I saw Wreck-It Ralph last weekend. It was pretty much what I hoped it would be: a cute story with video game references all neatly bound together under the veil of Disney style animation and Pixar style humor.

This movie is a big deal for the Rishel Family, and not just because so many of us are animation fans and/or casual gamers. It’s because my cousin Brian worked on the film. Brian has been doing behind-the-scenes stuff for Disney for many years, but this is the first time he’s contributed so much to a blockbuster movie. The next time you watch Wreck-It Ralph, look for Brian Rishel’s name in the credits. He’s the Post Production Lead Title Designer (it shows up shortly after the music credits). Congratulations, Brian. You’re finally getting the recognition you deserve.

If you haven’t seen Wreck-It Ralph yet, do yourself a favor and don’t read any reviews except mine. With this kind of story, reviewers won’t post spoilers, but they will be tempted to give hints about the plot. And, much like a real video game, hints can give too much away. All the threads should unravel nicely on their own, as long as you don’t go pulling on any of them too soon.

Okay, now about the movie itself. If you’ve seen the trailers, you know that Wreck-It Ralph is the story of a video game bad guy who is tired of being the villain. He can’t change the rules of his own game, so he travels to other games where he might have a shot at being the hero. On the surface, this looks like another story about a protagonist trying to improve his life while proving all the doubters wrong. It’s really a story about the nature of heroism. And the world of video games is a great place to explore the concept of heroism. If the moral had been about love, confidence, loyalty or any other popular theme, it would have been a waste of a theme. As the story begins, we learn that Ralph wants to be a hero so that people will treat him better. So game-hopping Ralph goes through the motions of being a hero without helping anyone. (Good Guy Ralph actually makes things much worse.) When Ralph forgets about his own quest and focus on helping others, he finally starts becoming the person he wants to be. Wreck-It Ralph has a good, real moral that isn’t explored often enough in these kinds of movies: You can’t be a hero to make people like you. You have to like people enough to be heroic for them.

But the best thing about Wreck-It Ralph is that the creators seem to get video games. Its quite common yet always disappointing to watch a show based on something that the authors themselves don’t understand (like Dreamworks movies and Dr. Seuss stories or family sitcoms and…pretty much any topic you can think of).  Wreck-It Ralph was made by people who grew up on video games and were ready to pour all that knowledge and love into the crafting their digital world.

And if your local theater still keeps it’s little corner arcade going, you can bet that you’ll want to give those old games a second look on your way out.

-Marjorie Rishel