Japanese Culture in Wreck-it Ralph

Pure awesome.

OH WOW I just got back from finally seeing Wreck-it Ralph, which FINALLY came to theaters in Japan only two weeks ago!

Wreck it Ralph was actually titled Sugar Rush (シュガー・ラッシュ) in Japan.  It is directed by fellow nerd and otaku Rich Moore, who was greatly inspired by Japanese culture in the making of the film.

I mean, first and foremost there is the OBVIOUS tribute to video games and gaming.  You don’t get very far into the film before characters like Bowser, Sonic the Hedgehog, Ryu and Ken make their cameos!  (By the way – anyone else notice the Star Wars arcade console in the opening?  Nice use of copyrights, Disney! 9_9)

Looking closer you can see more subtle references to gaming throughout the film:

  • the building-climbing Fix-it Felix who dodges objects thrown off the roof by a large, burly antagonist Ralph closely resembles the old Mario vs. Donkey Kong styled games, does it not?  In fact…

… Niceland, Wreck-It Ralph’s home world, is inspired by “limitations,” specifically the technical limitations of 8-bit video games. “The backgrounds of those games are often black because it would take computing power to put color onto those video screens back in the ’80s,” … “So when you’re outside in Niceland, there’s a lot of black sky.” ()

  • Tamora Jean Calhoun’s Call of Duty/Halo-esque Hero’s Duty game also spoofs the Metroid Series: in both universes the heroine fights an alien race that GLOMS ONTO THE FACES of its ENEMIES (incidentally, Metroid was in turn influenced by the Alien series in many ways [REFERENCE! CHECK IT!]).
  • The game Sugar Rush also contains elements from Mario Kart, including the item blocks and opening sequence to the race.
Exhibit A – Donkey Kong v. Wreck it Ralph
Exhibit B - Metroid v. Cy-bug
Exhibit B – Metroid v. Cy-bug

Pretty much anyone will admit that this film pays GLORIOUS SERVICE to GAMING FANS EVERYWHERE!  And in particular Japanese games are referenced.  Oooooooooooooooooh watching this film was like getting to the stage goal before Shigeru Miyamoto in 2-player versus and then ROLLING with him down a GREEN HILL ZONE HILL and PINNING HIM NAKED underneath an open SKY OF STAR ROADS and R-WINGS.

But the tributes to Japan don’t end there.

  • Did you know that the character designs of Vanellope von Schweetz and her racing buddies were based on Harajuku fashion?  Just look at all the colourful stockings and little doo-dads stuck in Vanellope’s hair and tell me they don’t look anything like THIS:
cold, hard EVIDENCE
cold, hard EVIDENCE (photo reference)
  • There are actually influences to many different candy and sweet makers from around the world.  But the one sugary cameo I got excited about was that of Japanese confectioner mascot Beard Papa!  Beard Papa bakeries sell delicious cream puffs world wide, but Beard Papa himself is apparently the gate keeper of the castle in Sugar Rush!
Beard Papa WiR
I couldn’t find a screenshot of good, old Beard Papa – but I think you get the idea. :)
  • Our final point concerns the soundtrack of the film – specifically the song “Sugar Rush,” which is performed by Japanese idol band AKB48.  THIS IS THE ONLY AKB SONG I will admit to liking…. although honestly after listening to it a few times, the shine has already worn off…  Can anyone in AKB actually sing?  Ah well…

But this film is JAM PACKED with references from gaming to architecture!  What was your favourite reference??

24 thoughts on “Japanese Culture in Wreck-it Ralph

  1. I love manga and read lots, but when I saw this film, I didn’t think Japanese culture. I thought gaming culture for sure. As for the influence for Sugar Rush, I thought of the Strawberry Shortcake animation from the 80’s that I grew up on. The names of the sugar rush characters and their outfits reminds me so much of the Strawberry Shortcake animation.

    1. Strawberry Shortcake for sure! There’s definitely some American cultural influence as well. For instance, I always thought it was weird that the evil king looks, sounds and acts just like Disney’s Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. :S

      1. I’m a year late. Wow! And the king in Sugar Rush is named after the King in Candy Land. That’s where it came from! Candy Land. I forgot about that game. 😊 In an interview, one of the animators talks about Candy Land for Sugar Rush.

  2. I coulda done without AKB48 and Skrillex but then again I haven’t been a fan of Disney for decades now. Did you notice that the Sugar Rush game is back to back with the TMNT arcade game? Or the scene where Chun-Li is walking off with 2 Disney princesses.

    I ain’t gonna lie, I have avoided watching this because it is Disney but it has been referred by many a friend. And I landed on your blog and before reading any further I rented it and watched it. There were nods to the gaming culture and I found the Sugar Rush characters adorable, it was good but not great.

  3. I really regret that I didn’t took the chance and watched that movie on my last flight to Dubai. I had no idea that it contained so much cool stuff (including dancing cupcakes on the soundtrack). I’ll try to find it in iTunes store:)

  4. I loved this movie, totally perfect for gamers. It’s a shame Disney comes late to Japan. But think about it this way, Japan gets Iron Man 3 and the Hobbit first. How does it work with Disney movies over there? Are they dubbed or just subbed in theaters?

    1. Japan gets Iron Man 3 and the Hobbit first?? Haha, really! How do they do that??

      Apparently I could have gone to see a dubbed version of Wreck-it Ralph, but I waited too long to go see the movie. Oh well! It was just as enjoyable in Japanese~~ I am looking forward to watching it again with the American cast~

      Are you a gamer?? :D

      1. Good to hear, yeah the hobbit came a day sooner than the rest of the world (so will the other two movies then) and Iron Man 3 for some reason is a week before America.

        Oh yes I am a big gamer. Right now I have an addiction to Minecraft. Old and new are both fun :D What are you playing these days?

        1. Haha, Minecrafit, yeah~ I was watching Peanut Butter Gamer and Jon Tron playing their game online a little while back. It looks fun!

          I’ve been playing Wii games a lot these days! Smash Bros… Twilight Princess. I just recently got into the Paper Mario for the Wii. I had never been interested in Paper Mario stuff before, but it’s actually pretty fun! Can’t say I like Twilight Princess nearly as much.

  5. I really enjoyed picking up all the little references in this film and enjoyed showing it to my Japanese exchange student friends before they could see it in Japan. I think the game reminded me mostly of the Rampage series as Ralph wrecks buildings. But it’s kinda backwards in that respect.


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