Just a few hours before Warren Spector was entrusted with Disney’s most precious commodity, he was convinced his impending meeting with the world’s largest entertainment conglomerate would end badly.
Spector was meeting the Disney Group to pitch his futuristic sci-fi game – one that would be remarked on as a spiritual successor to Deus Ex.
He was convinced Disney wouldn’t care.
“I remember telling my agent before the Disney meeting that I knew they’re not going to be interested in this stuff,” Spector tells Develop.
“I went into the meeting room, pitched them my stuff, and sure enough I was right. The guys started texting in the middle of the meeting. I was convinced they were not interested.”
What Spector didn’t know was the Disney execs weren’t texting anyone outside the meeting room.
“I was standing there and they were actually texting to each other. saying ‘should we ask him about the Mickey game?’ I really thought I was losing them.
“So they said to me, ‘we have a concept’ – and they were kind of embarrassed – ‘we have a concept for Mickey, we want to show you our idea’. And they gave me this pitch.
“I mean, Disney pitching to me? That was kinda cool.”
That pitch was for Epic Mickey, now a headline Wii project set to launch this year, and the first title released by Junction Point Studios.
“It turns out that in Disney’s pitch there were a number of elements that really resonated with me, and in fact they’re still in Epic Mickey today,” Spector adds.
The game, when first announced, surprised onlookers with a less than squeaky-clean Mickey Mouse, designed more in the spirit of the early ‘Steamboat Willie’ versions of the character.
It was that transformation of Mickey – the unmistakable symbol of an entertainment empire – that demonstrated Disney’s valour in taking new risks. The once saccharine rodent was to be plunged into a darker, imperfect world.
“Disney really weren’t sensitive [about Mickey],” says Spector. “I mean, they came to me with the idea; ‘hey, how about a world of old rejected Disney stuff?’”
The meeting with Disney changed his life, Spector says, and the veteran game designer wants to prove a point or two upon the game’s release.
But what about that sci-fi game? The one that was pitched and seemed to be ignored?
“Disney now owns the IP to it,” says Spector.
“So who knows – I certainly have ideas of how they would work in a Disney context.”