When Litwak's Family Fun Center & Arcade closes at night, the various video game characters leave their normal in-game roles and are free to travel to other games. Wreck-It Ralph, the antagonist of the game Fix-It Felix Jr., is ostracized by his game's characters for just doing his job, while the titular hero Felix is praised. Tired of being mistreated, Ralph announces at the game's thirtieth anniversary party that he will earn his neighbors' respect by winning a medal.
Ralph learns he can obtain a medal from the first-person shooter, Hero's Duty. After disrupting a game session, Ralph scales the game's central beacon and obtains a medal, only to hatch a Cy-Bug, one of the game's antagonists, which can adapt to and devour other environments. Ralph and the Cy-Bug stumble into an escape pod, which is launched out of the game, and crash land in Sugar Rush, a candy-themed kart racing game.
Meanwhile, with Ralph missing, his game is labelled as malfunctioning and faces being unplugged. Felix, upon learning where Ralph went from Q*Bert, ventures to Hero's Duty, teaming up with the game's heroine, Sergeant Calhoun, to retrieve Ralph and the Cy-Bug. In Sugar Rush, Ralph's medal is stolen by the glitching Vanellope Von Schweetz to buy her way into the daily races to determine who players can choose as their avatar. King Candy, the ruler of Sugar Rush, forbids her from doing so due to her being a glitch. Ralph and Vanellope agree to work together by building a race kart for Vanellope to win a race and retrieve the medal.
Ralph and Vanellope build a kart, and they flee to Diet Cola Mountain, an unfinished race track. Learning that Vanellope cannot drive, Ralph helps teach her. King Candy hacks the game's code, obtaining Ralph's medal, which he offers to him in exchange for preventing Vanellope from racing. He explains that if Vanellope wins and becomes playable, her glitches would be brought to the attention of players, their game would be unplugged and Vanellope would die, unable to leave the game because she is a glitch. A reluctant Ralph agrees, trashing Vanellope's kart. He returns to his own game, but notices Vanellope's image on the side of the Sugar Rush cabinet, and realizes she was meant to be a playable character.
Elsewhere, Felix and Calhoun search Sugar Rush for Ralph. Felix fears Ralph has gone "Turbo", alluding to a rogue character of the same name who abandoned his own game and destroyed another out of jealousy, resulting in both being unplugged. Felix falls in love with Calhoun, but she abandons him when he reminds her of her late fiancé, who was eaten by Cy-Bugs as part of her backstory. Felix is later imprisoned in King Candy's castle, but Ralph frees him and Vanellope, rebuilding the kart. Calhoun discovers a swarm of Cy-Bug eggs underground, which hatch and start devouring the game.
Vanellope participates in a race, but is attacked by King Candy. Vanellope's glitch reveals he is actually Turbo, who took over Sugar Rush, displacing Vanellope as the main character. Ralph, Felix, and Calhoun evacuate the game, but Vanellope cannot leave due to her glitch. When Calhoun points out the Cy-Bugs can be destroyed by a beacon of light as per Hero's Duty, Ralph decides to make Diet Cola Mountain erupt to replicate it. Ralph is confronted by Turbo, now fused with a Cy-Bug that devoured him, and Turbo carries him away. Ralph breaks free, hits the mountain, and causes it to erupt, but Vanellope saves him using her glitch. The volcanic beacon destroys the Cy-Bugs and Turbo.
Vanellope crosses the finish line, rebooting Sugar Rush and restoring her status and memory as Princess Vanellope, the main character of the game, but she still uses her glitching ability to her advantage. Ralph and Felix return home, allowing their game to be spared. Felix and Calhoun marry, while a content Ralph gains respect from his fellow characters.John C. Reilly as Wreck-It Ralph, a large brute who is the villain of the fictional arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr.
Sarah Silverman as Vanellope von Schweetz, a racer/glitch in Sugar Rush.
Jack McBrayer as Fix-It Felix Jr., a repairman who is the hero of Fix-It Felix Jr.
Jane Lynch as Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun, the lead character of Hero's Duty.
Alan Tudyk as King Candy, the ruler of Sugar Rush. King Candy's vocal stylings are based on comedian Ed Wynn, and his physical mannerisms are modeled from Wynn's Mad Hatter character in Alice in Wonderland.
Mindy Kaling as Taffyta Muttonfudge, a racer in Sugar Rush.
Joe Lo Truglio as Markowski, a soldier from Hero's Duty that Ralph meets in Tapper.
Ed O'Neill as Mr. Stan Litwak, owner of Litwak's Family Fun Center & Arcade.
Dennis Haysbert as General Hologram, a holographic general in Hero's Duty.
Adam Carolla as Wynnchel, a Long John who is a member of the Sugar Rush police department.
Horatio Sanz as Duncan, a doughnut who is a member of the Sugar Rush police department.
Rich Moore as Sour Bill, King Candy's sour ball henchman.
The cast also includes the Fix-It Felix Jr. Nicelanders, Edie McClurg as Mary, Raymond S. Persi as Mayor Gene, Jess Harnell as Don, Rachael Harris as Deanna, and Skylar Astin as Roy; Katie Lowes as Candlehead, Jamie Elman as Rancis Fluggerbutter, Josie Trinidad as Jubileena Bing-Bing, and Cymbre Walk as Crumbelina DiCaramello, racers in Sugar Rush; Phil Johnston as Surge Protector, Game Central Station security; Stefanie Scott as Moppet Girl, a young arcade-game player; John DiMaggio as Beard Papa, the security guard at the Sugar Rush candy-kart factory; Raymond Persi as a Zombie, Brian Kesinger as a Cyborg (based on Kano from Mortal Kombat) and Martin Jarvis as Saitine, a devil-like villain, who attends the Bad-Anon support group; Tucker Gilmore as the Sugar Rush Announcer; Brandon Scott as Kohut, a soldier in Hero's Duty; and Tim Mertens as Dr. Brad Scott, a scientist and Sgt. Calhoun's deceased fiancé in Hero's Duty (voiced by Nick Grimshaw in the UK version but not in the UK home release).
The film features several cameos from real-world video game characters including: Root Beer Tapper (Maurice LaMarche), the bartender from Tapper; Sonic the Hedgehog (Roger Craig Smith); Ryu (Kyle Hebert), Ken Masters (Reuben Langdon), M. Bison (Gerald C. Rivers), and Zangief (Rich Moore) from Street Fighter II; Clyde (Kevin Deters) from Pac-Man; and Yuni Verse (Jamie Sparer Roberts) from Dance Dance Revolution.
A character modeled after dubstep musician Skrillex makes an appearance in the fictional Fix-It Felix Jr. as the DJ at the anniversary party of the game.
The concept of Wreck-It Ralph was first developed at Disney in the late 1980s, under the working title High Score. Since then, it was redeveloped and reconsidered several times: In the late 1990s, it took on the working title Joe Jump, then in the mid-2000s as Reboot Ralph.
John Lasseter, the head of Walt Disney Animation Studios and executive producer of the film, describes Wreck-It Ralph as "an 8-bit video-game bad guy who travels the length of the arcade to prove that he's a good guy." In a manner similar to Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the Toy Story films, Wreck-It Ralph featured cameo appearances by a number of licensed video-game characters. For example, one scene from the film shows Ralph attending a support group for the arcade's various villain characters, including Clyde from Pac-Man, Doctor Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog, and Bowser from Super Mario Bros. Rich Moore, the film's director, had determined that for a film about a video-game world to feel authentic, "it had to have real characters from real games in it." Moore aimed to add licensed characters in a similar manner as cultural references in Looney Tunes shorts, but considered "having the right balance so a portion of the audience didn't feel they were being neglected or talked down to." However, Moore avoided creating the movie around existing characters, feeling that "there's so much mythology and baggage attached to pre-existing titles that I feel someone would be disappointed," and considered this to be a reason why movies based on video game franchises typically fail. Instead, for Ralph, the development of new characters representative of the 8-bit video game was "almost like virgin snow," giving them the freedom to take these characters in new directions.
Before production, the existing characters were added to the story either in places they would make sense to appear or as cameos from a list of characters suggested by the film's creative team, without consideration if they would legally be able to use the characters. The company then sought out the copyright holders' permissions to use the characters, as well as working with these companies to assure their characters were being represented authentically. In the case of Nintendo, the writers had early on envisioned the Bad-anon meeting with Bowser as a major character within the scene; according to Moore, Nintendo was very positive towards this use, stating in Moore's own words, "If there is a group that is dedicated to helping the bad guy characters in video games then Bowser must be in that group!" Nintendo had asked that the producers try to devise a scene that would be similarly appropriate for Mario for his inclusion in the film. Despite knowing they would be able to use the character, the producers could not find an appropriate scene that would let Mario be a significant character without taking away the spotlight from the main story and opted to not include the character. Moore debunked a rumor that Mario and his brother character Luigi were not included due to Nintendo requesting too high a licensing fee, stating that the rumor grew out of a joke John C. Reilly made at Comic-Con. Dr. Wily from Mega Man was going to appear but was cut from the final version of the film. Overall, there are about 188 individual character models in the movie as a result of these cameo inclusions.
An earlier draft of the screenplay had Ralph and Vanellope spending time going around the game world to collect the pieces for her kart for Sugar Rush, and at times included Felix traveling with the pair. During these scenes, Ralph would have lied to Felix regarding his budding relationship with Calhoun, leading eventually to Ralph becoming depressed and abandoning his quest to get his medal back. At this point, a fourth game world, Extreme Easy Living 2, would have been introduced and was considered a "hedonistic place" between the social nature of The Sims and the open-world objective-less aspects of Grand Theft Auto, according to Moore. Ralph would go there too, wallowing in his depression, and would find happiness by gaining "Like It" buttons for doing acceptable actions in the party-like nature of the place. Moore stated that while it was difficult to consider dropping this new game world, they found that its introduction in the second half of the film would be too difficult a concept for the viewer to grasp. They further had trouble working out how a social game would be part of an arcade, and though they considered having the game be running on Litwak's laptop, they ultimately realized that justifying the concept would be too convoluted. Line art sketches and voice-over readings of the scene were included on the home media release of the film.
The film introduced Disney's new bidirectional reflectance distribution functions, with more realistic reflections on surfaces, and new virtual cinematography Camera Capture system, which makes it possible to go through scenes in real-time. To research the Sugar Rush segment of the film, the visual development group traveled to trade fair ISM Cologne, a See's Candy factory, and other manufacturing facilities. The group also brought in food photographers, to demonstrate techniques to make food appear appealing. Special effects, including from "smoke or dust," looks distinct in each of the segments.
The film was originally scheduled for a release on March 22, 2013, but it was later changed to November 2, 2012, due to it being ahead of schedule. The theatrical release was accompanied by Disney's animated short film, Paperman.
The first trailer for Wreck-It Ralph was released on June 6, 2012, debuting with Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and Rock of Ages. This also coincided with the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo, for which Disney constructed a mock aged arcade cabinet for the fictional Fix-It Felix Jr. game on display on the show floor. Disney also released a browser-based Flash-based version of the Fix-It Felix Jr. game as well as iOS, Android, and Windows Phone versions, with online Unity-based versions of Sugar Rush and Hero's Duty. A second trailer for the film was released on Sep 12, 2012, coinciding with Finding Nemo 3D and Frankenweenie.
To promote the home media release of Wreck-It Ralph, director Rich Moore produced a short film titled Garlan Hulse: Where Potential Lives. Set within the movie's universe, the mockumentary film was designed as a parody of The King of Kong.
Wreck-It Ralph was released on Blu-ray Disc (2D and 3D) and DVD in North America on March 5, 2013, from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film was made available for digital download in selected regions on February 12, 2013. Wreck-It Ralph debuted at #1 in Blu-ray and DVD sales in the United States.
Wreck-It Ralph grossed $189.4 million in North America and $281.8 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of $471.2 million. It was the 14th-highest-grossing film of 2012, and the fourth-highest-grossing 2012 animated film.
In North America, the film debuted with $13.5 million, an above-average opening-day gross for an animated film released in November. During its opening weekend, the film topped the box office with $49 million, making it the largest opening for a Walt Disney Animation Studios film at the time.
Outside North America, Wreck-It Ralph earned $12 million on its opening weekend from six markets. Among all markets, its three largest openings were recorded in the UK, Ireland and Malta ($7.15 million), Brazil ($5.32 million with weekday previews), and Russia and the CIS ($5.27 million). In total grosses, the three largest markets were the UK, Ireland and Malta ($36.2 million), Japan ($29.6 million), and Australia ($24.0 million).
The review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 86% of critics have given the film a positive review, based on 170 reviews with an average score of 7.5/10. The site's consensus reads: "Equally entertaining for both kids and parents old enough to catch the references, Wreck-It Ralph is a clever, colorful adventure built on familiar themes and joyful nostalgia." At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 72 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". The film earned an "A" from audiences polled by CinemaScore.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and wrote, "More than in most animated films, the art design and color palette of Wreck-It Ralph permit unlimited sets, costumes, and rules, giving the movie tireless originality and different behavior in every different cyber world." A.O. Scott of The New York Times wrote, "The movie invites a measure of cynicism – which it proceeds to obliterate with a 93-minute blast of color, noise, ingenuity and fun." Peter Debruge of Variety stated, "With plenty to appeal to boys and girls, old and young, Walt Disney Animation Studios has a high-scoring hit on its hands in this brilliantly conceived, gorgeously executed toon, earning bonus points for backing nostalgia with genuine emotion." Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times said, "The movie's subversive sensibility and old-school/new-school feel are a total kick," while Justin Lowe of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "With a mix of retro eye-candy for grown-ups and a thrilling, approachable storyline for the tykes, the film casts a wide and beguiling net." Conversely, Christopher Orr of The Atlantic found it "overplotted and underdeveloped."
The film's score was composed by Henry Jackman. The soundtrack also features original songs by Owl City, AKB48, Skrillex, and Buckner & Garcia. Early in the development process, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez wrote an original song for the film; it was later cut out.
All music composed by Henry Jackman (except 1–6).
In addition to the Flash version of the Fix-It Felix Jr. game, Disney released a tie-in side-scrolling platform game called Wreck-It Ralph for the Wii, Nintendo 3DS, and Nintendo DS, to mostly negative reviews. The arcade style side-scrolling game was produced in collaboration between Disney Interactive and Activision and serves as a "story extension" to the film. Taking place following the events of the film, players may play as Wreck-It Ralph or Fix-It Felix, causing or repairing damage, respectively, following another Cy-Bug incident. Game levels are based on the locations in the film like the Fix-It Felix Jr., Hero's Duty, and Sugar Rush games as well as Game Central Station. It was released in conjunction with the film's release, in November 2012.
In October 2012, Disney released fully playable browser-based versions of the Hero's Duty and Sugar Rush games on the new official film site. A mobile game titled Wreck-it Ralph was released in November 2012 for iOS and Android systems, with a Windows Phone 8 version following almost a year later. Initially, the game consisted of three mini-games, Fix-it Felix Jr., Hero's Duty and Sweet Climber, which were later joined by Turbo Time and Hero's Duty: Flight Command. The game was retired on August 29, 2014.
Ralph also appears in Sega's Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed as a playable guest character.
Ralph and Vanellope appear as playable characters in Disney Infinity as well (voiced by Brian T. Delaney and Sarah Silverman, respectively); the Disney Store released their individual figures on January 7, 2014. A combo "toy box pack" of the two figures with Sugar Rush customization discs was released April 1, 2014, from the Disney Store.
Wreck-It Ralph is a playable world on the mobile game Disney Crossy Road.
In an interview on October 25, 2012, director Rich Moore said that he and Disney have ideas about a sequel that would bring the characters up to date and explore online gaming and console gaming. Moore stated that many of the crew and voice cast are open to the sequel, believing that they have "barely scratched the surface" of the video game world they envisioned. He also stated that he plans to include Mario and Tron in the sequel. In a 2014 interview, the film's composer Henry Jackman said that a story for the sequel is being written. In July 2015, John C. Reilly said he had signed on to reprise his role of Ralph in a projected sequel.
On March 24, 2016, Rich Moore stated that a sequel is still being planned. Moore also hopes to specifically include an appearance from Mario, citing a "good relationship with Nintendo". On June 30, 2016, Walt Disney Animation Studios announced that the sequel would be released on March 9, 2018, with John C. Reilly, Rich Moore, and writer Phil Johnston attached. John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman will reprise their roles as Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz, respectively. The plot will focus on "Ralph leaving the arcade and wrecking the Internet". In April 2017, the sequel was pushed to November 21, 2018.