The princesses may steal the show in Ralph Breaks the Internet, but the street racers know how to stop it.
In Disney Animation Studios’ box-office-breaking sequel, videogame heroes Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) go from 8-bit to 8 billion as they voyage onto the internet, where Vanellope wastes no time finding and falling in with two new tribes online: the circle of Disney royals who teach her the importance of seizing her dreams, and the crew of crafty (and vaguely criminal) drivers from the dangerous multiplayer game Slaughter Race who are on hand to help her express those desires.
Featuring the most colorful choreography of metal objects this side of “Be Our Guest,” Vanellope and her Slaughter Race squad burst into the surprise song “A Place Called Slaughter Race,” a balletic tune with equal parts prancing and pyromania written by Disney legend Alan Menken (with lyrics by co-director Phil Johnston and music producer Tom MacDougall). Gal Gadot, the voice of Vanellope’s racing mentor, even lends vocals to a lyric or two, which you can revisit now in EW’s effusive little exclusive.
As with every great musical, a character only bursts into song when they’re so overwhelmed with feeling that they can’t do anything but sing about it. The same classic standard holds true here for Vanellope, who uses the musical moment to realize her underlying dreams — and in a not-too-dissimilar way, Silverman didn’t even realize the possibility of getting to live out every child’s dream of originating a new Disney melody.
“Thinking about it, it’s just crazy. A full-on Disney princess song, written by Alan Menken, recorded with a whole orchestra. It’s crazy!” gushes Silverman, who cites Menken’s Little Shop of Horrors as her favorite musical. “I just love that [the princesses] teach her about how every princess must have a song that expresses her quest, and when she finds the place that inspires that, the song ensues and it’s simultaneously very Disney and very different from Disney. It’s just so good. And Gal Gadot’s in it!”
Add the song to the list of surprises Vanellope has given Silverman since she first stepped in to voice the character in 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph. The final scenes of that film reveal that Vanellope is a princess — a surprise to Silverman in and of itself — but nowhere in the original film was it suggested that the character might be officially included in Disney’s iconic princess lineup just a few years later. (The announcement was made in 2017 by directors Johnston and Rich Moore at the studio’s annual D23 fan convention.)
“I didn’t really find out she’s a princess until I was recording the end of the first movie,” Silverman recalls. “It wasn’t in the original table read, but the reason why these movies are so rich and brilliant is because they’re constantly writing and rewriting and adding layers and going deeper and finding new meaning. So I was happy, but it didn’t really cross my mind that I’m a Disney princess — like, that I’m canon — until we all met this year. I got a little choked up. It’s corny, I know, but I was like, ‘Oh s—, right. I’m this Jewish, comfortable-clothes-wearing Disney princess. How cool is that?”
While Silverman sang the praises of Vanellope long before Ralph Breaks the Internet proved a critical and commercial hit for Disney, the film’s overt theme of destructive insecurity and its more subversive reassessment of princess gender tropes — both of which have been lauded by audiences — has only further convinced the 47-year-old comedian of Vanellope’s hallowed place on her IMDB.
“I’ve had a very interesting career, but doing Vanellope is really something I’m always just so proud of,” says Silverman. “Getting to come back to this… I can’t believe that the sequel is, I think, even better than the original, and I love the original. I feel like I’m doing a hard sell right now, but I really feel that way. It’s nice to just love something so much. I love that character and the freedom that Phil and Rich have given John C. and I, and it’s been such a loving collaboration. John C. and I always record together, and he wrote the most beautiful email [when we finished]. It made me cry. It’s just been a really loving, family-feeling experience.”
Well, for the most part. Just like the internet, not everything can be perfectly family-friendly. “Oh my God, the things that we joked about in the booth…” Silverman trails off, laughing. “Those recording sessions could be an entire adult comedy album released someday, years from now when we’re all dead.”