All of us who work at Disney take pride in working for a company that has created some of the most memorable, best loved, and longest-lived characters, in some of the most powerful and affecting stories of the 20th Century. Walt Disney did this in every medium and outlet available to him—movies, television, books, comics, toys, parks—you name it.
Many of us are engaged in creating similarly compelling characters, telling similarly affecting stories in the 21st century. Some work in those same media pioneered by Walt and others, some—like me—work in new media and can only wonder what Walt would have thought about what we do and aspire to be as innovative as he surely would have been in exploiting the unique capabilities of whatever medium we’ve chosen.
This is the story of how Mickey Mouse, one of the world’s most recognizable icons and one of the most popular movie stars in Hollywood, came to that most vital of 21st century media—videogames—in a game called Disney Epic Mickey.
HOW IT BEGAN | CLEAR GOALS | RESEARCH AND COLLABORATION! | THE HEART OF A MOUSE | MICKEY’S OLDER BROTHER | VILELY VILLAINOUS VILLAINS | “CONCEPT” PHASE, ENDED | PRE-PRODUCTION | PRODUCTION | POST-PRODUCTION AUDIO | POST-PRODUCTION MUSIC | TEST, TEST, TEST | DONE AT LAST! | THE FUTURE | THE END
Junction Point’s involvement in the project began in Fall 2005. At the time, I was a 22-year veteran of game development and I had just founded a studio called Junction Point, with about a dozen people working for me. As is usually the case with independent videogame developers, I was desperately trying to shop some concepts to potential publishers to keep myself, and the rest of the team employed, with some—but not overwhelming—success.
My agent recommended that I speak with Disney Interactive. Soon after, I found myself in a conference room in Glendale, California, surrounded by some of Disney’s best and brightest. After some initial discussion, one asked me if I’d be interested in designing a game around Mickey Mouse. The world had just shifted under my feet, and my heart was about to leap out of my chest!
Then the lights in the room went down, and they walked me through a presentation that had been created by a group of “think tank” interns. Those kids may have been short on experience, but the concept they’d come up with under the direction of think tank director Chris Takami was nothing short of magical: Mickey Mouse, trapped in an amazing world of forgotten and rejected Disney creativity; Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney’s first cartoon star, returning to the Disney family as the first (resentful) inhabitant of that world; Floyd Gottfredson’s Phantom Blot as the arch-villain of the story.
The lights came on. I realized that Disney had given me an acorn, and I was going to grow it into an oak tree!
Thus began a multi-year journey through Disney’s past, and an attempt to put my mark on Disney’s future—at least in some small, interactive way! There were multiple starts and stops (which I’ll skip over here), but five years later, in November 2010, Disney Epic Mickey was released on the Nintendo Wii videogame console.
It became the fastest-selling game and, ultimately, the best-selling single-platform game, in Disney’s history. The core elements the think tank had come up with were still the foundation of that success, but the team at Junction Point had, in fact, turned an acorn into an oak tree—big and strong and, to my eyes, beautiful. Here’s the story of how that happened.
Find the heart of the character. What makes Mickey Mouse so appealing 80-plus years after his creation? We had to figure that out and then not “mess with people’s childhoods.” We didn’t want to be the guys who screwed up Mickey Mouse!
Make Mickey Mouse a videogame star. This wasn’t a “reinvention” or an “updating.” That almost never works. What we wanted to do was figure out what aspects of Mickey’s character and history could be put under player control. How could we make gamers want to be a cartoon mouse for 20-plus hours of their lives, and love it?
Remind people that Mickey can be an adventurous, heroic figure. For a while now he’s been the symbol of the Disney corporation, a guy in a tuxedo at a theme park, an image on a T-shirt, and a babysitter for young kids. When we started thinking about Disney Epic Mickey, he hadn’t been in a game for years. But at various points in his career, he’s been quite the adventurous, heroic mouse. We wanted to get him back to that.
Honor Disney’s (amazing) creative history. I’ve never worked on a project where I had to tell the team to “be less creative,” but that was one of our goals this time around. What that meant was, if there was something from Disney’s past—a ride, a character, a concept sketch, a trash can, treasure chest, or lamppost—anything that served the needs of our story and our game, we were going to use it. We’d make up as little as possible.
Make a game for everyone. So many games target a specific demographic—teen boys, tween girls, 20-something men, or 30-something women. Why is that? At Pixar, I heard “We make entertainment for everyone.” No one says Up was just for kids or Ratatouille was just for teen girls. Why must a game be for a specific audience? With Disney Epic Mickey, I thought, “Why not aspire to something more?” We decided to make a game that had something for kids, something for adults, something for men and boys, women and girls.
The first step in accomplishing all of these goals was to immerse ourselves in the history of Mickey Mouse and Disney.
There’s no shortage of information about Disney history! At Junction Point, we watched every Mickey Mouse cartoon, every Oswald cartoon, and lots of animated features. We watched every documentary and television program about the parks we could lay our hands on. We lived on Disney fan sites on the Web and read more Disney biographies than you can shake a stick at.
It was time to get into some serious research—you can only get so much online and in books or videos. Luckily, Disney opened the Archives to us. And we went to town.
Connecting with the incredible folks at the Walt Disney Archives was critical to our success—David R. Smith retired not long after we started working on Disney Epic Mickey, so we only had one meeting with him, but his staff and the folks who took his place—notably Becky Cline and Kevin Kern—proved to be true and constant friends of the project.
With their assistance, we did a ton of research to make sure we got things right in our story, our presentation of the characters, and the locations we depicted. Fidelity to original source material and honoring Disney’s creative history was really important to me and to the team.
The fact that Disney preserved all of the behind-the-scenes elements of filmmaking—contracts, memos, concept sketches, cels, costumes, you name it—was a major inspiration for the Disney Epic Mickey game. We had to take advantage of everything the Archives had to offer. In the Archives, we found ephemera: an Oswald Stencil Set, Oswald chocolate candy wrappers, Mickey Mouse watches, maquettes and models, model sheets, sketches, and frame grabs of characters we included in the game—including ones of Oswald’s many girlfriends. We found documents—lots and lots of documents!—including memos from Disney’s 1920′s distributor, Charles Mintz, where the two bantered about the character’s look and personality, helping to shed light on how the character developed over time. And, amazingly, we even found the actual contract that resulted in Walt losing the rights to Oswald in 1928!
At the Animation Research Library we found concept art of characters and scenes, some of it final and approved, some of it rejected. We found background paintings, animators’ drawings. We found storyboards, which, along with the concept work of the wonderful Mary Blair, inspired our eventual in-game cinematic style.
In another collection, the fellow who showed us around on our first visit apologized that they’d “only scanned 90,000 images.” We were pretty certain that’d be enough to keep us busy! We found blueprints, architectural elevations with accurate color information. I about lost it when an archivist rolled open a flat file to reveal the original sketch of Disneyland, done in a weekend in 1953 by Disney artist Herb Ryman, with Walt looking over his shoulder and providing direction.
And, of course, we talked to a lot of people from Disney Interactive Studios, Disney Feature Animation, Disney Consumer Products, Corporate Brand Management, Disney Character Voices, and Pixar. Their input on the heart of the character, on the story, on our animations, on our voice work was invaluable, every step of the way. The enthusiasm everyone showed for the project was empowering and exhilarating.
But coolest of all was one image in particular—a memo from Walt Disney to Carl Laemmle, the man who ran Universal, the company that distributed Oswald cartoons after Walt lost the rights. This memo, from 1935, hadn’t been seen publicly until one of our producers found it in the Archives. It was one of only two images we were able to uncover where a Disney artist drew Oswald after 1928. (The other was an Easter card from the ’80s!) And it perfectly summed up our two main characters. It was majorly important for the project.
Eventually, we gathered thousands of digital images of photocopies, and we were inspired by hundreds of ideas that led to our initial character and world designs. Though we gave everything “a twist,” we started everything we did with a grounding in the reality of Disney history as revealed in the Archives, so players would feel they were revisiting a familiar place, one they loved, now fallen on hard times.
Thanks to our friends at the Archives, we were able—or, at least, I like to think we were able—to get in the heads of Walt Disney and his team and see how Mickey became Mickey, how Oswald became Oswald, how Pegleg Pete evolved over time, and so much more. But everything had to start with Mickey himself.
Though our visits to the Archives showed how much Mickey had changed over the years and in various settings, we chose to focus not on the differences—on what we might want to change about Mickey to make him a viable videogame hero—but on the consistent elements.
So, what are those elements?
—Mickey Mouse is loyal, smart, friendly, and persistent.
—He’s enthusiastic (to the point of acting before he thinks and getting himself in trouble, then having to get himself out of it).
—At various points in his life, he’s been a real mischief-maker! This last characteristic may not have been consistent over the years, but it was there and it was clearly desirable in a videogame hero!
Most games, I think, want players to feel smart, loyal, friendly, and persistent as they play. And the Junction Point team really wanted players to explore trouble-making enthusiasm and mischievousness. Together, all of these characteristics defined a great videogame character!
With a newfound appreciation of Mickey’s essential character, we had to figure out how to make Mickey a heroic character people would want to be, not just watch. In other words, we had to figure out what “heroic” looked like.
We started where you’d expect. You want to look like a hero? Stand up tall, shoulders back, and puff out your chest. But a puffed-out chest doesn’t work on a bean-shaped body! We learned that the hard way. Mickey became too stiff, too upright, and too uptight. We tried abandoning the bean shape entirely. I don’t know what we were thinking. Talk about a bad idea!
Eventually, we settled on a look that drew from Mickey’s earliest days but was changed in dozens of ways, some subtle, others not so subtle. In some very early sketches, you can see Mickey full of life and personality. But the extreme rubber hose look still wasn’t quite right, and on a videogame screen, those skinny arms and legs literally disappeared. We needed something more substantial.
We went with a modified rubber-hose look with thicker arms and legs, slightly changed proportions, less of a “bowling ball” bottom, slight changes to Mickey’s brow (which is where a lot of Mickey’s emotion comes from; without the expressive brow, Mickey would be a lot less of an actor than he is). And we got Mickey’s fantastic, unique, instantly recognizable ears right!
I assume every animator or animation fan knows about Mickey’s ears—the fact that they’re not actually attached to his head but float there, always facing forward, regardless of what direction he’s facing. That’s a relatively easy thing to pull off in a hand-drawn, 2D movie, or a television program. In a 3D modeled game, it’s tougher. The old-school Disney animators cheated all over the place. And they always knew where the camera was. We didn’t have that advantage.
There have only been a handful of cartoons in Mickey’s history where the ears don’t work “correctly.” The Nifty Nineties and The Little Whirlwind are a couple examples of a different take.
We weren’t going to be the game guys who got Mickey’s ears wrong! And we didn’t. The programmers eventually nailed it. And I couldn’t be prouder.
Though the Disney Epic Mickey games are Mickey’s stories, in many ways, Oswald provides the real heart. I mean, think about it—older brother (Oswald), rejected by his dad (Walt Disney) in favor of younger brother (Mickey). It’s kind of the human story, isn’t it?
Originally, I thought we should update Oswald’s look and go for something older, less kid-like in his proportions. He started out looking like a crotchety old man. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I thought that was a good idea! We didn’t go with any of that stuff.
Luckily, one day during the project’s early days, a Disney Consumer Products Oswald licensing guidelines document crossed my desk, and I fell in love with the version of Oswald it depicted. I don’t know who the artist was who drew these images, but I knew immediately that this was our Oswald. He was old-school, irreverent, extremely cartoony, immensely appealing, and capable of getting hopping mad. Sold!
Interestingly, in the early phases of the game’s development, Oswald was the villain of the piece. He wanted to steal Mickey’s heart (the thing that allowed him to live in the Cartoon World), escape from Wasteland so he could be a big star, and leave his younger brother trapped.
A conversation with John Lasseter, at Pixar, changed all that. John encouraged us to think about Oswald as something more than simply a villain—great advice as it turned out, though it took many story iterations before we figured out the right relationship between Mickey and Oswald. Oswald could be resentful of Mickey’s success, but along the way, seeing Mickey’s actions (the player’s actions), Oswald would learn and grow, becoming a bit of a hero himself, and set up for success of his own in future stories and games! Anyway, we abandoned the old, angry Oswald and had our family set, in personality and in form. But we still needed villains! Every game needs villains!
We had to include the Mad Doctor, from the 1933 cartoon of the same name. I admit, it was a bit of a selfish choice on my part. That cartoon, one of the earliest I remember seeing as a kid, gave me nightmares for years. I loved it!
And, of course, there’s the Blot, inspired by a perennial Mickey foe, The Phantom Blot, created in the 1930s by the great comic strip artist, Floyd Gottfredson. We changed the Blot up a bit, from a crook with occasional magical abilities into a monstrous force of nature, made of magical paint and thinner, and unleashed on Wasteland by an unsuspecting Mickey Mouse. For the Blot, we had no Disney models so we simply tried to make the Blot “scary enough,” but not too scary, the way the Mad Doctor was just scary enough for a young version of me.
Every Disney villain has minions, humorous ones, of course. We came up with what we called “Blotlings.” They are creatures, oozed out of the Blot to bedevil the toons of Wasteland. The first blotlings you encountered in the game, the Seers and the Spatters, would be silly and not all that threatening. But the blotlings would get progressively more serious and dangerous as the game went on. The Spladooshes and Slobbers were (I hope!) anything but funny!
In some ways, making a game is a lot like making a movie. There’s an initial “concept” phase (what I’ve been describing up to this point) where you figure out, at the high level, what game you want to make, what story you want to tell, who’s in your case, what “sets” you think you might want to build, and so on.
But in this phase of game development, unlike a movie, you have to think about interactivity: What are players going to do? What is the gameplay?
Thanks to those super-smart interns, we had it in mind to set the game in Wasteland—a world of forgotten and rejected Disney creativity. That got the team (really just three or four of us at the time) thinking about the fact that we were reminding players that all the characters and places in the game weren’t real. They were cartoons. And, from there, it was obvious that we could allow Mickey to be aware, at least dimly, that he’s a cartoon character himself, something we were afraid Disney wouldn’t allow, but which no one ever even commented on! Whew!
From there, it was a surprisingly simple leap to the realization that our gameplay had to be built around giving Mickey control over the stuff he, like all cartoon characters, was made of… ink and paint. Yeah, we’d let him draw stuff! Mickey, the player, would be able to change the world and other toons, making the world more beautiful, and characters more friendly, by filling them with life-giving paint.
Plenty of other story and gameplay elements emerged from that simple idea such as Mickey creating the monstrous Blot by mischievously playing with magical paint in Yen Sid’s lab (an echo of “The Sorcerers Apprentice” from Fantasia). Also, Mickey and the Blot tussling and falling into Wasteland, their paint mingling, weirdly, and a bunch of other stuff all came from that one simple decision to build the game around drawing.
We now had a pretty good idea who our characters were, what our world was like, and what gameplay we were going to offer players. With the concept phase behind us, we rolled into pre-production and production.
In pre-production, we decided to make Wasteland a twisted version of Disneyland. Believe it or not, during the concept phase, we figured it ought to be in a magical dumpster behind Disney Feature Animation. As animators dumped trash in the dumpster—the ultimate rejection!—new rejected stuff would pile up on older rejected stuff. It was a fun idea, but not very Disney-ish!
The decision to make Wasteland more Disney park-like instantly made the world more fun, more relatable, and way less bleak. Plus, we didn’t have to explain anything about “magic dumpsters” and all!
But simulating a Disney park put even more pressure on us to make sure we created something “familiar yet strange” (along with “Disney-ish,” one of my favorite expressions when we were working on Disney Epic Mickey). If players didn’t feel like they’d “been there before,” they wouldn’t feel the sense of loss we wanted them to feel when they saw the plight of Wasteland.
During pre-production, we went from written descriptions of possible game mechanics to actual, functioning prototypes, starting with Mickey’s drawing and painting ability.
From the start, drawing and painting to change, even create the world of Wasteland, was the heart of the game. That was the essence of Disney’s creative process, after all. But it wasn’t long before we realized that Junction Point’s mission was to be the studio of player choices balanced by the consequences of those choices.
To be true to that mission, drawing had to be balanced by erasing. Each came with its own rewards and costs. You had to be able to define Mickey’s heroism in terms of erasing things to remove obstacles to progress or to paint things to create paths and progress by restoring the world. We even played with the idea of making the entire world erasable, but (surprisingly) that ended up being so open-ended it wasn’t much fun. So we constrained players, a little here, a little there, until it felt “right.”
We spent months—a year or more, actually—trying different technical approaches to the implementation of painting and thinning. Months and years working on an art style, a visual language, that communicated to players, “You can erase this, but not that” (while still looking like something Walt Disney would have been proud of). We worked to offer players serious decisions about when to paint and when to thin. By the end of pre-production, we had a playable prototype of our game that allowed us to evaluate what we’d come up with.
The big focus of pre-production was to create a “vertical slice” representative of what we hoped the full game would be. Testing of our vertical slice revealed much good, but also some areas for improvement:
—The way we were representing the erased parts of our cartoon world, what we called “sketchy areas,” was clearly too “coloring book.” It was too visible, gave no sense of discovery or freedom. We had to find another solution.
—The world was just too drab. It was oppressive and way too grim. We wanted a world of contrast and our vertical slice was just dark.
—Our in-game cinematics were rendered in 3D. Going with the crowd like that was easy, but we realized we needed something different, something unique, and something that was more in keeping with the idea of honoring Disney’s creative history.
Overall, the game didn’t feel very “Disney-ish,” as I liked to say. We needed to be more faithful to our source material or risk alienating Disney fans, Mickey fans, and park fans.
Moving into production, we knew what game we were going to make. We knew what worked in our vertical slice and what didn’t. It was now time to build the entire game. The team grew to nearly 300 people, in offices around the world.
One of the most important things we had to do in production was to try to capture the look, feel, and spirit of Disney creative efforts of the past. If we were going to include Yen Sid in the game, he had to look and feel as much like the “real thing” as possible. If we were going to include a level inspired by Alpine Climbers it had to look as much like the cartoon as possible. If we were going to create a place called OsTown, inspired by ToonTown at the parks, we needed to get it right.
The art team went back to the drawing board to find a look more in line with what we all envisioned than the dark, dreary look of our vertical slice. Finally, one of the art directors created an image that felt right, at least to me. It was still a bit dark, still twisted, clearly a ravaged land, but with spots of bright color and hints of the lost beauty that once defined Wasteland. We continued to refine this, lighten it up some, and introduce richer colors. We were getting close to the melancholy image we wanted, of a world that players would recognize and want to restore to its former glory.
In the end, I think we did pretty well, capturing the lush colors of Disney’s animated features. To address concerns about our plan to use conventional CGI cinematics, we decided to put on the screen a kind of art that’s rarely seen.
All cartoons start with storyboards and concept art. These were simple illustrations and paintings, easily modified, so planning and changes can be done quickly and cheaply, before final animation and editing, when changes become time-consuming and expensive.
We decided to stop a step short of final animation and use storyboards and concept art brought to life as a key storytelling device. That seemed like a nice way to honor the unsung heroes of animation: the storyboard and concept artists whose work goes largely unappreciated.
One of the most critical things we had to do during production was capture the essence of Disney animation. If we failed at that, the game would inevitably disappoint fans, Disney, and all of us at Junction Point.
Game animation is a fascinating endeavor. It’s like film and television animation in many ways, but very different in others, often very subtle. The story of the animation in Disney Epic Mickey would fill a book! For now, suffice it to say it wasn’t enough for the Junction Point animators to create beautiful, fluid animations. They had to balance the need for aesthetically appealing visuals with the needs of gameplay.
They had to account for player control—they couldn’t possibly know on what frame any given player might decide to move left, right, jump, crouch, or fling paint or thinner. They had, in other words, to be able to transition smoothly, at any given millisecond, from one animation to another.
They had to craft animations that would read clearly no matter what. Often, the camera in a game like Disney Epic Mickey is behind the character controlled by the player, but not always. Camera and its impact on animation (and gameplay and controls) can’t be overstated! It’s a nightmarish problem!
Production lasted about a year on Disney Epic Mickey. The animations were finished. The missions were complete. The cinematics were in. With the game done and playable, we were able to see what we’d created. As usual, it wasn’t as much fun as we’d hoped. It was time for post-production and a time of debugging, refining, laying in audio, and tuning the gameplay. This is where games get fun.
Throughout pre-pro and production itself, you live in a world of placeholder voices, sound effects, and music. In post-production you finally start hearing final audio. Sound was especially important to us for a couple of reasons. First, because Disney movies (and theme parks and television shows) have a distinctive sound. If we were going to achieve the goal of being “Disney-ish,” our audio had to be top-notch. That goes for our voice acting, our sound effects and, of course, our music. Second, given Mickey’s history as the first cartoon star of the talkies, we had to make some noise, as it were, in the audio department. A lot of people have asked about the fact that we didn’t go with full speech in the game. There were a couple of reasons for that:
First, there’s a long-standing tradition in console RPGs and action games of using what I call “barks followed by text.” Second, I thought it was funny that Oswald was a silent-film star and, in his mind, if he didn’t have a voice, no one would!
And you want to talk about cool experiences? We got to help cast and direct the first-ever voice of Oswald as a Disney character. The actor playing him—Frank Welker—is amazing, a legend in the voice-over world. How he and the rest of our talented cast managed to eke out so much emotion from growls, groans, and chuckles is beyond me! Luckily, we had the full support of the amazing folks at Disney Character Voices. They took our audio up several notches!
Turning to the game’s music, I’ll go on record, as I have many times, saying I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a game with a finer musical score. We auditioned about a dozen composers, giving each the same test:
1. Deliver a “Mickey Theme” that sounds “Disney-ish,” whatever that means. (There’s definitely a distinctive Disney sound, whether you’re listening to a tune written in 1937 or 2007.
2. Deliver a version of the “it’s a small world” theme turned inside out, whatever that means to you.
Several composers came close, and we were about to pick one of them when a demo CD crossed my desk. I thought it was too late, but decided to give it a listen. It Blew. Me. Away. The composer, Jim Dooley, had created the music for the television program Pushing Daisies. And he had a distinctive sound that I just loved. He’d also done some work for Disney before. We decided to give him the test.
One day later, we got the most beautiful Mickey theme I could have imagined. And Jim totally got the “Disney-inside-out” direction I barely understood myself. He got the gig. The end result is amazing. Not only does the music sound magical, Disney-ish, but distinctive, it changes based on where you are in the world. Each land has its own theme. And not only its own theme, but its own exploration and combat themes, switching based on what’s happening. And on top of that, the unique music in each land changes based on your individual playstyle. In a sense, each player composes his or her unique score based on where you go, what you do there, and how you’re playing, overall.
With the levels built, the gameplay tested, and the final audio in, game developers hit the home stretch. Now, games are tested constantly—by the development team, by innocent bystanders in weekly sessions called “blindtests,” and by internal and publisher-side QA.
Based on observations during these constant, ongoing testing sessions, you tune everything from movement speed to jump distances to targeting reticules. But during post-production, you move into a different phase of testing and tuning. These are the most important tests. They are the ones conducted with real players.
What you do is you bring in as many “normal humans” as you can wrangle. They are people who haven’t been living, eating, sleeping, and breathing the game for years, and you watch them play. You see where they’re having fun and where they’re not, where they know what to do and where they get confused, where the game is too hard and where it’s not hard enough. And between sessions, you make changes to address the problems those normal folks have with your precious work of art. It’s incredibly painful, occasionally exhilarating, and absolutely necessary.
After concept, pre-production, production, and post-production, and after documenting, prototyping, building, testing, and tuning, you’re finally done. All told, it was five years from my first meeting with Disney to the time we shipped Disney Epic Mickey, and three years of which was solid development. Disney released the game, and we waited anxiously for players to tell us how we’d done.
Luckily, response to the first Disney Epic Mickey game was terrific. It became the best-selling single-platform game in Disney Interactive’s history. And it wasn’t just kids or just adults, gamers, or Disney fans who made it a success. Remember earlier how I said we were trying to make a game for everyone? Well, more than half of the people who bought and played Disney Epic Mickey were 18 or older. Almost half were younger than 13. The split between men and women, boys and girls, was about even. Apparently, a game really can appeal to a broad audience, like a Pixar film or a Disney classic!
When we asked players to describe Mickey Mouse after they played the game, the responses warmed our hearts. They described our favorite mouse as cool, funny, more surprising, mischievous and, best of all, as a hero! Job done!
So what’s next for Disney Epic Mickey, Wasteland, Mickey Mouse, and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit? The success of the first game made a sequel pretty much a foregone conclusion and, in November 2012, Disney releases Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. Building on the things we did well in the first game, the team at Junction Point went from a single game console—the Nintendo Wii—to all gaming platforms for the sequel, including Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, PC, and Mac. (There’s even a Nintendo 3DS game, Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion coming.)
We’re improving the camera system and controls, based on what we learned in the first game. We’re giving every character a voice. Some of the best voice actors in the world give voice to Mickey Mouse and his pals. And with Frank Welker on board as Oswald and Cary Elwes playing Gremlin Gus, these forgotten characters are destined (I hope!) for the kind of modern-day stardom they deserve. We’ve got an all-new story, about the return of the Mad Doctor, who claims to be a hero! But is he telling the truth or is he still a villain at heart? Mickey and Oswald (and players!) will have to figure that out for themselves.
At least they’ll have each other, as they explore new parts of Wasteland inspired by Yen Sid’s workshop from Fantasia and real world locations like Frontierland (represented in the game as the “Disney Gulch”). In Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, for the first time in a Disney Epic Mickey game, two players can work together to tell their own, collaborative story. In addition to taking the role of the heroic Mickey Mouse, a second player can join in as Oswald, using unique abilities drawn directly from the original cartoons created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks more than 80 years ago.
Oswald can use his ears like helicopter blades to reach far off places. He can remove his arm and fling it, like a boomerang. And that’s just the start. Oswald has a remote control that allows him to take control of electrical devices and disable animatronic enemies. That, combined with Mickey’s ability to use paint to befriend cartoon characters or thinner to erase them, means you can get through the entire game without ever having to defeat anyone in combat!
So that’s a look at how a game gets made, the Disney Epic Mickey game, specifically—and what you can expect in the latest entry in the Disney Epic Mickey series. The team at Junction Point, working with dedicated, passionate people at the Disney Archives, at Feature Animation, at Pixar, and of course at Disney Interactive, has always tried to honor Disney’s past while pointing toward the future. We’ve tried to remind people just how amazing Mickey Mouse is and how his predecessor and older brother, Oswald, paved the way for everything that followed.
Intimidatingly, we’ve tried to be as innovative in our own world, the 21st-century world of videogames, as Walt would have been, and as quick to embrace new ways of telling stories as he was in his day. If we’ve been even halfway successful, maybe decades from now, some kid or young mother or college student will think back on Disney Epic Mickey games the way so many of us look back on the Disney classics that inspired us and changed our lives. If that’s the case, we really will have accomplished something special.
By Disney Epic Mickey creator Warren Spector