John C Reilly: 'That Stan Lee has a cameo role in this movie is so poignant now... what a stamp he has left on this world'
Disney favourite Wreck-It Ralph is back with its second instalment, Ralph Breaks The Internet. Kerri-Ann Roper talks to John C Reilly, who voices Ralph, and the film's directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, about their animated success
Is it possible to break the Internet? Perhaps not, but John C Reilly's latest film escapades see the character he voices get incredibly close to bringing down the world wide web.
The actor returns as video game character Ralph in the follow-up to 2012's Wreck-It Ralph, aptly titled Ralph Breaks The Internet.
This time he and his trusty sidekick and fellow game character, Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced again by Sarah Silverman), discover the 'new world' of the internet.
The heart of the film's message is about friendship, and for 53-year-old Reilly, it was an important one to convey.
"I was an advocate behind the scenes for not only the movie to have an emotional core, but an honesty about that, an honesty about friendships about how sometimes you know, it can be difficult working things out with your friend," he explains.
"And (to) show a constructive way to go through those moments for kids. And also, the other things we're honest about in the film like dealing with the internet, and the hurtful things people can say, or the things we're compelled to crave like the approval of strangers.
"Those are all really real things, so our movie is really fun and entertaining and goofy, but also, at the very heart of it, the emotions are really real and we're honest about that stuff."
The internet world created by the film's directors, Phil Johnston and Rich Moore, features references to all of today's notable tech giants - Instagram, Snapchat and even a 'trend-making site' called BuzzzTube.
In a desperate attempt to raise money to purchase a broken part for the gaming arcade machine Sugar Rush (in which Vanellope is a character), Ralph becomes a 'BuzzzTube star' with the help of a character called Yesss, who is voiced by Empire star Taraji P Henson.
Johnston says the response from the tech companies featured has been "pretty great", adding: "We've been thrilled with the response. We did not get permission from any of the corporations in the movie and we don't have to because of copyright law."
Worrying that Vanellope is too enthralled by the 'internet' after she befriends the main character Shank (voiced by Gal Gadot) in a gritty racing game called Slaughter Race, Ralph takes drastic action following his BuzzzTube fame.
Asked if there is any concern of a backlash from parents who may think the film is advocating becoming a social influencer, Moore says not.
He explains: "I have no fear that anyone's ever going to think I want to go down the line of Wreck-It Ralph - I'm going to do what he did because that worked out so well for him.
"I think it's more using something from real life and putting our character in that situation where he's able to fix his problem doing that but I would say, 'Kids, don't follow Ralph's example, please don't.'"
One stand-out encounter for Vanellope during her internet adventures involves a host of Disney's leading ladies, in the form of notable characters like Snow White, Frozen's Elsa, The Little Mermaid's Ariel and others. To avoid spoilers, let's just say the traditional princesses are turned on their heads.
Reilly describes it as "really cool" and hails Disney for embracing it on screen.
"I think the key to it is that kind of female empowerment stuff that's going on with Vanellope's character. She's trying to spread her wings a little bit and see what's out there in the world, and really try to find her true self," he says.
He continues: "And sometimes when that happens with a friend of yours, you might be spending less time with them, or they might find interests that are different than your interests and that's one of the really cool things that we look at in the film.
"And for a company like Disney that has been a part of the whole princess thing, they created a lot of these stereotypes through their films, to have them embrace this new look at princesses, and this new look at women's comfort and their agency in the world and their voice, that's all really positive stuff and I'm excited for girls to discover that in the film."
Another talking point for fans has been a cameo character of Marvel Comics co-creator Stan Lee, who died aged 95 on November 12.
The creator of Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and Thor delighted die-hard fans by making cameo appearances in the film versions of the comics.
"He did not see it before he died," Moore says. "It's so poignant now, it's so touching... it didn't hit me until after he passed how influential he's been in our lives.
"I love the characters he created, they are a lot like Ralph, in that they're flawed, they're human, they make mistakes but they have these great powers that they have to manage and I think he changed storytelling in my lifetime, he improved it and how we tell stories and the characters that we love.
"What a stamp he left on this world."
For Reilly, asked if the value of friendship is one people need reminding of in today's political climate, he reflects on another of his recent films, biopic Stan & Ollie.
Due for release next year, the film documents comedy duo Laurel and Hardy's farewell tour of the UK and the hardships that they faced.
Reilly says: "I think it is a difficult time in the world right now. But it's not the first difficult time in the world. You know I just did a film about Laurel and Hardy. In the 1930s, the world was in tough shape, the Great Depression, the rise of fascism etc, but they kept telling stories of empathy and connection.
"I think that's our way out of the mess we're in right now. Even though the world and the media in particular are trying to divide us or tell us how we are different, stories like this one (Ralph), that show a way through conflict and a way to feel for other people, are a good thing. That's what we need right now.
"A lot of these political conversations would be tempered in a good way by a little humanism you know, remembering it's a human being you're talking to, not a political party, or a race for that matter, it's a just a person."
- Ralph Breaks The Internet is out now