'Ralph Breaks the Internet' Actor Alan Tudyk on Contributing to the Legacy of Disney Animation
Although he hasn’t gone through the official induction ceremony, for our money Alan Tudyk is already a Disney legend. The actor, who TV fans will remember from his collaborations with Joss Whedon (“Firefly” and “Dollhouse”), has become something of a lucky charm for Walt Disney Animation Studios, having contributed significant vocal performances in every animated feature since 2012. Late last year, he co-starred as Knowsmore, a helpful, erudite search engine in “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” the visually astonishing follow-up to “Wreck-It Ralph,” adding another colorful cartoon character to his already robust portfolio.
We caught up with the actor at the Walt Disney Animation Studios campus, the building constructed after the success of “The Lion King” in 1994 and adorned with a giant Sorcerer’s Mickey hat from “Fantasia” (for a long time the cone of the hat was home to the office of Walt’s nephew, Roy E. Disney). It was here that we discussed all things Disney, from his inspiration for certain voices to whether or not he’d show up in this fall’s “Frozen 2.”
Moviefone: “Wreck-It Ralph” was your first Walt Disney Animation Studios film. Was that a dream for you?
Alan Tudyk: It was one of those dreams that I didn't dream because you're like, ah, I don't even know how that happens. That was crazy. I got called up to do a read through. We all flew up to San Francisco to do the readthrough. We all got on a southwest flight. It was like Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch. We were all on this Southwest Airlines plane and you go spend the day there and fly back. And after the reading I got the role, I got sent them big bucket of candy afterwards.
Did you have the like Charles Nelson Reilly voice going into it?
I'm glad you said Charles Nelson Reilly cause there was a little Charles Nelson Reilly in it. They said, “Go for Ed Wynn,” who was an old Disney voice. [Editor’s note: Wynn played the Mad Hatter in “Alice in Wonderland” and starred in a number of live-action Disney productions, including “Mary Poppins,” “The Absent-Minded Professor” and ”That Darn Cat!” He is an official Disney Legend.] And then as we went along, people kept piling on in there. Ruth Gordon was even in there because of how she talks and how she emphasizes the words.
And you’ve been in every Disney animated movie since. Are you expecting that call now?
Now … I'll just say when. Yes. I'll be like, “I was expecting this day it was coming.” I mean it's tricky. I can't believe I’m in “Moana.” Because I'm the white dude from Texas, but they found the role for me.
I was going to say, is anything beneath you?
Nothing's beneath. Heck no! It's just … I know that Disney does a lot of movies that take place in far off lands where there aren't people like me. So it'll be interesting. I don't expect to be in everyone. But gosh, I love them.
Well, I was going to say were you surprised to be asked back for the sequel? Because obviously it seems like King Candy's arc had ended.
I’d hoped that I would. I wanted King Candy to live. You can't kill him! He can't be dead! He can't be dead because he's so much fun to do, but Knowsmore is fantastic.
How did you come up with the voice for the Knowsmore character?
Rich asked me before I came in, he said, “Watch a few interviews with Truman Capote and put him in that same sort of realm.” Not in terms of one of the characters from his books, but vocally. So I did [starts doing Knowsmore voice] and he's more relaxed and he speaks much slower or it's not higher but frailer voice depending on his age. We started there and then he became Droopy for a second. Like, there’s an interesting way those are two crossed over. And so then he came back and once we found, “Oh that’s interesting” and that high place where you can go, that's when we found it.
Do you have a favorite of your Disney characters?
I like King Candy because he can talk about anything go on and on and he's happy. But then he can be so angry. He’s so bad. He becomes a terrible, terrible person.
Do little kids to recognize you?
Um, no. You know who will recognize me? 15-year-olds. Because they have phones and they can look me up. They'll see me and they'll know me from something. Probably some movie or some TV show I've done. And then when they look me up, they see that I'm from “Moana” and that's what they want to talk to him about. “Frozen.” They want to talk about the Duke of Weselton because they're 15 now. So that they, that put them in, you know, the perfect age.
So you're really in meshed in that Disney culture. I'm assuming that you're going to have your own stage at the D23 Expo this year. The Alan Tudyk stage.
Yeah, the next show starts in 20 minutes! I’ll just come out on stage.
I know that we are, you know, very secretive around here but have you recorded any voices for upcoming Walt Disney animated features?
I have not.
Even for the one that's coming out in November of this year (“Frozen 2”)?
Is it that soon? This may be the one …
There also has been a lot of talking about some further adventures in “Zootopia.” Would you be excited to bring your weasel out again?
Yeah. He’s fun.
I think that might be the most meta joke, going from the Duke of Weselton to Duke Weaselton.
Isn’t that great?
What did you think when they brought you that idea?
I loved it! And then he's also selling knock-off black market movies before they come out. And he’s got “Rhino Ralph.”
Are you still dazzled when they show you the final cut? I mean, this movie is one of the most visually amazing animated movies ever.
What is the process like for you?
It's been different every time. Every single one has been different. Sometimes they're later in the game, right? Like if it something was coming out this November, we don’t know. Because the story shifts. The way Disney makes movies is amazing. I got to go through the first “Wreck-It Ralph” from the very first reading and it was different. There were all these scenes that got cut. And I record the whole movie and they put it together and they go, “Oh hey, you know what, that doesn't work. You know what, we need more of King Candy or he needs to be worried,” you know, until they get it into the final product. And so that one was always evolving. Take “Moana.” That one was pretty much done and they showed it to me and I just watched it about three times through with a microphone doing Hei-hei. Just going through different places.
Well, you're now part of sort of this like amazing legacy of the studio. Do you ever stop and think about that?
I mean it hits me when I come here because of the hallway and the pictures on the walls that now especially cause it's been so long since the first “Wreck-It Ralph” came out that they've accumulated on the walls. You can turn to everybody and say, “I'm in that. Um, oh that's, that was my character.” And then you keep going down the hallway. That one too, that one too. It's not just relegated to one little spot where like, that was the one movie I did. And there's the little thing celebrating that movie. There's so many now. It makes you pomnder.
Children in 100 years are going to be listening to your voice, which is sort of amazing too.
Oh, there's not going to be people here in 100 years.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is on digital HD now and will be on Blu-ray tomorrow!