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Watch our exclusive Video Interview with Sarah Silverman voice of Vanellope from Wreck-It Ralph!
Known as “The Glitch,” Vanellope is a pixelating programming mistake in the candy-coated cart-racing game Sugar Rush. With a racer’s spirit embedded in her coding, Vanellope is determined to earn her place in the starting lineup amongst the other racers. Only problem: the other racers don’t want her or her glitching in the game. Years of rejection have left Vanellope with a wicked sense of humor and a razor-sharp tongue. However, somewhere beneath that hard shell is a sweet center just waiting to be revealed.
“With Vanellope, we were looking for a character that would mirror Ralph’s struggles,” says screenwriter Phil Johnston. “She’s an outsider. The kids pick on her. Nobody really likes her and they exclude her from the races. And all she wants to do is race—to be part of the game—just as Ralph wants to be a part of his community in Niceland.”
When it came to casting Vanellope, filmmakers knew what they didn’t want. “We didn’t want a child to play the part,” says Moore. “We wanted someone who was acerbic and quick, and could carry the more serious parts of the performance.”
Enter Sarah Silverman, whose quick wit and likability lend themselves perfectly to the Sugar Rush resident. But Silverman brings something to the role that audiences might not expect. Says Moore, “We all know Sarah Silverman is funny—she’s a comedian. But Sarah’s a great dramatic actress as well.”
With the friendship between Vanellope and Ralph being integral to the emotional core of the movie, filmmakers had Silverman and John C. Reilly record many of their scenes together, which is uncommon for an animated film.
“John and I were able to record together a lot,” says Silverman. “It’s fun to be able to look into someone’s eyes when you’re saying the lines and to improvise off of each other. We improvised, we overlapped. It felt very organic.”
The character’s look was a bit harder to achieve, according to art director Mike Gabriel. “Vanellope’s design was a real journey,” he says. “We literally did thousands of designs on her. But two little girls helped bring it all together. A girl at my church had the best ears—cute ears for a funny little kid—and I saw pictures of a colleague’s daughter with her hair pulled back with pieces dangling in front. Perfect.”
The final details were in the wardrobe. “We dressed her in a little brown skirt fashioned from candy wrappers,” adds Gabriel. “When Rich [Moore] saw her, he said, ‘Give her a hoodie. That’ll make her look kind of street.’ That did the trick.”