Sunday, February 10, 2013

Surveying Literature: Audio in Wreck It Ralph

Recently watched Wreck It Ralph.  In a sense, this movie does what Super Smash Bros did back in '99...  it's a conglomeration of all your favorite game characters in the same place.  Here are my reactions to the audio:

Of course, the movie uses game sound effects in much the same ways as other videos/series/documentaries about video games do: as transitions, sound effects for actions, etc.  One revelation was that I'm moving beyond my initial fascination with how game music is used in videos to and now applying broader ideas that I've read about.  It's nice to feel like I'm making analytical gains based on my studies-- I even got the Walter Day cameo!

My biggest reaction was that this movie is going for that same idea of nostalgia that I've mentioned in my last couple of blogs.  First, let me explain how I came to see this movie: my mom took my niece to the theater to see it, then recommended it to me because she knows I'm interested in game music.  This is a perfect example of the movie's target audience, revealing three generations of video game music influence.  Here's what I mean: early in the movie we hear the 80s hit Celebrate Good Times plays, as well as a tune by Buckner and Garcia-- for the major game music dorks who can appreciate the tie in to their hit Pac Man Fever also from the 80s.  Born in early '82 myself, I immediately identify with this music-- my parents sang/listened to both songs when I was  young.  Rhianna and AKB48 also provide early tracks in the movie for a contemporary direction for the music.  It's all very clever work by Disney: they're appealing to folks my parents age (now grandparents) by playing hits they heard 30 years ago-- or even from their childhood with the March of the Winkies/ Wizard of Oz parody; they're appealing to me by playing contemporary hits as well as music I heard my parents listening to when I was young; and they're drawing in the youngest of us as well-- like my niece-- by playing new hits that kids whose parents are taking them to see the movie will connect with now.

I was surprised by the limited discussion the music and sound effects get on Wreck It Ralph's wikipedia page.  While there's a discussion of video game references, there's not really much attention given to the way game music appears in the film.  There are a couple good links down in the footnotes to follow for more information about the music (often the case with video game entries).  The best of which is an interview about the film's music and voice acting with the director and a couple producers.

Super cool to hear Pac-Man and Street Fighter sound effects used so well.  My faith in movie's appreciation of our musical heritage also feels stronger.  I love how Tapper's use of Foster's Oh! Susanna gets a clear nod as well as classical Chopin's Funeral March when a character dies.  Game designers often used famous classical themes.  Wreck It Ralph's wedding scene plays Mendelssohn's Wedding March.  I was glad to see that some classic themes still convey meaning to widespread audiences.

Maybe best of all is that you can play Sugar Rush, Hero's Duty, or Fix It Felix on the movie website.  I've enjoyed this already.  A perfect marketing bundle: movie, video games, and soundtrack.

The macaronic song Sugar Rush is perfectly fitting theme song for the movie.  For me, the song mirrors the connection between the Japanese and American cultures so important in video game history.  Plus, it helps to pull more girls into what has been historically viewed as a boys niche.