Ralph Breaks the Internet may be a sequel, but it still breaks new Disney ground. The Wreck-It Ralph follow-up answers the question about where Vanellope fits within the Disney princess canon. When she meets them, Vanellope earns their verbal stamp of approval. And the memorable scene also opens up a dialogue amongst the princesses about their problematic, reductive stories. But their reunion also brings about another important development: brings a very important thing: Ralph becomes a Disney princess, too — well, sort of. Spoilers ahead.
In the film, Ralph nearly faces his doom as he freefalls after escaping a giant Ralph monster, but the princesses show they’re done with being damsels in distress and become heroes. They save him by pooling their powers together and working as a team. Part of the rescue involves the princesses using their dresses as parachutes. Ralph is wearing Snow White’s dress, which holds up the other dresses tied to it. Over the phone, Ralph Breaks the Internet co-writer Pamela Ribon explains how this scene makes Ralph a part of that special group too.
Ribon says that it made perfect sense for Ralph to don Snow White's instantly recognizable dress because, in this case, the garment was a tool the princesses used to save him. But the circumstances of the rescue also makes him an honorary princess. He's going through the peril the princesses were just describing.
“Ralph is also getting the princess treatment here, right?" the screenwriter says. "Someone comes in to rescue him. He was in danger. He had been captured by a big giant monster, and now he's going to get the kiss from the frog ... I guess technically, now he could be a princess.”
This Disney flick has been regarded by critics like Salon's Matthew Rozsa as a vital critique of toxic masculinity, which is tackled throughout — from the princesses realizing that their stories enforce stereotypes about women and men and are heavily outdated, to Ralph learning that it’s important to respect boundaries.
But having Ralph don the iconic, colorful dress and get a princess rescue shows that anyone can need saving, regardless of gender. This moment may have seemed simple and humorous, but it felt powerful to fans, who appreciated its touching, important message.
But besides showing young boys watching that even a traditionally masculine-looking character like Ralph can rock a dress and require some (OK, a lot) of help, this scene also showcases the princesses’ abilities and strength, proving that when they’re surrounded by other empowering women, they can join forces to achieve extraordinary things.
“They're stronger together, therefore, they can rescue the strong man who needs help,” explains Ribon, who also voices Snow White in the film.
Watching the scene, you wouldn't think any less of Ralph for being rescued, right? The film shows that just because a princess has been saved by a charming prince doesn't mean that she lacks the strength to handle doing the saving, too.
According to Ribon, this fresh version of the beloved Disney princesses was inspired by Disney fans and their own re-imagined takes on princesses. "We were playing a lot with how the Internet talks about the princesses and the way that we have identified with them in a fandom," she says. "And what kind of princess are you? Which one do you fairytale are you? Are we defined by the things that happened to us or defined by the things that we accomplish or the person that we are?" In addition to being fan service, these scenes ask those questions.
Making Ralph an honorary Disney princess, albeit for one brief scene, gives hope that Disney will continue to question traditional gender roles, and encourage its audiences to do the same.