)It’s been nearly two decades since Disney acquired Pixar in 2006 and since then it looks like the acquistion turned out a little bit like when Apple bought NeXT Computers where Apple become more like NeXT instead of NeXT becoming more like Apple.

This appeared to be the case with the release of Disney’s hit animated film, Wreck It Ralph, which was released a scant six years after Disney acquired Pixar.

This film is a perfect example of a film that feels like it was created by Pixar – from the premise of video game characters coming alive like the toys in Toy Story right down to the animation style. You don’t have to go far to notice the subliminal message of this film – of change, hope and empowerment – that has been the hallmark of other Pixar films like Up or Wall E.

Wreck It Ralph tells the story of Ralph, the antagonist of the 8-bit video game Fix It Felix!, as he travels through the arcade to prove his self worth and gain respect from his peers.

The movie starts off with Ralph attending a therapy session with fellow bad guys called Bad-Anon. It is here that he announces his dissatisfaction with his life after doing the same job for 30 years – wrecking an apartment building – and not feeling any appreciation from anyone for his efforts, most importantly he doesn’t want to be the bad guy anymore. After this session the villains all depart for home via Game Central Station, the central hub of the video game world. It is here that we get a glimpse of the lives of these video game characters.

When Ralph returns home he discovers that the fellow inhabitants of his game are having a party to celebrate Fix It Felix Jr.’s 30th anniversary without him. Ralph crashes the party and we get to see how they view him, Felix is friendly towards him whereas the Nicelanders (the people living in the apartment) fear and dislike Ralph.

After he inadvertently ruins the party Ralph declares that he’ll prove himself to everyone by acquiring a Hero’s Medal, a medal won only by good guys. Although he’s unsure how to get a Hero’s Medal, Ralph catches a break when he encounters a character from Hero’s Duty. Ralph ends up stealing this character’s battle suit and uses it as a disguise to enter Hero’s Duty, a first person shooter where he manages to win a medal via less than honest means. While Ralph is out getting his medal his game is placed out of order and threatened with removal from the arcade because Ralph is missing, leading Felix to leave in pursuit of Ralph.

Eventually Ralph ends up in Sugar Rush, a kart racing game, after leaving Hero’s Duty. Here he meets Vanellope, an adorable, but slightly mischievous inhabitant of Sugar Rush who steals Ralph’s medal to use it to enter a race. Vanellope’s entrance into the race is universally disdained by the other racers who have been bullying Vanellope because she is infected with a glitch.

Ralph ends up watching the other racers bullying Vanellope and scares them away, afterwards he strikes a deal with her to help her win the race so he can get his medal back. As Ralph helps Vanellope they form a friendship which is tested when Ralph is deceived by Sugar Rush’s ruler, King Candy, into breaking her kart and ruining her dream. With medal in hand he returns home to see the results of his actions. It is in his game where he reflects on the meaningless of the medal and throws it away – in the process he learning that Vanellope is not a glitch as she appears on the Sugar Rush arcade console.

Ralph goes back to Sugar Rush to fix his mistake, along the way saving Felix who was thrown in prison by King Candy’s subordinate and with his help is able to fix Vanellope’s kart. Ralph is able to free Vanellope as well, as she too has been imprisoned by King Candy, and they are able to reconcile, rekindling their friendship, and repairing their bond. Unfortunately as a consequence of Ralph’s initial entry into Sugar Rush, the Cy-bug, an alien bug from Hero’s Duty, which entered Sugar Rush with him has now spawned and is infesting the world of Sugar Rush.

As Vanellope is nearing the finish line we learn that King Candy is not native to Sugar Rush but is Turbo, a legendary figure in the arcade who abandoned his game to take over another one which was more popular than his game, Turbotime, and ended up destroying both his original game and Turbotime.

Vanellope is unable to cross the finish line due to the infestion of Cy-bugs and joins the other characters to evacuate to Game Central Station, but as Vanellope is a glitch she cannot leave. The situation seems grim until Sergeant Calhoun, a character from Hero’s Duty who accompanied Felix to Sugar Rush, mentions that Sugar Rush can’t be saved since there is no beacon (or giant beam of light) to attract and kill the Cy-bugs. This reminds Ralph of Diet Cola Mountain which has Mentos stalactites that could perhaps create a beacon when dropped into the cola at the bottom of the base of the mountain.

Ralph takes runs off to Diet Cola Mountain and manages to land on the summit, from here he begins pounding on the Mentos to get it to fall into the Diet Coke lava. Unfortunately Ralph is interrupted by Turbo who has merged with a Cy-Bug. After a brief struggle Turbo grabs Ralph and flies high above Diet Cola Mountain to give Ralph a view of Vanellope surrounded by Cy-Bugs. Ralph breaks free of Turbo and dives into Diet Cola Mountain with the intent to sacrifice himself to save Sugar Rush.

As he is falling to his death he recites mantra from the Bad Anon meeting – “I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.

Before he falls into the Diet Cola, Vanellope uses her glitching abilities to save him. As they get away enough Mentos fall into the cola to create a beacon which draws the Cy-Bus and Turbo to their demise.

With the Cy-Bug infestation dealt with Vanellope crosses the finish line, restoring the game to it’s original state and Vanellope to her rightful place as a character of the game, while keeping her glitching ability.

Felix and Ralph return to their game just in time to spare their game from being unplugged. The movie ends with Calhoun and Felix, who developed a romantic relationship, marrying and the Ralph gaining the respect he had desired.

What I really liked about this movie the depiction of Ralph and how he matured over the course of his journey. At the beginning of the movie he was unsatisfied with his life and was only concerned with being respected by others.

This behaviour lead him to abandon his game, putting the other inhabitants at risk, and he cheated in an attempt to get a medal rather than to earn the respect he desired.

As the story progressed and he befriended Vanellope the medal lost its significance and he threw it away when he realized its cost – his friendship with Vanellope. His redemption came when he helped Vanellope get back into the race and save Sugar Rush from destruction.

It is through these actions that people begin to respect Ralph and for Ralph to realize that his friendship with Vanellope means more to him than the respect he was seeking from others.

This change in Ralph is interesting in contrast to Turbo, who is the opposite to Ralph. Turbo was a good guy, but obsessed with popularity that he became a villain - first abandoning his game, trying to take over Turbotime, then finally gaining some respect by taking over Sugar Rush until he was defeated by Vanellope and Ralph.

In the end it was the bad guy who turned out good and the good guy who was bad.

Besides the gradual change in Ralph’s character I really enjoyed the video game cameos from games like Pac-Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter and others.

There were two scenes in particular that really got to me emotionally, Ralph’s sacrifice to save Vanellope and the final scene of the movie.

Ralph’s sacrifice was particularly sweet since it showed change he has undergone from during his journey, including coming to terms with his role as a bad guy in his game and that it doesn’t mean he is a bad person.

The final scene where the Nicelanders lift Ralph up to throw him off the roof - from this vantage point Ralph can see Vanellope racing and he reaffirms what is now important to him – he doesn’t need a medal to prove that he is a good guy, because if a person like Vanellope likes him, then how bad can he really be.