Disney Epic Mickey could be argued as being something of a letdown on the Wii. After an initial reveal showcasing remarkably dark concept art and promising a dynamic and choice-driven narrative, many saw it as a bold and promising new direction to take Disney's famous mouse. The resultant game, and its sequel for that matter, ended up being something that never quite delivered on the initial promise and was rather disappointing considering the talent that was producing it.
In a recent AMA on Reddit, Warren Spector - the series' director - shed some light on the conception and development on the games. Spector says he first got on board when his agent encouraged him to contact Disney about making a game. They weren't interested in the initial ideas he pitched, so it was suggested that he work on a Mickey Mouse game.
My agent encouraged me to talk to Disney even though I knew they wouldn't be interested in the fantasy and SF stuff I was concepting at the time. I was right about that, but they asked me if I was interested in working on a Mickey Mouse game. I turned into a puddle on the floor and when I reconstituted myself said "YES!" Who says no to working with Mickey Mouse? Not me!
When asked about the initial concept art that made waves throughout the industry, Spector said that was originally made to see just how much Disney would allow them to get away with.
That concept art was leaked and never intended for public consumption. I had the team do that because I needed to know where the line of acceptability was for Disney. What would they be comfortable with and what would they not be comfortable with. The way to find where a line is is to cross it. By a lot. Do something really out there and have them go, "No. Too far." Then do something a little less radical… and less radical until, frankly, you get where you want and they don't even realize you've gotten there. I think we pushed things further, darkness-wise, than anyone thought possible.
Will a game in that crazy, over-the-top, dark as the pit style ever see the light of day? Probably not from Disney!
Oddly enough, he also said that at one point Epic Mickey was being considered for a film. Spector had gone so far as to make a trailer and string together a team to drive the project, but Disney shot it down before it went anywhere.
Could Epic Mickey have worked better as a film? Better, hard to say but probably not. Could it have worked as a film? You bet. I actually put together a trailer and a budget and had a team lined up to make the Epic Mickey film but Disney didn't bite. I REALLY wanted to make that movie…
Disney was very generous with how much leeway they gave Spector and the team, he said that the only real restrictions they placed on him were that he wasn't allowed to ever show Mickey's teeth and that development time was a bit rushed.
Well, I'm actually not under NDA or anything with Disney, so I can talk about what happened there. The bottom line is that Disney gave me and the team an almost unbelievable amount of freedom to make the game we wanted to make. I think everyone there knew I was respectful of the properties – oh, hell, I've always wanted to be Walt Disney! – so they didn't worry too much. The one thing they told me (and I still find it weird almost beyond belief)… the one thing they told me I couldn't do was show Mickey's teeth. Go figure.
Okay, Disney didn't always give us as much time as we wanted to make the games EVERYTHING we wanted them to be but a. NO publisher ever gives ANY developer enough time and b. no game is ever even close to what you wanted it to be.
Spector reinforced that he made a conscious effort to keep most modern Disney characters out of the game, with a soft rule in place that nothing created after 1967 could be present. However, had there been an Epic Mickey 3, there likely would've been some newer character as Spector wanted to take the franchise out of Wasteland.
There were never plans to incorporate more recent characters (at least not until we left the Wasteland, which I really wanted to do in Mickey 3). I set a rule that nothing would appear in the game that happened after 1967 because I didn't want to include anything Walt himself didn't touch. (We violated that rule more often than I'd like – and I'm surprised no one's ever called us on that – but it was still a rule.)
Spector isn't sure whether or not Disney will continue the franchise any further, but any future games likely will not come from him.
Does Epic Mickey have a future? You'd have to ask Disney about that. Honestly, I'd be a little surprised if there were any more games in the series but I guess you never know.
Also, it appears that Spector has deep respect for Shigeru Miyamoto, as he recounts his experiences with the legendary designer in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner.
Does anyone not love, admire and respect Shigeru Miyamoto? He came and visited the Disney Interactive booth at E3 once and I stood within 6 inches of him and couldn't bring myself to say anything. I was in awe. A couple of years later, I presented Epic Mickey at the Nintendo press conference at E3 and, backstage Mr. Miyamoto touched my arm and I instantly became a better designer. No fooling.
It's always interesting to see developers do a "postmortem" of a game after its finished, and this is no different. While Epic Mickey may not have been the game some wanted it to be, it's certainly an interesting piece of the long running history of Mickey Mouse. Perhaps, one day, Disney will opt to bring it back.