequence soar is that Walt Disney Feature Animation got the original voice actors to come back and read the lines that the "Wreck-It Ralph 2" story team had crafted for these characters. So that - when Princess Jasmine reveals that she's allergic to cats (Which would probably be incredibly problematic. Given that Jasmine's longtime pet / royal bodyguard is this immense Bengal Tiger called Rajah) - that's actually Linda Larkin who provides the grossly phlegmy cough which follows this very personal Disney Princess insight.

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Given that this sequence in "Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2" features so many clever-but-brutally-funny digs at Disney & Pixar (Wait 'til you see how they handle poor Merida from "Brave"), it would be the equivalent of movie-goer malpractice to reveal too much more. Spoil the fun & surprise of seeing what the Disney Princesses are really like behind closed doors. But I think that Vanellope herself sums it up pretty well: "I always thought that princesses were perfect and boring. But you're pretty cool. You're just as messed up as the rest of us."

But there's another reason that I don't want to get all that specific about this Vanellope-hangs-with-the-Disney-Princesses sequence from "Wreck-It Ralph 2." We're still 16 months out from when "Ralph Wrecks the Internet" is scheduled to be released to theaters. And while a lot of the footage that we were shown yesterday appeared to be finished, movies - especially animated features - do change a lot as they move through the production process. And often, a lot of the stuff that gets cut is self-referential humor.

Case in point: Disney's Summer 1997 release, "Hercules." For most of the time that this Ron Clements / John Musker movie was in production, there was this scene where Hercules - atop his flying horse, Pegasus - flew through a star-filled sky. And which Disney characters were recreated as constellations in that nighttime sky? Sebastian the Crab & Ariel from "The Little Mermaid."

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The only problem with this cartoon cameo is that it came at the very end of "Zero to Hero," this high energy song which was supposed to give the audience all sorts of information about how the Greek people now saw Hercules as almost this celebrity / sports star. But when this Musker & Clements film began test-screening around the country in late 1996 / early 1997, what Ron & John found was that brief glimpse of Ariel & Sebastian actually pulled people out of the movie. Audience members were so busy turning to their seatmates and then saying "Did you see that? Those were characters from 'The Little Mermaid' " that they sometimes missed a crucial plot point in "Hercules" 's next sequence.

So in order to make sure that audiences actually knew how Hades planned on taking down Hercules in the second half of their film (i.e., by siccing Megara on him), Musker & Clements reluctantly had to cut Ariel & Sebastian out of "Hercules" just months before this Walt Disney Animation Studios production was released to theaters in June of 1997.

One hopes that this will not be the case with "Ralph Breaks the Internet." Because what Johnston (who's co-directing with Moore this time around) and the "Wreck-It Ralph" story team have done with this Vanellope-meets-the-Disney-Princesses sequence is epic. Mind-blowingly funny.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But then again, sometimes - for the betterment of your entire movie - a filmmaker just has to (please forgive me for sort of quoting from "Frozen" here) let a scene or sequence that he really loves go.

We'll find out for sure on November 21, 2018. Which is when "Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2" is due to arrive in theaters.

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Saturday, July 16, 2017

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  • I was present at the animation presentation and saw the clip. I honestly felt that it was really over-the-top and went on for far too long. They are literally stopping the movie just to have a long, irreverent sequence that overtly makes references to Disney princesses, Star Wars, an officially-sanctioned Disney blog, and Disney's toy tsum tsums.

    A sequence like this will more than likely cause the film to come to a screeching halt. Hopefully they will trim down the sequence (or cut it completely) in the finished film.

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