KnowsMore, the lovable search bar host with all the answers to your most pressing questions, retrieved the following results to the question: Is Vanellope a Disney Princess?
At the end of Wreck-It Ralph in 2012, it was revealed that glitchy racer Vanellope von Schweetz was actually the princess of the arcade game “Sugar Rush,” her throne having been stolen by the dastardly King Candy. Created by Walt Disney Animation Studios, Wreck-It Ralph is a Disney film and Vanellope is a princess within it. When Ralph Breaks the Internet breaks box office records on November 21st, fans will finally know if she’s an official Disney Princess or not.
“There are a lot of princesses that are from Disney movies that aren’t canonized Disney Princesses,” Director Rich Moore explained. “I don’t know how they’re chosen, I don’t know how it goes on. I think it’s kind of like the Vatican, smoke comes up the chimney and Moana is now a Disney Princess. So we decided we’re going to use the canonized group of princesses that are known as the Disney Princesses. Not that we don’t love Princess Leia and Kida and Meg and Esmerelda, but we decided we’re going to go with the official Disney Princesses.”
The hilarious sequence debuted at the 2017 D23 Expo to uproarious laughter. While visiting the website OhMyDisney.com, Vanellope finds herself pursued by Storm Troopers and ducks into a door, only to find herself in the backstage break room of Disney’s most celebrated princess characters. They don’t instantly recognize her as one of their own, but by the end of the scene they are all hanging out Vanellope-style.
“Why isn’t Vanellope cannon?,” Co-Writer Pamela Ribon asked herself while approaching the scene. “She’s a princess, she’s a president, but I believe a gal can have more than one title and pull it off. That was just in the back of my mind and then when we started working on the movie… this is when we knew that we wanted a scene that was meta. As we’re talking about different parts of the internet, wouldn’t it be fun to have Disney sort of poking fun at itself a little bit?”
“It felt like if everyone else does it, why shouldn’t we?,” Rich Moore mused. “And we could do it better than other places because those are our characters and we know them intimately. And it started this idea, because we were just kicking around ideas, where they could go, what they could do, and it started as this idea of wouldn’t it be funny if Ralph was somehow taking one of those quizzes or tests of like ‘Are you an Anna or an Elsa?’ He and Vanellope getting into an argument over it and wouldn’t it be funny if somehow Anna and Elsa are there? And that started us kind of thinking how could we do something like that. And then we realized there’s that fan site, the Disney fan site, and oh my God, wouldn’t it be great to do a set piece that was all Disney? And why not have fun at our own expense of the characters and their foibles and what makes them weird and what’s crazy about them. And the fact that even within the Disney pantheon, things like Ralph and Vanellope feel like misfits.”
“All fourteen princesses are going to be in this sequence and our main challenge is to the design of the princesses, to make sure they all belong in the same world,” explained Art Director Ami Thompson. “If you take a look at Tiana, Snow White, Ariel, they were all drawn in 2D and this time we’re going to convert them into CG. We analyzed all of their character designs, we realized that they’re all drawn very differently. Some are really cartoony, some are really realistic, so we decided to come up with Oh My Disney website versions of princesses.”
The exploration into how each princess would look in casual wear included lots of trial and error. At one point Ariel’s shirt simply said “Shirt” upside-down, a joke where she would ask what it’s called again, look down, and say “Oh, shirt.” The entire animation team got involved pitching ideas to give each shirt some meaning for each character, such as Pocahontas’ “Blue Corn Moon” graphic tee. “I wanted to make Snow White’s shirt a little cooler, I mean not many people can survive eating a poison apple so she should be proud, she’s a survivor,” Ami added. Cinderella’s shirt says “GTG” stylized to look like the carriage, which is a text acronym for “Got to go.”
Head of Animation Kira Lehtomaki shared some insight into the extensive research for this scene. “We needed to figure out where we should go and why don’t we go to the source, so we got in our cars and went to the Happiest Place on Earth to be able to talk to these ladies in person. We could ask them questions, we could learn about their gestures. They taught us a lot, but of course the other source of inspiration were the original voices of these princesses and it was incredible. The fan girl in me was about to explode when I learned that this was going to happen. But the idea that they came back and voiced these characters added so much authenticity to their movements and their roles. Most of them have lived with these characters the majority of their careers. They know them inside and out. They bring so much of themselves to the role as well, and we were very fortunate in that many of them came and spoke to our animation department directly and ask them ‘How would Ariel respond to this situation?’ and ‘What would Belle do here?’ They were such a wealth of information.”
Jodi Benson, Paige O’Hara, Linda Larkin, Irene Bedard, Ming-Na Wen, Anika Noni Rose, Mandy Moore, Kelly MacDonald, Idina Menzel, Kristin Bell, and Auli’i Cravalho all returned to the characters they originated. “We did the scene first with temp voices so we knew what the scene was all about when we went to them,” Rich Moore explained. “We sent them the sides so everyone knew what the scene was like and we thought, well, I hope everyone’s game to do something that’s part irreverent but respectful of their characters at the same time. And every single actress that we went to loved the idea and actually when they came in, helped kind of elevate the comedy as an actor does. They would point out ‘Well, my character wouldn’t say it like that, they would say it more like this.’ And it just added that extra layer of authenticity to the princesses because as we got to work with each one of them, they became really apparent to us that they really embody those characters.”
Another resource to the animators was Mark Henn. “He was the original Supervising Animator for five of these ladies,” Kira Lehtomaki shared. “He did Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Mulan, and Tiana and on Frozen, he was our draw-over lead for Anna and Elsa. On top of all that, Mark says that Cinderella is what inspired him to become an animator to begin with. So nobody knows these ladies better than Mark and we were more than fortunate to have him along on the journey with us through every part of the process. He would do drawings over our poses, he went through every scene in the film during our rounds and dailies just to make sure that we were being true to who these ladies were. He would also go around to our desks and leave these little gifts of thumbnail illustrations to suggest poses or acting choices, just little nuggets of gold from his expertise brain. And then one of my favorite parts was that he actually did some hand drawn animation to help teach us and inspire us and it was incredible to watch Mark animate Ariel almost 30 years after the original film. It’s really incredible to have Mark and to have such a through line of our legacy here. He was so instrumental in the entire part of the process.”
Disney Animation fans can hear more answers from KnowsMore on November 21st when we explore the Internet with Ralph and Vanellope in Ralph Breaks the Internet.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.