Interview: Wreck-It Ralph screenwriter Phil Johnston on working with Disney’s John Lasseter

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John Lasseter is now the head of Disney Animation Studios, but he’s best known for molding the Northern California based animation studio, Pixar, into a household name that is synonymous with a kids’ brand of movies that adults can enjoy, too.

Screenwriter Phil Johnston, one of two writers on the newest animation out of the Pixar/Disney giant, Wreck-It Ralph, talks about what it’s like to work with the legend himself.

Lasseter, Johnston says, is a story genius. He has two very distinct qualities. First, he knows how to structure a film like no other, and second, he has the mind of a “nine-year-old boy who is just giggling at everything.” Because Lasseter can tap into that thing that kids like, he proved time and again that his method of story telling works.

So, the big question for Johsnton is how does someone get a gig at Disney/Pixar? The answer: Write a good script.

Johnston says “trying” to get a gig there is exactly the wrong way to do it. He had written an R-rated comedy about a boy who sells nudie magazines out of his garage, believe it or not. His script is definitely not the typical way to get an interview with Disney. But the characters resonated with the director, Rich Moore, Johnston says. And from there, he got the job to work on a charming kids movie about a video game villain who decides he’s got to change his ways. Wreck-It Ralph is a story of going straight and getting out of the wreck it game.

The film stars John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch and Mindy Kaling and it debuts in theaters November 2. ScreenwritingU sat down with the Johnston to get all the details on writing a Disney/Pixar film.

Photo credit: Disney/Pixar

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