Ernie Petti, the technical supervisor on the latest Disney animated movie Ralph Breaks the Internet, has some deep ties to Northeast Ohio. He went to Saint Ignatius High School and attended John Carroll University, where he majored in physics. He initially started working in aerospace, but then got a gig at Disney nearly 20 years ago. He began on the software side of things but got more directly involved in the creative part when he began working on 2005's Chicken Little.
A tactic supervisor, Petti worked on 2012's Wreck-It Ralph and then had an even bigger role on the sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet, which is currently showing at area theaters.
"Right when they know roughly what the movie is about at the highest level, I'm in there to figure out what are the things we don't know how to do yet or the things we haven't done before," he says one morning from the downtown Aloft. He recently came through town on a promotional tour to do interviews with media outlets and give a couple of presentations at area colleges. "The biggest thing with this one was scope and scale. We have over 150 environments. There's the arcade and the internet, which is just humongous and has lots of websites. Each website has its own look and style. We have to create all of that."
The film centers on the friendship between Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman). They live inside their respective arcade games, but when they leave their homes to explore the internet, all hell breaks loose.
"I like the route the film takes where you take two characters out of the arcade who are very comfortable in their life there and insert them into a whole new world," says Petti when asked about the film's storyline. "It's about how they respond to that. [The film] can apply to friends and to parents and to kids. There's a dynamic there that I think really resonates with a lot of people's experiences."
Older viewers will understand how the web has nearly rendered arcade games obsolete. With its references to sites both real and imaginary, the movie appeals equally to adults and kids.
"That's always our goal," says Petti. "We want to make sure it's appropriate for kids, but there's plenty there for adults. There are layers of themes, but some of the deeper themes will really resonate with adults."
Petti says his ultimate goal was to make the movie "entertaining and enjoyable."
"I think there's some good themes in there in relationship to friendship and growing up," he says. "If people can make that their own, that's great. But it's primarily just supposed to be fun." — Jeff Niesel