So teasers have surfaced out of D23 about Incredibles 2 and Wreck-It Ralph: Ralph Breaks The Internet, and while much has been made about the reunion of all the Disney princesses in #WreckItRalph2 - voiced by those who originally took on the roles, no less - there's also an interesting question that comes up because of the reunion.
Is Ralph actually needed?
In the scene which features all the Disney princesses in one room, one of the princesses asks Vanellope von Schweetz (played by the delightfully snarky Sarah Silverman) if everyone "assumes all of your problems got solved because a big, stupid strong man stepped in."
Here we are, discussing Wreck-It Ralph 2, a film which features a big, stupid strong man helping a rather diminutive girl fix her problems.
It's All About The Messaging
There are millions who absolutely adore the Disney princesses, and with good reason. In recent years, Disney princesses are no longer the girls who end up needing a kiss from a handsome man to find their happily ever after, and there are also those who end up doing much of the rescue work themselves. Sure, Moana is not a princess, and she had a lot of help from Maui during her adventure, but in that story a lot of the heavy lifting was done by her. There was no romance storyline, it was all about Moana figuring out who she was as she worked on trying to save her island.
Merida, the princess from "the other studio" - a sly nod to #Pixar - was working on escaping her parents' need to see her be an obedient young woman who must be married off right away. She was a butt kicker in her own right, and girls haven't forgotten that, either.
So where does Ralph fit in to this picture?
Ralph and Vanellope met when Ralph had decided he wanted to be the hero of his own video game. He isn't the hero - not by a long shot - and he doesn't know what to make of Vanellope's spunk and determination. In many ways, those who grew up watching #MaryTylerMoore as Mary Richards might be reminded of this iconic scene and may be tempted to put Ralph in the Mr. Grant role:
Let's face it; Ralph is the loud, obnoxious, sometimes sensitive man who thinks he can save the day with his fists and his brawn, and Vanellope is in many ways the stronger personality. She's the one who has to show Ralph how things need to work and help him realize that his strength will only get him so far.
But does Vanellope need Ralph?
Yin And Yang
Unlike traditional Disney princess stories where the girls need rescuing, Vanellope is more representative of many young girls today. She's feisty, she's looking for her place in the world, and she's determined to find her path under her own steam. She learns that there are things that she can learn from this "big, strong, stupid man" and in the process, really rescues Ralph from himself. That was one of the bigger themes at play in the original Wreck-It Ralph, and one can only suspect that similar themes will be at work in the sequel.
At the end of the first Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph ultimately learns that he can be a hero, but he also learns that he's got an inherently soft side behind the crustiness that is so much a part of his persona. Vanellope also learns to lean on her Stinkbrain - not because he's big and strong and perhaps not so bright, but because she can see he brings certain qualities to the table that she doesn't. Also, it's not because Vanellope is small; it's because she knows that with Ralph, she is stronger than without him.
That's something that Ralph learns as well.
So, Vanellope doesn't "need" Ralph in terms of the traditional sense that the man rescues the princess. She needs Ralph because he helps back her up, he comes up with some cool ideas to get things done - consider the race track he built in Wreck-It Ralph to help her be successful.
And what does she help Ralph find? His heart.
It's not so much that he is rescuing her, or that she doesn't need him. They need each other, and they both know it.