Disney first began developing an animated film about the world of video game characters in the 1980s. At that time the project was called "High Score" and in the 1990s was titled "Joe Jump." In the 2000s, when the movie was finally pushed forward, the first two months of story development focused on Fix-It Felix Jr. as the main character.
Early in production it was considered to keep all characters in their native graphic quality, essentially making Ralph look 8-bit the entire time. This was deemed too difficult for making Ralph a sympathetic, lovable character.
The character Ralph and his game "Fix-it Felix Jr." draw inspiration from Donkey Kong. Both games are about a handy-man character climbing up and around a building structure toward the villain on top. Both villains, Donkey Kong and Ralph, are large angry characters with wide hands that toss down objects at the hero.
Director Rich Moore was inspired to create the character of Vanellope after reading the memoir "The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee" by Sarah Silverman and eventually cast Silverman as the character.
Sonic the Hedgehog appears in the movie when Ralph is first walking through in Game Central Station as an announcer on the screen monitors warning video game characters not to die outside their own game. Sonic is also at the party celebrating Fix-it Felix's 30th anniversary and is seen briefly getting hit by Ralph's escape pod as it barrels uncontrollably through Game Central Station, aswell as a guest of the wedding at the end.
King Candy's safe is secured with a Nintendo Entertainment System controller. The password he enters (UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, B, A, START) is a common cheat code used by game developer Konami in most of their titles, most famously in the game Contra.
Several popular video game characters make an appearances in this movie, including but not limited to: M. Bison, Zangief, Ken, Ryu, Chun Li and Cammy from the Street Fighter Series; Q-Bert and his cast of enemies; Pac-Man and the orange ghost, Clyde; Bowser, from the Super Mario series; and Sonic the Hedgehog and Dr. Eggman.
Buckner & Garcia, a songwriting duo, had a very popular novelty-rock hit called "Pac-Man Fever," in 1982. Though Garcia passed away in 2011, his partner Buckner wrote a new song for the Wreck-It Ralph soundtrack under the Buckner & Garcia name called "Wreck-It, Wreck-It Ralph."
The bartender game which appears, "Tapper," was controversial in real life. The game featured a bartender serving mugs of Budweiser beer. The game was intended for adults to play in real life bars, but eventually made its way into kid-friendly arcades where parents became upset at the content. Consequently, Bally Midway recreated a nearly identical version called "Root Beer Tapper," with a soda jerk character instead of a bartender. The version in Wreck-It Ralph combines the bartender character of the original with the root beer of the later version.
The 'glitch' shown in the Disney logo at the end (see Crazy Credits) is intended to look like the infamous "Pac-Man Bomb Screen", a bug that manifests itself when reaching the 256th level in the original Pac-Man arcade game.
In early production, Dr. Wily, the villain of the Mega Man game series, was included in the storyboard process in the "villain support group" scene, but was ultimately written out due to pacing reasons.
The graffiti in Game Central Station contains many inside jokes and references to famous video games. One says "Aerith Lives," in reference to Final Fantasy VII. Another says "All your base are belong to us," from the infamously poor English translation of the game Zero Wing.
There is a piece of graffiti on the right side of the tunnel which reads "Leerooooy", a nod to Leeroy Jenkins, a World of Warcraft player who obtained Internet fame from a video of him running head-long into battle while shouting his own name.
During the storyboard process Sugar Rush contained many more mini-games spread throughout the Kingdom that Ralph and Vanellope had to play to win parts for their car. This was all condensed into the bakeshop scene and many Sugar Rush characters were left unused.
The film has cameo appearances from the video game Street Fighter, a video game published by Capcom. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Capcom published video games of several Disney TV shows and movies such as DuckTales and Aladdin.
Wreck-It Ralph won five Annie Awards for Best Animated Feature, Director, Music, Voice Acting (Alan Tudyk as King Candy), and Writing in an Animated Feature Production. It is the first time an animated feature film made by Walt Disney Animation Studios has taken the top prize at these awards presented by the International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood, since Mulan prevailed in the 1998 awards ceremony.
The game Fix-It-Felix Jr. is based on the arcade game Rampage, where players played as various monsters that smashed buildings with their hands and plucked characters from the building and threw them. The goal was to destroy as many buildings as possible without being killed.
Hidden Mickey: In an exterior shot of Litwak's Family Fun Center, a billboard is visible advertising for "Double U Dee's", with a dancing mouse mascot. "Double U Dee's", of course, is another way of saying "WD's", or "Walt Disney's".
In the shot showing the characters in "Street Fighter II" deciding to go to Tapper for some drinks, the cabinet next to the Street Fighter machine is a "Dragon's Lair" machine - a 1983 game that used a Laserdisc player to give high quality video. The animation in Dragon's Lair was provided by the group founded by Don Bluth, a former Disney animator.
There is an arcade cabinet called FATAL ASSAULT, a completely fabricated game that features cameos by Tiny The Dinosaur and Lefty The Octopus from Disney's Meet The Robinsons. Tiny is also seen in the background of the Surge Protector station.
Wreck-It-Ralph's game drew inspiration from classic games Donkey Kong and Rampage. In Rampage, you can choose between three monsters as your character to reign destruction on buildings and cities. One of those characters is a giant werewolf named Ralph.
In the background while Felix and Calhoun are talking before entering Sugar Rush, there is graffiti on the wall behind him which says "Sheng Long Was Here" which is a reference to a hoax about Street Fighter character by that name.
Among the graffiti in the Sugar Rush subway station, several references can be seen (see other trivia entries), amongst which is "Sheng Long was Here". "Sheng Long" was a bad translation of Ryu's winning quote in the original Street Fighter II "You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance" which was corrected as "You must defeat my Dragon Punch to stand a chance" in later versions of the game. Sheng Long became an urban legend as a secret character in Street Fighter II and subsequent versions.
In the scene of Fix-It Felix Jr's party, Ralph is enraged by Gene and smashes the cake. The cake splatter around the room and on Ralph resembles the shape of an alien in "Space Invaders", an iconic arcade game released in 1978.
The Sugar Rush racer Minty Zaki is a tribute to Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, of whom John Lasseter (executive producer of the film) is a huge fan. Lasseter even introduced the DVD version of Miyazaki's film, "Spirited Away."
The guns used by the soldiers in Hero's Duty make the same sound effects as the laser weapons seen in the opening scene of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Gary Rydstrom was the sound designer on both films.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The character Vanellope is depicted as a glitch in the game who is not supposed to play in the game. This is actually very common in video games. Developers will often create characters and other elements but decide not to include them in the end. It is actually more trouble to delete the code that contains the character because it may cause a chain reaction that glitches into other things, so the characters are simply "locked away" into the code.
Ralph describes Sugar Rush as a "candy-coated heart of darkness." Joseph Conrad's novel 'Heart of Darkness' described a trip into a foreign land, where a soldier had conquered and made his personal territory (like Turbo did with Sugar Rush).