Disney hasn’t merely made a sequel to Wreck It Ralph. The new movie, Ralph Breaks the Internet, creates a new version of the internet out of whole cloth. Or, er, whole… bits? Whatever the digital version of cloth is, this movie has it.
Ralph and Vanellope venture deep into the Internet in search of a replacement part to keep Vanellope’s game from being shut off for good. They discover what we all know already: the Internet is a big, weird, scary place. To depict this, the animators at Disney have created a two-layer society to bring the World Wide Web to life.
The Internet wouldn’t be much without users to do things like shopping and watching cat videos. So one group of characters in Ralph Breaks the Internet are the Net Users. These look kind of like the Mii avatars created by Nintendo — they have blocky heads and behave in a pretty basic way. It’s as if they’re being controlled by afar, which is exactly what’s happening.
So when Ralph and Vanellope go to the giant building housing eBay the auctions are full of Net User avatars. (The popular ones are full, at least; a lot of auctions just have a few Users in attendance, as is often the case in real life.) The User avatars all reflect actual people, but are not actual people themselves. Still, they’re everywhere.
The more important characters, from our perspective, are the Netizens. These are all the people who actually make the internet work. These color-coded, cartoonish characters are the checkout clerks at eBay, the ones who try to distribute spam and have to pick up trash, and the security guards who keep some parts of the place safe.
In short, while the online landscape in Ralph Breaks the Internet is a playground for the Net Users, without the Netizens it wouldn’t work at all. They also make some of the best jokes, because these people have to deal with Users all day long, and they tend to either be ridiculously enthusiastic about their jobs, as in the case of Netizens handing out spam, or totally over it, like the woman who has no pity for Ralph and Vanellope’s eBay misadventure that sets the story in motion.
The Dark Web
There’s another “dual worlds” aspect in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Co-directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston knew the online experience isn’t always a great place. There are dark corners where people do some terrible stuff — and even the same social networks and other platforms we use on a daily basis can be marked by bullying and other problems.
This sequel doesn’t go too deep into those elements — the movie is a kid-friendly comedy, after all. But Ralph Breaks the Internet has its own version of the Dark Web, where websites are hidden away and Ralph finds some seedy characters. We don’t know precisely what happens down there, and we hope the big guy knows all about virus protection before he explores it. Oh no — there’s no chance he understands proper malware prevention, does he?
Ralph Breaks the Internet opens on November 21.