Tonight, I got to see a preview of Wreck-It Ralph in 3D.

If you want the short of it, it’s now one of my “Top 10” Disney animated films.

The long of it, however, is best explained for a number of reasons. And you can start with the poster:

Basically, this is Toy Story for video games. What happens when the arcade closes for the night?

This movie has a TON of cameos, making Captain N: The Game Master look pale by comparison. You can spot dozens of games in the 30 year time progression of the arcade, from Star Wars to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to a virtual “Who’s Who” of classics. That’s nothing to say of the cameos of characters running around in “Game Central Station”. These two scenes alone are going to cause a lot of frame by frame scanning when it comes to home video. One cameo moment actually shocked me how “true to character” they were. I won’t reveal anything, but there are a few delightful nods. Surprisingly, however, is how devoid of Nintendo this movie is. Yes, Bowser is in there, and there are two other nods, but Nintendo was surprisingly “out” of this movie in comparison to companies like Sega, Midway, Capcom, Konami, and Namco. If Q*Bert isn’t made into a star after this movie, then it’s a great injustice.

The story itself is clever, and I’ll explain in the most spoiler-free way I can: Tired of being the perpetual “bad guy” after three decades, Ralph decides that he wants to be the hero for a change, and raids other machines via a hub called “Game Central Station”. Things don’t go well, and when elements from one game joins another, the entire arcade is thrown into chaos.

It’s a clever idea, and the people who made the movie understand very well how video games work. Fix-It Felix Jr. is a full ’80’s arcade title (in reality as well, now). Sugar Rush is a full ’90’s style kart racer, with none too subtle nods to the Mario Kart style of play. Hero’s Duty is a full-on on-rails shooter with more than a passing resemblance to Halo. If Disney Interactive is ever hurting for games, they should tap into any and all ideas from this new world they’ve created. In the movie, the worlds behave as they would in a video game, and they all look like they would be fun to play.

But that’s the thing about Wreck-It Ralph. It taps into pretty much every gaming convention from over the years. Not in a stereotypical way, but in a way that a gamer would expect. But how does the movie hold up for non-gamers?

The story itself is sweet, incredibly funny, and full of lots of action and likable characters. The voice cast is stellar. Being a gamer takes it to a whole new level of appreciation, but as a standalone tale, it holds up well. It has a lot of comedy and action in the movie, and the writing and progression of the story flows smoothly. This isn’t The Wizard where it’s portrayed as a cinematic commercial for the latest and upcoming games. This is more of a digital age Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It’s a love letter for those who grew up in the arcade.

There’s even a delightful short called Paperman that plays before the movie, and that was simply… wow. I’m really glad to see Disney doing shorts again. It was a very pleasant appetizer before the main meal.

Admittedly, it’s a little weird knowing that Wreck-It Ralph is considered part of the Disney animated film “canon”. But it’s no less weird when Lilo & Stitch broke the convention of the “standard” Disney story ten years ago (Lilo & Stitch is also one of my “Top 10”, by the way). It’s delightful, hilarious, and heartfelt, and any gamer will have a blast picking this movie apart frame by frame to see who they can find hiding in the corner.

Finally, a truly good “gaming” movie that makes a cast of all-new characters seem completely natural alongside Sonic the Hedgehog and Kano. There is a lot of untapped potential for this movie, and if Disney is wise, they will work out deals with other companies to have Ralph “crash” their games for a long time to come. He’s already game jumping into Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed. Seeing him in a new Kingdom Hearts or the next Super Smash Bros. just seems like it would be a natural move.

After seeing this movie, he can jump into any game he wants to, as far as I’m concerned.

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