Continuing our exploration of animation’s most devious baddies, today we race into the world of Disney Animation’s 2012 flick Wreck-It Ralph and onto the track of Litwak’s tightest, fliest arcade game of the ’90s, Sugar Rush. It’s time for Disney’s kookiest trickster: King Candy.
Have Some Candy!
King Candy is the leader of Sugar Rush, and a jubilant leader at that. Bouncing animatedly from atop his throne, his favorite thing to do is to shout at citizens to “Have some candy!” But behind closed doors, King Candy’s leading a double life, one littered with lies of who he really is, his place within the Sugar Rush kingdom, and what the games’ inhabitants think they believe.
Bad Guy vs. Villain
Wreck-It Ralph turns the idea of the villain character on its head from the opening moments of the film. Ralph is technically a bad guy, but only because he’s programmed to be within the world of his game. That’s not who he wants to be in life. This means that, for a large bulk of the film, there is no apparent villain. The antagonist is, in essence, Ralph’s inner self asking those tough questions and making those bold decisions of discovery.
That being said, the plot thickens as the Nesquikens (yeah, I don’t know, I’m just going along with the movie’s punny vibe). As we learn more about the rules and boundaries of this arcade environment, we’re taken on an up-and-down journey of how to view King Candy. At first, his presence is comic relief. Then we’re inclined to dislike him because of his adamancy in making sure Vanellope doesn’t race. What’s this guy’s problem? Next we discover what that (false) problem is: the consequences that allowing a glitch to race would inflict, and our perspective reverts back to being ok with him. Finally, we’re exposed to King Candy’s true colors and real identity: Turbo, the rebel who dared to leave his game years ago and in the process put two games out of business. He’s since overthrown Vanellope’s princess reign, erased Sugar Rush racers’ memories, and taken control. It’s a prime example of Disney Animation’s trend to surprise the viewer with a big twist, along the same lines as the Goob/Bowler Hat Guy reveal in Meet the Robinsons and, of course, Hans’s infamous jerkery in Frozen.
The constant among all of those turns is that we never really trust King Candy completely. When new information is relayed, we accept it, but don’t fully buy it. This makes his final-act reveal as the true villain to not seem to come from left field. As the film progresses, it’s not one huge surprise after another as different layers of the story are unpeeled; it’s more like moderate reactions of “Oh, ok
and “Oh, all right” followed by a full-throttle “WOAH, didn’t see that coming! But it makes sense now.”
King Candy is a bit nuts. In fact, he’s downright bonkers. His crazy lines are written superbly by screenwriters Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee. While he might be a villain, the audience intrinsically looks forward to when he will come onscreen next. From his fungeon to the remark that Ralph just “glazed” him, we don’t know what’s going to come out of his mouth. This goes for the entire cast, each character with its own tone (Calhoun overtly blunt, Felix amplified gentlemanly), with the off-the-wall comments reserved for His Royal Puffiness.
This comes with specific intentionality on the filmmakers’ part to create an entire character tribute to Disney Legend Ed Wynn, whose storied career with Disney created some of the studio’s most delightful personalities. Wynn’s silly, laugh-induced humor, carried largely by his distinct voice, brought to life the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins, and a score of other roles. King Candy’s mannerisms and voice (right down to the lisp) embody Wynn completely, thanks in part to voice actor Alan Tudyk. Half the fun of King Candy’s character is the funny way he sounds. It’s fantastic. As it turns out, Wreck-It Ralph marked the first in a consecutive string of Disney Animation roles for Tudyk, who went on to play the Duke of Weselton in Frozen and Alistair Krei in Big Hero 6. We’ll see if he becomes Disney’s new lucky charm.