Ron's Gone Wrong

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Ron's Gone Wrong
Ron's Gone Wrong (2021) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Written by
Produced by
Starring
Cinematography
  • David Peers
  • Hailey White
Edited byDavid Burrows[1]
Music byHenry Jackman
Production
companies
Distributed by20th Century Studios[2][3]
Release dates
  • October 9, 2021 (2021-10-09) (BFI London Film Festival)
  • October 15, 2021 (2021-10-15) (United Kingdom)
  • October 22, 2021 (2021-10-22) (United States)
Running time
107 minutes[4]
Countries
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$60.7 million[5][2]

Ron's Gone Wrong is a 2021 computer-animated science fiction comedy film directed by Sarah Smith and Jean-Philippe Vine, co-directed by Octavio E. Rodriguez, produced by Julie Lockhart and Lara Breay, and written by Peter Baynham and Smith.[6] The film features the voice of Jack Dylan Grazer as Barney, a socially awkward middle-schooler who befriends a defective robot he names Ron, voiced by Zach Galifianakis. Barney must find a way to protect Ron, who comes under danger from corporate employees. Additional voices include Ed Helms, Justice Smith, Rob Delaney, Kylie Cantrall, Ricardo Hurtado and Olivia Colman.

Ron's Gone Wrong is the first feature film from Locksmith Animation,[7] as well as the first fully animated feature film produced by TSG Entertainment. Animation and voice acting for the film were all done remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The film had its world premiere at the 2021 BFI London Film Festival on October 9, 2021, and was theatrically released in the United Kingdom on October 15, 2021, and in the United States on October 22, 2021, in a limited 3D release at the AMC and Regency theaters and originally in RealD 3D. The film was originally going to be distributed by Paramount Pictures under the Paramount Animation label, but was instead distributed by 20th Century Studios under the 20th Century Animation label. Ron's Gone Wrong serves as 20th Century Studios' first animated feature film since the closure of Blue Sky Studios on April 10, 2021, as well as the first animated feature film to be theatrically released under the studio's new name, 20th Century Studios. The film grossed $60.7 million worldwide and received positive reviews.

Plot

Tech giant Bubble unveils their latest creation: the B-bot, created by Bubble's CEO Marc Wydell with the intent to make a robot buddy that is designed to help make friends via algorithm. In the city of Nonsuch, California, middle schooler Barney Pudowski is the only kid in his class who does not have a B-bot. His former childhood friends, Savannah Meades, Rich Belcher, Noah, and Ava have all become absorbed by their individual B-bots. On Barney's birthday, his father, Graham, and his grandmother, Donka, come to realize that he does not have any friends. They hastily go to a Bubble store, but it closes for the day, leading them to buy a slightly damaged one from the store's delivery driver.

Barney receives the B-bot as his late-birthday gift, but upon activating it, he quickly learns that it is defective and glitchy. Not wanting to upset his father, Barney decides to take it back to the Bubble store to get it fixed, but ends up running into Rich and his friends who taunt and try to humiliate Barney. The B-bot begins to fight back as his safety functions have been disabled, with him and Barney happily running off. However, Rich called the police and they along with Graham and Donka are taken to the Bubble store so that the B-bot can be crushed. Not wanting to see him go, Barney secretly rescues him and names him Ron, a shortened version of his model number.

When Barney and Ron's actions are reported, Marc is happy to see Ron go against his programming while his COO Andrew Morris views it as bad publicity, believing Ron must be destroyed for the issue to be resolved. Barney teaches Ron how to be a good friend and, while hanging out, runs into Savannah who tells Ron that he needs to help Barney get friends. Despite Barney telling Savannah not to, she posts Ron's actions online, alerting Bubble. The next day, Ron gets out of the house and tries to get "friends" for Barney, bringing a series of random people to school. As Barney gets in trouble, Rich discovers Ron's unlocked function and downloads it, causing all the other B-bots to have their safety features turned off. The B-bots run wild and, in the end, after the B-Bots have a patch update, Savannah is publicly humiliated.

Barney is kicked out from school and tells Ron off, but upon returning home, realizes that Ron was truly being a friend and decides to run away with him when Bubble employees come for him. They briefly run into Savannah, still upset over her incident, and tells her that he is hiding in the woods. Meanwhile, while Andrew warns Marc about the ramifications of the B-bot, Marc sneaks away so that he can meet Ron while Bubble uses their resources to take control of all the B-bots to go looking for Ron and Barney in the woods. Due to the cold weather and Barney's asthma, he becomes weak and Ron brings him back to civilization just outside the school where Savannah, Rich, Noah and Ava rush out to help him.

Barney is taken to the hospital and recuperates before meeting Marc who patched Ron, making him like every other B-Bot. Barney demands that Marc access the cloud to get Ron's original personality, but Andrew took over the Bubble company and locked Marc out. Through an elaborate plan for Barney, Graham, Donka and Marc breaking into Bubble HQ, Barney manages to make it to the Bubble database, finds Ron's original data by his light and uploads him back into his body, restoring him back to his original code. Seeing that Bubble has direct access to everyone's B-bot and realizing that everyone is just as lonely as he was, Barney suggests upgrading all the B-bots to have Ron's flaws. However, this means that Ron will be dispersed. Barney reluctantly says goodbye to Ron as his programming is spread to everyone, mixing Marc's friendship algorithm with Ron's code. Marc blackmails Andrew into giving his position of CEO back after secretly recording him admitting that the B-bots spy on their owners for profit.

Three months later, everyone has a faulty B-bot, but are happy with their weird and wild personalities. Barney (who is now allowed back in school) no longer has one, but has become much more sociable and has gotten close with his former friends. As they hang out at recess, a giant Bubble tower that overlooks Nonsuch produces Ron's face.

Cast

  • Jack Dylan Grazer as Barney Pudowski, a socially awkward and lonesome middle-schooler whom Savannah shares a friendship with.[8]
  • Zach Galifianakis as RONB1NT5CAT5CO / "Ron", Barney's malfunctioning B-bot.
  • Ed Helms as Graham Pudowski, Barney's father and Donka's son.
  • Olivia Colman as Donka Pudowski, Barney's grandmother and Graham's mother who was born in Bulgaria.
  • Rob Delaney as Andrew Morris, the COO of the Bubble company.
  • Justice Smith as Marc Wydell, the creator of the B-bot and the CEO of the Bubble company.
  • Kylie Cantrall as Savannah Meades, Barney's classmate who is an aspiring vlogger.
  • Ricardo Hurtado as Rich Belcher, Barney's classmate who continually pranks people in hopes of becoming famous.
  • Cullen James McCarthy as Noah, Barney's classmate who loves video games.
  • Ava Morse as Ava, Barney's classmate who loves science.
  • Marcus Scribner as Alex, one of Rich's cronies.
  • Thomas Barbusca as Jayden, one of Rich's cronies.
  • Ruby Wax as Ms. Hartley, Barney's middle school principal.
  • Sarah Miller as Bree, a Bubble store manager.
  • Krupa Pattani as Sita, a colleague of Andrew Morris.
  • Megan Maczko as Miss Thomas, Barney's middle school teacher.

Additionally, Bentley Kalu voices a cop, John Macmillan voices Shayne the Biker, David Menkin voices Mr. Cleaver, and Iara Nemirovsky voices Ellie. Liam Payne voices a B-bot who gets kicked by Andrew in a cameo appearance, respectively.

Production

Development

After founding Locksmith Animation, Sarah Smith wanted to create a film that observed the impact of the internet on children's relationships and self-esteem, which she realised could be made into a film after watching Her (2013), commenting "we have to make that film for kids, to [help] them evaluate those experiences".[9] Smith approached Peter Baynham with one paragraph of story where a robot learns through imitation, Smith said that Baynham asked "what if it was an idiot and it was annoying?"[10]

Locksmith had a troubled history in securing a distributor for the project. In May 2016, the studio formed a production deal with Paramount Pictures in which they would distribute Locksmith's films under their Paramount Animation banner.[11] However, the following year Paramount abandoned the deal when Paramount chairman and CEO Brad Grey was replaced by Jim Gianopulos.[12] In September 2017, Locksmith formed a multi-year production deal with 20th Century Fox, which would distribute their films under the 20th Century Fox Animation label with Locksmith aiming to theatrically release a film every 12–18 months.[12][13] The acquisition of 20th Century Fox by Disney led to concern that the distribution deal would be lost again.[14] Smith said the resulting acquisition was "terrifying", and described the prospect of promoting the project to Disney executives as "carrying coals to Newcastle", but ultimately they were supportive of the project.[15] Although the future releases deal was abandoned and Locksmith signed with Warner Bros. Pictures for its future projects.[16]

On October 12, 2017, it was announced that the project would be titled Ron's Gone Wrong, and will serve as the first animated feature film from Locksmith Animation. Alessandro Carloni and Jean-Phillipe Vine were announced to serve as the film's co-directors with Octavio E. Rodriguez. The visual effects company DNEG was on board as a digital production partner to provide the film's computer animation.[17] Also, Baynham, who previously worked with Smith on Arthur Christmas (2011), and Elisabeth Murdoch were announced to executive produce the film with Smith.[1]

In test screenings, Smith was surprised to find that Donka was a popular character with children. The scene where Donka dances on a table with Ron was a favourite scene for children, and Smith viewed this as "comedy there that they haven't seen before".[15]

Casting

Grazer first began recording lines for the role of Barney in 2017 when he was 13 and did not finalize his role until early 2021 by the time he was 18. Grazer said that it became difficult to maintain his 13-year-old prepubescent voice throughout the years of recording.[18] He was originally introduced as a test voice for early animatics, but Smith kept him on after being astounded by the emotional range of his performance.[19]

Galifianakis was instructed to perform much of his lines for the role of Ron in a deadpan voice, to convey that Ron is run by an algorithm and is not very emotional. He commented that this was challenging and unusual, because he had never had directors in the past ask for "less" emotion. Smith praised Helms performance as the role of Graham for skilfully improvising lines and contributing additional "touches" to the film, saying "You give him the lines and he’ll do six versions of his own and he’s hilarious".[15]

Animation

The character of Ron was designed to be aesthetically reminiscent of "stripped-down" computer software, with the pixelated interfaces of the MS-DOS operating system being a source of inspiration. Emphasis was placed on allowing Ron's animated performance to be versatile, which demanded precise control over his motion graphics skin that deliver his facial expressions.[20] This included allowing his face slide all across his body, such as his eyeballs appearing between his legs when picked up.[21] Baynham explained "he doesn't have a face that you can do all the classic things with, but somehow he does... like the way his eye might slip a little bit... that speaks to his simple clownishness."[22] Vine referred to Ron's behaviour as being alike to the Clippy personal assistant, describing him "cheerfully and annoyingly helpful all the time".[23] Locksmith consulted with the toy designer Sphero to investigate what would be a realistic design for a social media robot.[24] Vine said, "we wanted the movie to feel like it’s set right around now so the bot needs to feel tangible".[10] Animation director Eric Leighton explained that it was important to track the emotional state of Ron to determine his range of behaviour. The scene where Ron physically attacks children is where he is "the most broken that a robot could possibly be", and the scene where he is reprogrammed is at his most benign. The whole movie was shot out of sequence in favor of doing scenes across his degrees of "brokeness".[20] The character design of Barney was distinguished through coordinated color palettes; Barney's clothes are patterned in "earth tones" to indicate his love of nature, and his home is vibrant in contrast to the muted colors of other homes in the town he lives in.[20] Pixar RenderMan was used for the film.[25]

Production was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Animation for the film was done remotely with crew members working from home, which included digital modelling, rigging, and lighting. Editors faced difficulty assembling footage with temporarily out-of-sync audio, which impaired judgement over the timing of edits. Voice acting was also done remotely, and involved makeshift home recording setups where blankets were used for soundproofing. A voice actor even had to ask family members sharing an internet connection to come offline, in order to free bandwidth for a recording session.[26][27][9]

A labor dispute arose over DNEG announcing 20%-25% pay cuts to employees earning more than £35,000 (GBP) per year, which it said was due to business disruption caused by COVID-19. This led to 169 employees signing a collective grievance statement. The move was later partially reversed; DNEG was forced to reach deals with its business partners, this included Locksmith who agreed to offer a salary top-up and completion bonus to employees working on the film. The trade union BECTU condemned DNEG for its refusal to communicate with the union, and said its response to the collective grievance was deliberately indirect.[28][29] The film took approximately five years to complete.[20]

Music

Henry Jackman composed the film score.[30] Speaking about the score, Jackman said that "it has its own identity, similar to Wreck-It Ralph or Big Hero 6" having the "same musical landscape and color in this film",[31] and also had enjoyed working in the film, calling the scoring sessions as "enormous fun".[32] Jean-Philippe Vine and Sarah Smith, the directors of the film, expressed gratitude to Jackman on how his score, elevated the film. Smith wanted the score to have a "contemporary John Hughes feel along with a classic 'high school movie' vibe and the orchestral scale and emotion of E.T. on top".[33] The score was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and Air Studios in London, England.

Jackman composed most of the tracks, with two songs in collaboration with Dave Bayley of the indie-pop band Glass Animals.[34] Liam Payne performed an original song titled "Sunshine" and its music video was released on August 27, 2021.[35][36] The soundtrack was released digitally on October 15, 2021 by Hollywood Records and Walt Disney Records and in physical formats on October 22.[37]

Release

Marketing

The film's teaser trailer was released on June 8, 2021,[38] on YouTube, as the official trailer was released on September 9, 2021[39] to the platform. TOMY made a deal with Disney and Locksmith Animation to develop and promote the film's toys including plush toys and action figures.[40]

Theatrical

In October 2017, Ron's Gone Wrong was scheduled for a theatrical release on November 6, 2020.[41] In November 2019, the film was moved to February 26, 2021.[42] In May 2020, the film was moved to April 23, 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.[43][44] On January 22, 2021, the film was then delayed further to October 22, 2021 in RealD 3D originally.[45] The film also had its world premiere as the headlining act of the 2021 BFI London Film Festival on October 9, 2021 making it a Special BFI Presentation.[46][4] On the same date, the film premiered at the 36th Guadalajara International Film Festival's Guadalajara opening celebration event.[46] The film was premiered in United Kingdom on October 15, 2021. The film also held a special surprise screening premiere at the El Capitan Theatre on the day of its USA theatrical release date of October 22, 2021.[47] The film played exclusively in theaters for 45 days before heading to digital platforms.[48]

The film is also the only film under Locksmith's deal with 20th Century Studios, as the animation studio struck a new deal with Warner Bros. Pictures to distribute future films under Warner Animation Group.[16]

Home media

Ron's Gone Wrong was released on DVD, Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray on December 7, 2021 and on Digital on December 15, 2021 by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.[49] Special features include Questions and Answers with Jack Dylan Grazer and Zach Galifianakis calling "A Boy and His B-bot", a Making Ron Right featurette and the music video of the film's soundtrack album's one and only original hit song called "Sunshine" by British English singer and songwriter Liam Payne. Ron's Gone Wrong became available for streaming on HBO Max and Disney+ on December 15, 2021, after Disney reached a deal with WarnerMedia for a majority of the upcoming films from 20th Century Studios to be streamed collaboratively between Disney+, HBO Max and Hulu until HBO's deal with 20th Century, signed before Disney's acquisition of the company in 2013, runs out at the end of 2022. Ron's Gone Wrong also made its American television premiere on HBO on December 18, 2021.[50]

Reception

Box office

Ron's Gone Wrong grossed $23 million in the United States and Canada and $37.7 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $60.7 million.[5][2] In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside Dune and was projected to gross around $10 million from 3,065 theaters in its opening weekend.[51] The film made $2.3 million on its first day, including $260,000 from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut in fifth place with $7.3 million. On its second weekend, the film fell 48% and made $3.7 million.[52] Brennan Klein of Screen Rant speculated that the film was a box office disappointment due to its low performance and suspiciously undisclosed budget.[53]

Audience viewership

According to Nielsen ratings, Ron's Gone Wrong was the third most streamed feature film worldwide across all major platforms between December 13 and December 19, 2021.[54] Screen Rant reported that within the United States it was the most viewed feature film on Disney+ after two days of appearing on the service on December 15.[53]

Critical response

Ron's Gone Wrong received generally positive reviews from critics. On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 80% with a "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 99 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "It isn't the first animated film to confront technology creep, but in terms of striking an entertaining balance between humor and heart, Ron's Gone Wrong gets it right."[55] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 65 out of 100 based on 23 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[56] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[57]

James Mottram of The South China Morning Post wrote: "sweet, heart-warming and frighteningly prescient, Ron's Gone Wrong is one of the best animated films in recent memory."[58] Tim Robey of The Daily Telegraph gave the film four out of five stars and said that the film is "visualized with verve" and that "it's a zingy and mercilessly funny satire on how devices, with their ever-so-friendly interfaces, have in fact become our despots."[59] Ben Kenigsberg of The New York Times said "As family entertainment, it's fine."[60] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film three out of five stars, saying that the film was "entertaining, though composed with algorithmic precision", adding that "it winds up suspiciously neutral about whether kids really should abandon digital enslavement in favour of real-life human friends."[61] Pat Padua of The Washington Post gave the film three out of four stars, writing that it "has plenty of slapstick and potty humor for kids. But adults will also be intrigued by its frequently scathing (albeit somewhat conflicted) critique of consumerism."[62] Mark Kermode said that the film was "really good fun and a real surprise."[63]

Anna Smith of Deadline Hollywood Daily wrote that the film was "one for all the family - just put your cellphones away first." Brandon Zachary of CBR wrote "What starts as a movie you'd expect to know every twist to transcends into something far more interesting."[64] Charles Bramesco of The A.V. Club wrote: "As in the curiously similar The Mitchells vs. the Machines, the misadventures transmit a light-hearted commentary on the wonders and hazards of our screen-saturated culture."[65] Wendy Ide of Screen International said that the film "transcends the familiarity of the story with deft writing, appealing animation and a big heart crammed into a small malfunctioning robot."[66] Angie Han of The Hollywood Reporter wrote "What the animated feature lacks in daring imagination, it makes up for with endearing good humor, thoughtful cultural critique and one heck of a cute robot."[67] Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press was more critical of the film, describing it as "a derivative tale about a middle schooler and his quirky computer sidekick" and writing that it "seems to want to preach we should all disconnect from our devices and restore human contact. But then what will the filmmakers do with all that adorable merch?"[68] Michael Ordoña of The Los Angeles Times wrote that the film "dots its primer on friendship with chase scenes and warnings about Big Tech with only mixed success."[69] Yolanda Machando of TheWrap wrote that the film "offers partially realized messaging about social media while populating the story with elementary sight gags, too many overused "fish out of water" tropes and attractive merchandise options."[70]

Accolades

Year Award Category Nominees and recipients Result
2022 Annie Awards[71] Outstanding Achievement for Character Design in an Animated Feature Julien Bizat Nominated
Outstanding Achievement for Production Design on an Animated Feature Aurélien Predal, Till Nowak and Nathan Crowley Nominated
British Animation Awards[72] Best Long Form Sarah Smith, Jean-Philippe Vine and Octavio E. Rodriguez Won
Best Design Won
Writers Award Sarah Smith and Peter Baynham Nominated

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