Animation Elite 2012: Rich Moore

Earning a record-setting bow for Walt Disney Animation Studios ($49.1 million) and holding steady around the world, “Wreck-It Ralph” has been the right kind of smash for the Mouse House’s toon division and former “Futurama” director Moore.

A “Simpsons” vet, Moore made his feature film directorial debut with the PG-rated project, which feels more grown-up than past Disney toons. The edgy and anarchic comedy combines a lovable videogame anti-hero (voiced by John C. Reilly), a beautifully designed alternative universe and a retro-fresh look that showcases its state-of-the-art 3D animation.

“I think audiences really connected because, along with the comedy and great animation, at its core it’s a very emotional story with a lot of heart about two misfits,” Moore says. “I was lucky to inherit a great group of animators who’ve really pushed the envelope since ‘Tangled’ and who got this classic 2D Disney sensibility into the CG animation.”

He credits “The Simpsons” especially with preparing him for the project. “We always told character-based stories, and (exec producer) Jim Brooks always stressed, ‘This is a sitcom first, not a cartoon.’ I brought the same approach to this: Tell a good story, that happens to be animated,” he says.

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