The good folks at io9 bring us some words from former FUTURAMA and THE SIMPSONS director Rich Moore, whose vision backstops WRECK-IT RALPH.

How Working on Futurama Prepares You to Make One of the Year’s Best Animated Movies

Wreck-It Ralph is a great animated film, with lots of heart and amazing comic timing. So it’s not really much of a surprise when you find out that director Rich Moore worked as a director on several episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama. We sat down with Moore and he explained how those shows prepared him for Ralph.

Minor spoilers ahead…

The main thing Moore learned from The Simpsons and Futurama, he tells us, was that “treating your characters as human beings, with legitimate wants and desires” is vital to tell good stories — especially animated stories. “It was always stressed.”

Mooreworked on The Simpsons from the very beginning of the series, and Executive Producer Jim Brooks always urged the directors never to “lose sight of the fact of the Simpsons being a family.” These shouldn’t just be cartoon characters — they love each other and have the real dynamics of a family. “What we were making wasn’t a cartoon show, it was a sitcom about real people, that happened to be animated.” Moore carried that ethos with him, when he worked on The Critic and Futurama.

And that idea “directly translates even into a Disney movie,” saysMoore. “What we’re trying to do is tell stories about characters that we care about, in a world we believe in.”

This wasn’t Disney’s first stab at a video game movie

Back in 2008,Moorewas invited to come work at Disney by John Lasseter, who wanted Moore to develop some movie ideas, including one that he could direct. And Lasseter always wants to hear multiple story ideas, rather than having directors get stuck on pitching just one idea, because “people tend to get very precious with just one idea,” says Moore. “It’s good for a director who’s developing something to be nimble, and not get so ensconced in one idea.”

But then Lasseter revealed there was one thing in particular he’d love to have Moore pitch him: a video game movie. Disney had been trying to make a movie about video games since the 1990s, and had “never cracked it.” In fact, Lasseter told Moore they had just “put the kibosh” on one video game film that wasn’t coming to life the previous year.Mooreasked Lasseter if he needed to build on one of the video-game ideas that someone else had started,  and Lasseter said no — it just needed to have video games as a backdrop.

“So I really fell in love with this notion of doing a story set in that world, the scope and scale and big spectacle of video games, and having a story about a simple man and an existential crisis — wondering is this all there is in life,” says Moore. And Lasseter really responded to that idea.

“That’s what gave the movie its heart,” adds Moore. “It wasn’t about two warring factions within video games [like some of the previous pitches]. It had the action within games, but also a profound situation that our character is struggling with in his mind.”

And as the movie developed, they fleshed out the idea that the character came from the early days of gaming, so it made sense to have him come from an 8-bit time. And as they fleshed this out, they realized this allowed them to “pay homage to the entire history of video games.”

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