The first (of perhaps many) ironic twists to flow from Disney Animation’s Ralph Breaks the Internet is that the film managed to nearly break the internet months before it is even scheduled to open (November 21, 2018).
It happened in a trailer, one that finds Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) — that is, Princess Vanellope von Schweetz — thrust into the green room of everyone’s favorite mouse-inspired website Oh My Disney, only to be greeted by the official royal line of Disney Princesses.
“Greeted” might be the wrong word. There is shock and awe. There is uproar. Turns out, Cinderella will cut a glitch.
The scene unfolds in the third degree, one princess after another grilling Vanellope on her right to share their space, and by doing so airing the countless tropes associated with their respective royal roles. The beauty is in the honesty. They don’t shy away from the negative. Rather, they own it.
In one moment, years of princess criticisms are confronted by the characters themselves. Themes of poisoning, curses, kidnapping, endless neglect and general subjugation are addressed with keen self-awareness in the same breath as magical abilities and friendly wild animals.
And then the other slipper drops: “Do people assume all of your problems got solved because a big, strong man showed up?”
Put the ceiling on notice, shoes aren’t the only glass being shattered.
The scene works wonderfully, not only because of the truths shared, but because the sharing of them endears us to the princesses all the more. For all of the hardships they have collectively faced, they have always stood steadfast and strong — granted, some more than others — and for every kiss-based moment there have been lessons both taught and learned.
In fact, one does not have to click too far to find the impact of the Disney Princess line upon society. Yes, they adorn our pajamas, sneakers, t-shirts and pillowcases, but also our mantras, dreams and inspirations. Disney Princesses are everywhere because we want them there, and the moral of the story is that they were inside our hearts the whole time - give or take.
Which makes one wonder: How did Ralph Breaks the Internet get away with it?
At an early press day interview that Fandango attended, co-writer Pamela Ribon explained:
“I was wondering, why isn’t Vanellope canon [part of the official Disney Princess line]? She’s a princess, she’s a president, but I believe a gal can have more than one title, and I just started wondering. It was in the back of my mind.
“We knew we wanted a scene that was meta. We’re doing all these things that have to do with the internet, so we’ve got to have something meta, like Disney kind of poking fun at itself a little bit. At one point we thought Vanellope taking a selfie with the princesses could go viral, it could break the internet.”
Fortunately for us, the users of said internet, Ribon didn’t stop at a selfie.
She started thinking about the Disney Princesses and the commonalities between them. Certain things stood out, something that was confirmed for Ribon while writing Moana. A friend asked her, “Can you do me a favor, can she [Moana] not have a love interest, and maybe the mom could live this time?”
From there Ribon started breaking down the princesses, listing the various hardships they had each faced, and the first draft of the scene, much of which actually makes it into the film, was born.
“I finished this [the scene] and I read it, then I laid down on the ground and I had a true panic attack. I thought, I might get fired . . . or something big is going to happen here.
“I brought it in and I read it. Rich [Director Rich Moore] said “Do you think we can get away with this?” and I said, “Let’s just board it and see what happens.””
Spoiler: You know what happens.
They screened a first draft of the scene at Disney Animation, a tough room of unsuspecting peers, and it was a big hit. The scene, like Cinderella in a ballroom brawl, made the cut.
Of course, there were hours and hours of hard work put in by many talented people, including the original princess voices (Ribon voiced Snow White in the film), to finish the scene, and the results speak (and sing) for themselves.
Ralph (John C. Reilly) may break the internet, but Vanellope and the princesses are taking a big step toward fixing some things, too. That seems like an idea worth trending.