When you talk about Epic Mickey, it seems that a discussion about Mickey’s makeover isn’t far away. The infamous makeover has even made its way into mainstream media, with Conan O’Brien even cracking a joke about the game. (To be fair, the joke was funny and wasn’t in bad taste. It’s worth a look.) I know the media is just looking for a good story, and what better story than a company making their most heroic character a tough-as-nails action star? But this perception comes from a surface-deep understanding of Epic Mickey.
I want to take some time and really go into what makes Epic Mickey just the opposite of its early reputation with the general public. I’m doing this for a couple reasons. First, I want to assuage some fears that Disney is making Mickey into something he’s not. Second, I don’t want parents to be leery about buying their children a game in which Mickey will be a champion of bad behavior. Third, I’m a fan of this game (even though it’s only in its early stages), and I want people to understand what Disney is doing with it. So, click below to get started!
Mickey’s Makeover: What They’re Doing
Let’s start by talking about the elephant in the room. Disney is not making Mickey a tough guy. They’re actually not even re-imagining him. Warren Spector (head of Junction Studios – the company making Epic Mickey) is taking Mickey back to his roots: the “mischievous and cartoony” Mickey of the 1930s, in the words of Matt Miller in an in-depth preview he wrote for Game Informer’s website.
Mickey wasn’t always the humble hero he has become. He started out quite the opposite. Go back and watch some of the very early cartoons and you’ll see how much Mickey changed over his career. Some of the comic strips are even more controversial than the cartoons. Anyway, my point is that Mickey didn’t always make the heroic choice, and that’s what this game is all about.
The most interesting thing about Epic Mickey is that the player decides how Mickey acts. If your version of Mickey is the quiet hero, then that’s how you’ll play the game. If your Mickey is a little more cantankerous, then the outcome of your game will be different. Perhaps you’ll want Mickey to make the right choices most of the time, but not always. All of this is fine in Epic Mickey. The picture above shows the “three Mickeys” Junction Studios developed for this game. Scrapper Mickey is on the far left, and he’s what you’ll get if you make the rogue choices. Hero Mickey is on the far right, obviously the result of making all the heroic choices. Somewhere in between, though, is Wastelander – a mix between the two. But you may want to remain more of a hero, because the more rogue you become the less help you’ll get from other characters in the game – a good incentive to keep Mickey from making naughty choices.
I can see how Scrapper Mickey might set off some alarms. He’s not what you’re used to seeing, but he is more of what audiences fell in love with in Mickey’s early days. I’m very interested to see Mickey as he was back then and even more interested to be able to decide how I want Mickey to act. Mickey’s makeover isn’t so much a makeover as it is a trip down memory lane.
How Should Parents React to This?
While you don’t have to worry about Mickey developing a scary new attitude, you should be aware that Mickey will encounter some interesting villains – both old and new. While it looks like these villains will take on less imposing, cartoony qualities, they aren’t exactly like Mickey’s longtime nemesis Pete, either.
Mickey will be encountering characters like the Blot and the Mad Doctor (seen below). It’s great for Disney fans to see these villains again, but parents might want to evaluate how scary these characters might be for their kids. Should this factor stop parents from buying this game? Certainly not. And parents shouldn’t be worried about “Mickey’s makeover,” either.
Spector had an interesting perspective on the scary factor. In another interview with Game Informer, he said that he is really shooting for the “Oh my god!” scare moment, but he still wants people to smile while playing. In other words, the game isn’t going to be dark and scary. You may jump once and a while, but you’ll still have fun. I also remember Spector saying that the early Disney stuff used to really scare him, and that was okay. I remember when Disney used to scare me. There are some dark moments in Disney film, but we still smile at Disney films even through those dark moments. I think that’s what Spector is going for here.
In Conclusion – Give it a Chance!
Epic Mickey is an exciting venture for Disney. It represents Mickey’s reentry into the public consciousness, and this is huge. While I understand the impulse to want to leave Mickey as he is now, it’s certainly exciting to see Disney enthused about exploring the Mickey that launched the company. I’m incredibly enthused about this game, and I love the retro aspects that Junction Studios have infused into Epic Mickey. Even if you’re not as excited as I am about the project, let’s see where it goes. There is a market for “classic” Disney, and I think Epic Mickey fits perfectly in that market.