I’ve been seeing design work for the new game “Epic Mickey” online for the last few months, but I had no idea what it was. Evidently, neither did anyone else until news broke this week over at Game Informer.
I’m fascinated by this project and by the mere potential of it becoming a film, which isn’t totally unlikely considering Pixar is one of the partners on it. One of the things I find most interesting here is that suddenly Mickey Mouse is in play again, something which hasn’t been true for quite a while. As the face of the Disney empire, Mickey has long been relegated to a position of inertia out of the fear that the wrong project featuring the character might damage his overall branding.
Now, thanks to Warren Spector and his Junction Point game company, there’s a chance that Mickey Mouse might be involved in one of the most inventive uses of the company’s overall iconography ever, and one that serves in some ways as a wry commentary on the way we devour and then discard pop culture as a whole.
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In the game, Mickey finds that the entire Disney world is under attack from mysterious black goo that erases whatever it consumes. When he investigates, he learns that Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (the first character created by Disney, lost for many years but just recently repurchased by the Disney company) is behind this attack, and that his reasoning is his fury at being forgotten. He has assembled an army of early Disney characters who have been forgotten by the mainstream, and he is determined to do away with Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and the other iconic characters that have replaced him in the hearts and minds of audiences.
There’s something really creepy about the idea of forgotten characters returning to extract their pound of flesh from the characters that have become popular, and the production art that’s out there has a ruined, decayed vibe I find striking. Evidently, your weapons when you play as Mickey are artistic tools like pencils, paint brushes, erasers, and paint thinner, all using the Wii controller. And as much as I like the sound of the game, I really want it to hit so that we can see if Disney’s willing to try something this outrageous as a film. It sounds like Mickey’s actually been redsigned somewhat, something else I find very surprising. They’re so careful about how they allow him to be portrayed that any major redesign reflects a huge conversation on the part of the studio.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Mickey as a character, although I’ve always been aware of him as an icon. The most exciting thing about this project? For the first time, that might change.
I’ll be paying attention to this one as it moves towards release, especially if I hear anything concrete about film plans.
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