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If the secret lives of video game characters were explored in 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, November’s animated sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet — which hotwires arcade heroes Ralph and Vanellope onto the web in search of a replacement game part — reveals the surprising furtive life of another group: Disney’s iconic princesses.
Fourteen of Disney’s most famous regal women — who are ubiquitous on our real Internet but worshipped even more on the Internet imagined by Ralph’s filmmakers — meet Vanellope when the little racer encounters the ladies on a fan site. After discovering that she, too, is technically royalty, Vanellope and the princesses strike up a friendship, but to say that the discoveries stop there is a wreck of an understatement. Because of Vanellope’s laid-back influence, the princesses are serving up 14 brand new gowns looks, previewed for the first time right here.
“I’m very proud of my character being a Disney princess with a human waist. I love that she is a princess but wears, like, a hoodie, and she inspires them all to wear comfortable clothes,” says Sarah Silverman, reprising her 2012 voice role as Vanellope von Schweetz, who in the final moments of Wreck-It Ralph learned she wasn’t a glitch but, in fact, the de-programmed monarch of the racing game, Sugar Rush. “It didn’t really cross my mind that I’m a Disney princess — like, that I’m canon— until we all met this year, and I got a little choked up. It’s corny, I know, but I was like, ‘Oh s—t, right. I’m this Jewish, comfortable-clothes-wearing Disney princess. How cool is that?”
Inspired by Vanellope, the princesses’ loungewear looks bear custom-tailored designs for each individual’s well-trod journey, with imagery like poison apples and fancy carriages and Etsy-ready slogans like “Just Let It Go,” “Beast Friends Forever,” and “Blue Corn Moon” (from the most venerable House of Pocahontas).
Co-director Phil Johnston (who co-wrote both Ralph films with Jennifer Lee and Pamela Ribon, respectively and sequentially) says the princess’ inclusion is a novel extension of what the first movie achieved. “It’s what Wreck-It Ralph was about: What happens when the arcade is closed and how do these characters behave when no one’s looking? And it’s very similar to what happens when you’re backstage in the princesses’ dressing room. What do they do? What do they look like? What do they talk about?”
Perhaps better to ask, what don’t they talk about? There must be more than their provincial lives, and the film’s showstopping sequences poke unprecedented, meta (and studio-approved) fun at the characters’ long history. Silverman notes, “The princesses and Vanellope learn a lot from each other, but what happens in that discussion is acknowledging the… I don’t want to say just blatant sexism, but the kind of dated, antiquated idea of princesses and bringing it up to a feminist — meaning equal — code.”
In fact, you can already catch part of that conversation in the movie’s trailer, below:
Co-helmer Rich Moore, who co-directed the Oscar-winning Zootopia between Ralph films, ultimately considers the movie’s 14 royal stars to be one of the proudest casting coups of his career. “To be able to work with these characters in a way that’s funny and human… they’re so iconic, but to me, they felt like they were frozen in another time that made it hard for me to kind of identify with or understand them,” says Moore. “That’s just me personally, [but] I think what’s fun about that scene is that this is really adding a facet to them that makes them feel like real people.”
Real people who, like you and I and the brooms from Fantasia, also have a job to do. Ralph Breaks the Internet imagines the princesses’ online avatars (not the real characters) cohabitating in an appropriately castle-themed dressing room — a fortress of fame, if you will, that houses the royal celebrities before their daily “showtime” on the fan site Oh My Disney. “If you look at the site, it’s a ton of ‘Which Princess Are You? Take the Quiz!’” Moore explains. “So I think they’re always standing by for the result. When they say ‘You would be Jasmine!’ they would come out and read the little blurb that comes with those quizzes. That’s the kind of show they do.”
Ralph‘s showtime is Nov. 21.