Learn how Pancake Milkshake Diner came to be a part of this animated hyper-reality experience, open today at The VOID.
There’s a whole lot that goes on behind the scenes at ILMxLAB to bring our story-based immersive experiences to life. We got a few minutes with Jose Perez III, ILMxLAB Lead Experience Designer on Ralph Breaks VR, to take an inside look at the project over the past year of development with Walt Disney Animation Studios and The VOID.
ILMxLAB: What is your role as Lead Experience Designer on Ralph Breaks VR?
Perez: As Lead Experience Designer on Ralph Breaks VR, my role focused on bringing many different facets of creative development together, making sure they all work in harmony.
As a designer I’m fortunate to collaborate with animators, environment artists, programmers, actors, writers, audio engineers and magicians. Yeah, that’s right, I said magicians. My job is rad. It’s through this tight collaboration with all of these talented people that we achieve a consistent vision for the project.
When I’m not working on story development or reviewing dailies with other leads, I’m directly implementing content into the experience. This specific project was built in Unreal 4 and utilized proprietary software to bring our adventure to life on The VOID stage.
ILMxLAB: What was it like, working with Walt Disney Animation Studios on this project?
Perez: Working with Walt Disney Animation Studios was a dream come true. Like so many people, I grew up watching Disney movies and to be this close to that creative process was really special.
Early on we had an opportunity to bring a number of folks from the team behind Disney Animation’s upcoming “Ralph Breaks the Internet” to our test stage in Glendale. We had the directors, Rich Moore & Phil Johnston, and the film’s co-writer, Pamela Ribon, go through our first hyper-reality experience, Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire. They LOVED it. From that point on they were super engaged and really wanted to dive into this new immersive storytelling medium. Eventually, Pamela came on to write the script for Ralph Breaks VR, and Rich and Phil ended up directing a number of the voice over sessions themselves, which adds tremendously to the authenticity of the experience.
Over about a year’s time, we continued to watch early screenings of the film while working directly with animators from the movie to ensure Ralph Breaks VR was an authentic Disney Animation experience.
It was incredibly inspiring to work alongside these behemoths in the animation industry. They are all so humble, kind and unbelievably funny. I can’t say enough good things about working with that team.
ILMxLAB: What was the genesis of Pancake Milkshake Diner, and why are the kitties and bunnies *so* angry?
Perez: We attended an early screening of the film and knew immediately that we wanted to really blow out the idea of Pancake Milkshake to the extreme. How the scene ultimately presented in the film changed a number of times while we were in development on Ralph Breaks VR. At one point, it was almost cut completely from the movie but very fortunately, it found its place, and we were also able to hold on to that fan-favorite moment for our experience.
One of the first questions we asked ourselves was “What happened in that diner after Ralph overfed that bunny? I mean, the animals must be pretty freaked out by that right?” The idea that the bunnies and kitties would want revenge came out of that. In fact, if you pay attention you’ll find some wanted posters for Ralph and Vanellope on the way to the diner.
On top of wanting revenge, the kitties and bunnies are being commanded by a security system that thinks our guests are a virus. So, all that combined equals really grumpy furry animals armed with a supply of cupcakes, ready to deliver Ralph’s comeuppance.
ILMxLAB: Are there any Easter eggs you can talk about for Ralph Breaks VR?
Perez: We have a ton of Easter eggs throughout the experience. Be sure to keep an eye out for the X-wings and TIE fighters when you call in airstrikes in Dunderdome, which is a crazy 1980’s world inspired by classic arcade games. (It makes my nerdy Star Wars heart sing.) And don’t forget: the kitty gets the milkshake; the bunny gets the pancake.
Tickets for Ralph Breaks VR are available at TheVOID.com, open today in all North American locations.