News Column

'Epic Mickey 2' Designer Pushes Disney Forward with New Video Game

Nov. 25, 2012

Omar L. Gallaga, Austin American-Statesman

epic mickey, disney, wii, video games

Two years ago, gamers were reintroduced to Mickey Mouse with "Disney Epic Mickey," a Nintendo Wii video game developed by Austin's Warren Spector. Spector, known for dark, morally questioning games like "Deus Ex" and "System Shock," seemed a strange choice to make a game for Disney, the company that acquired his Junction Point Studios. But Spector's well-known love of Disney lore and his design sensibilities brought us a more adventurous, complex Mickey and a less candy-colored version of the Toon world.

Now Spector and Disney Interactive are back with " Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two" which brings Oswald the Lucky Rabbit into a playable role. The game launched this week across multiple platforms.

We spoke with Warren Spector before the game launched about what went into developing "Epic Mickey 2."

AMERICAN-STATESMAN: For people who played the first game or people who maybe didn't play it because they didn't have a Wii, what's new and different in this game?

Warren Spector: The big new thing is you can play it on any platform on the planet, I think. We were Wii-exclusive the first time around, but now we're on PS3, 360, Wii, Wii U, PC, Mac. There's even a 3DS game. ("Power of Illusion," which debuted alongside "Epic Mickey 2"). Whatever platform you own, you can experience Mickey, Oswald and Wasteland. That's the big difference.

We added two-player co-op. Instead of just making a game that kids and adults, boys and girls, both like equally -- which was true of the first game -- we can now have kids and adults, boys and girls, men and women, playing together, which I kinda like.

We added songs. That's where half the world thinks I'm nuts. Beyond that it's just do everything well we did the first time better. And everybody talks in this one.

How did the songs come about? Did you write those yourself?

Oh, no, no, no, oh God, you don't want me writing songs. I'm just enough of a musician to be dangerous. I've always wanted to do a music game of some kind. When you work for Disney, that particular pitch gets a lot easier. Every Disney movie tells its story through songs. If you're going to make a game that honors 80 years of Disney history, not having songs is kind of a silly idea. They were written by Jim Dooley, an Emmy-winning composer and a guy named Mike Himelstein, who's done a lot of work for Disney. There's going to be a soundtrack CD available.

With the first game, you described it as being very much about Mickey finding his long-lost brother. What's their relationship like in this game?

They saved the world together, Mickey and Oswald, in the first game. They became a family. There's that moment at the end of the first game where their hands touch even though it's across the Magic Mirror. That symbolizes that they've become a family. Now, it's just sort of sibling rivalry. This game is about the possibility of redemption. Do you believe in the possibility of redemption or do you believe there's evil so profound in the world that it's beyond redemption?

Have you nudged Disney along about an "Epic Mickey" animated feature?

Can you imagine me not nudging them about more Digicomics, graphic novels, comic books, feature films, TV shows? Can you imagine theme park attractions? They're either going to fire me or they're going to let me do it someday just to shut me up.

Did the first game perform the way Disney wanted it to?

It's the best selling single-platform game in the company's history. Disney surveyed players after it was released and it really did appeal to adults and kids, which was one of our major goals. When people described Mickey after the game, they used words we prayed to hear like, "Hero." A video game moved the needle on the way people feel about the most recognizable icon on the planet. Or at least one of them. And we got to do a sequel.

So... "Star Wars" ... Do you have any interest in working on anything "Star Wars"-related? (Disney recently acquired the "Star Wars" franchise, including video games, from George Lucas.)

Heck yeah, of course!But I really want to do some Marvel stuff. I'm a Marvel geek. I still don't feel like anybody's done a really great Marvel comics game and I would love to do that. Anybody who says they don't want to work on a "Star Wars" game is pretty dumb. But honestly, I think I'd rather work on a Marvel game.

Let's have Joss Whedon take over the "Star Wars" films and you can take over "The Avengers."

From your lips to Bob Iger's ears!

___

(c)2012 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

Visit Austin American-Statesman, Texas at www.statesman.com

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