The Toughest Scene I Wrote: “Wreck-It Ralph” Writers Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston

January 7th, 2013 by

All hail Vulture for this:

Over the next few weeks, Vulture is talking to the screenwriters behind 2012′s most acclaimed movies about the scenes they found most difficult to crack. What pivotal sequences underwent the biggest transformations on their way from script to screen?

In this article, Wreck-It Ralph’s writers Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston discuss the movie’s emotional “breakup scene”:

Lee: On animated films, there’s a lot of rewriting, but I can say that the most important scene we had to write was the scene where Ralph breaks Vanellope’s car. That scene is one I’m very proud of, but it was intense. It was a scary thing to put into a comedy.

Johnston: We always knew that it was going to be their breakup, if you will — that Ralph and Vanellope were going to have this low point. We looked at the Bad News Bears scene where Walter Matthau berates Tatum O’Neal, and we wanted it to have that emotional gut-punch.

Here is that section of the script:

We can see the handiwork of professional screenwriters in this scene, everything from a solid Beginning-Middle-Ending structure to the use of talismans [physical objects with symbolic meaning] to the importance of what characters say… and don’t say. But one big takeaway from this scene above all others: The most effective plot points are those with a strong emotional hook.

Here in the External World, the point is for Ralph to wreck the kart. In the Internal World, there are multiple things going on, key among them Vanellope’s sense of betrayal and Ralph’s motivation for what he does. But all of them are tied to the character’s emotional lives.

We see events and hear dialogue in a story’s physical world. Their meaning and impact is always connected to what’s going on in the story’s psychological world. We should bring that consciousness with us in every scene we write.

For the rest of the article, go here.

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One thought on “The Toughest Scene I Wrote: “Wreck-It Ralph” Writers Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston

  1. Erica R Maier says:

    Good post. That scene was so heartbreaking, it’s nice to know so much thought and consideration was put into it ….

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