Epic Mickey seemed like a surprising follow-up project from the man who made Deus Ex, but Warren Spector has put down rumours of a difficult relationship with Disney.
Epic Mickey displays several qualities found in Spector’s other games and which he has always espoused in interviews – heck, this is the man whose dream it is to make an interactive musical.
It’s not what fans of games like Thief and Deus Ex expected, though, and there have always been rumours that Spector’s initial vision for the game was severely dampened by Disney’s draconian control of its intellectual property.
But in a recent Reddit AMA, Spector made several comments regarding his time at Disney, none of which indicated any bad feeling regarding this period of his career.
“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… I think we pushed things further, darkness-wise, than anyone thought possible.”
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Spector admitted that Disney didn’t always give Junction Point as much time as it wanted to bring the Epic Mickey games up to his vision, but said that’s true of every game development project.
Even regarding the closure of Junction Point, Spector was positive; he said he volunteered to quit if it meant the studio could stay open, but admitted this wasn’t necessarily in Disney’s best interests.
“Disney just wanted to move in a different direction. Probably the right decision for them, frankly. No regrets. I had a great time working for Disney.
“I’m totally happy to have worked for Disney and made Epic Mickey. I’m super proud of the EM team,” he added.
So where did the rumours of trouble between Spector and Disney come from? Probably from some concept art that showed a much more dark take on the Disney universe, more in line with what fans of Spector’s previous games might have expected – and wished for – from him.
“That concept art was leaked and never intended for public consumption,” he said of this incident.
“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!”
Elsewhere in the AMA, Spector said he doesn’t think there will be any more Epic Mickey games but that it’s up to Disney. He also reiterated that his hope was to make Epic Mickey 3 as a full-blown musical, with a much greater emphasis on multiplayer than Epic Mickey 2 had.