Pulling Off an Epic Mickey
Mickey Mouse returns to his darker and more mischievous roots in the new Epic Mickey video game exclusively for the Wii (now available from Disney Interactive Studios and Austin, Texas-based developer Junction Point). What's more, Mickey meets his match in Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who is resentful for being banished to Wasteland, a doppelganger for Disneyland, when Mickey screws up again as the Sorcerer's Apprentice. In the game, Mickey must clean up his mess and make things right with Oswald. We spoke to Warren Spector, the game's designer and creative director of Junction Point.
Bill Desowitz: How did Epic Mickey come about?
Warren Spector: The original inspiration for the game came from Disney itself, which is surprising to a lot of people. They approached me: I was out pitching an entirely different kind of game to any publisher who would listen, and they weren't interested in what I was pitching, but asked if I was interested in working on this Mickey game and had some of these foundational elements that are still part of the game today already in mind, so it was Disney that decided to bring Mickey back in a heroic role. And they said, by the way, we're also getting Oswald back and you can make him an important part of this game, and I said, "Oh, my Gosh!"
BD: And the idea of Wasteland?
WS: The idea of Wasteland, a world of forgotten and rejected Disney creative efforts, that was already in place in their minds. And the funniest thing was, they said, "You don't have to use any of this stuff." I literally laughed at them. "Are you kidding? Those are genius ideas."
But the process of creating a world and populating it and determining the look of the characters took years and years, and we probably iterated more than we have on any game … just thousands of images of Mickey in various poses and various forms. We had a variety of approaches we were thinking about taking to Oswald from a visual standpoint. The world of Wasteland, we tried everything from urban squalor to high-rise. We tried everything until we came up with a world that was recognizable but strange. Familiar yet strange was a kind of feeling that we all wanted. A world that was dark enough that it made sense that Mickey would bring the light to it, and a world that was sad enough that Mickey bringing joy made sense.
WS: That was critical because I wanted players to feel some of the same sense of loss that characters who lived in this world felt. Creating our sort of darker version of Main Street USA or The Haunted Mansion or Sleeping Beauty's Castle really grabs people in a visceral sort of way: those are places they know and love and twisting them and bending them and erasing them and making them more mysterious really touches a nerve with them.
BD: It's about empowerment, right?