The Imagineer of Wasteland: Epic Mickey’s Warren Spector

| November 30, 2010

The highly anticipated new Wii video game, Disney Epic Mickey, was recently released.  With this game, Warren Spector, Epic Mickey’s creator, looked to create the video game equivalent of a Pixar film – entertainment for everyone.  Spector is well known and respected in the gaming world for creating popular video game series such as Wing Commander and Deus Ex, but with Disney Epic Mickey Spector wanted to create a video game that appealed to more than just hard core gaming fans.  I recently participated in a conference call with Warren Spector.  Continue after the break to read and listen to Spector’s thoughts on creating the new Wii action-adventure game as well as his love of Disney.  Also, at the end of the article learn how you can win a copy of what’s been touted by some as the video game of the year.


Click here to listen to highlights from Warren Spector’s conference call

Note: this was a moderated conference call where we were asked to submit questions ahead of time – many (but not all) of the questions asked were my own.  The last portion of the call was opened up for us to ask questions directly.

You may wonder why the DIS Unplugged, a website specializing in Disney-related travel, is covering the release of a Wii video game?  Well, besides the fact that the game appeals to the Disney fan in us, the game’s universe takes place in the theme park Wasteland, a “Bizarro Disneyland” made up of familiar, yet strange, Disney Park attractions.  Whenever an attraction is eliminated or re-imagined in a Disney Park, such as Disneyland’s Nautilus submarine or Swiss Family Treehouse, *poof* they appear in Wasteland.  The story of Epic Mickey relies heavily on Disney history.  Warren Spector wants to re-introduce Mickey Mouse to a generation who has yet to see Mickey star in his own story, and in this alternate universe Mickey confronts and befriends all sorts of cast-off Disney Characters.  The head honcho for Wasteland is Walt Disney’s first cartoon star from the 1920’s-30’s, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who is bitter and jealous of Mickey Mouse’s life and success.

Spector described himself as a life-long animation buff who grew up watching the Mickey Mouse Club, Wonderful World of Color, and Wonderful World of Disney.  Those shows, as well as Saturday morning cartoons, were hugely influential and a part of his life that he never outgrew.  He continued to watch and study cartoons, studied film criticism in college, and ultimately wrote his Master’s thesis on Warner Bros. cartoons.  Spector cited the Warner Bros. Daffy Duck cartoon “Duck Amuck” as one of the greatest cartoons ever created and admired how it provided a peek behind the creative process in animation.  However, Spector also said, “If you’re an animation buff, you have to study the Disney stuff.”

However, Spector was not solely enthralled in cartoons.  He’s a big theme park fan as well, and described how one of the most magical days of his life occurred on his 30th birthday at Disneyland.  He recounted a trip that occurred during Disneyland’s 30th anniversary celebration.  When Spector went through the turnstiles, bells, whistles, and alarms started ringing.  It turned out that he was the 3,000th person through the gate – Mr. 3,000 – and he had the run of the park with his friends, never waiting more than 5 minutes to ride an attraction.  His day culminated when after the fireworks, Spector and his friends were invited to stay in the park for an after-hours private party.

Spector elaborated on his love of the theme parks saying he dreamed of becoming a Walt Disney Imagineer.  After college was torn between designing video games or theme park attractions.  He had two telephone interviews with Disney Imagineering before Origin Systems offered him a job to create video games.  Spector still holds out hope that some part of Epic Mickey could make its way into a theme park saying, “It would be a life-long dream if Epic Mickey would end up as a theme park attraction.”  Given the imagery released for Epic Mickey, it makes you wonder just what kind of steampunk theme park attraction Spector would create.

In creating Epic Mickey, Spector and his team relied heavily on previous work completed by Disney.  They had full access to Disney’s history and the archives, and in many instances Spector reined in his team from being too creative.  Instead, Spector wanted the game to reflect Disney’s creativity and inspiration.  They did not need to create new villains or characters because that work had already been extensively done by Disney.  They drew inspiration for characters, attractions, and theme park lands directly from the Disney archives.  Everything from the backgrounds seen in the game were taken directly from Disney paintings to the trash cans on Main Street U.S.A. were reproductions of those at Disneyland.  However, just like Disney films and theme park attractions, Epic Mickey is ultimately about the story.

Disney Epic Mickey: Into the Archives

Warren Spector uses video games to tell stories WITH players not to players, and Epic Mickey is no exception.  He wanted young children to see Mickey Mouse not just as a corporate icon, but as the starring character of a story, and ultimately as an Epic Hero, as he was in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, “Mickey and the Beanstalk”, “The Prince and the Pauper”, or, more recently, “The Three Musketeers”.  He also wanted the story to have the same broad appeal as a Pixar film such as “Toy Story 3″ or “Up.”  Spector commented on how nobody considers “Toy Story 3″ as JUST a children’s film, or looks at “Up” and says, “Oh, that was clearly aimed at tween girls.”  Pixar creates films with depth that grandparents can see and enjoy with their grandchildren.  That is what Warren Spector is aiming for with Epic Mickey, and one of the reasons he selected the Nintendo Wii console as the sole gaming platform.  When the game was in the initial stages of creation the Wii was the only game system where children would play side-by-side with parents and grandparents, and appealed to all ages.

As we wrapped up our conference call, Spector talked about his creative philosophy.  He has always believed games can tell a good story as deep and sophisticated as any medium.  He hopes when people are playing Disney Epic Mickey they start to think about how exactly do you define a hero?  Also, Spector hopes playing the game will reveal how important family and friends are to the player.  By the time people get to the end of this action-adventure game, people may actually learn a little something about themselves, how they feel about family and friends, and how they define a hero.

Win a Copy of Disney Epic Mickey

OK, I promised you at the beginning of the article I would reveal how you can win your own copy of Disney Epic Mickey.  Disney Interactive Studios has provided the DIS Unplugged with 6 copies of the Disney Epic Mickey Collector’s Edition.  In addition to the game, the Collector’s Edition includes a 5 inch Vinyl Epic Mickey Figure, Special Edition DVD with behind the scenes footage and videos, Epic Mickey Stylized Wii Remote Faceplate, and 2 Epic Mickey Stylized Wii Console skins.  Over the next few days, we will post a number of contest blogs on the DIS Unplugged to give away the copies of Disney Epic Mickey.  All you need to do to enter is log in with your DISboards username and password and leave a comment on the blog.  That’s it, you’re entered, and we will randomly select winners from the comments on the blog.  Oh, what the heck, let’s start this giveaway now!  We will randomly select 2 people who leave comments at the end of this blog to win a copy of Disney Epic Mickey Collector’s Edition.  You have to leave a comment on this article, comments in other places such as Facebook or Twitter will not be official contest entries.  Comments will close on Friday, Dec. 3rd.  So get started, let us know what you think of this article, Waren Spector, Disney Epic Mickey, or anything else on your mind.  Good luck to everyone who enters.


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Category: Disney World, Disneyland, News

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  • jennc27

    Looking forward to playing this game. It looks like it will be lots of fun.

  • Bernadette1111

    Hi,
    Leaving my 2 cents for a chance to win a copy of Epic Mickey…it looks like a lot of fun and I love the old and new graphics. I’m tired of my Wii moaning when I step on it…I need Mickey to make my day! xo

  • johnp

    Thanks for the “Behind the Scenes” look at Epic Mickey, and providing us with a different perspective than other media sources have offered. As I was growing up, Mickey was well entrenched in all things Disney, appearing in cartoons, movies, comic books, and merchandise to mention a few. However, even though he has become a world-recognized icon for Disney, he was relegated to a “supporting role” to shows like Phineas and Ferb, and the Jonas Brothers when it came to the “Millennials”. This has carried over to the increasing popularity of video games where my 8 year old son can play all sorts of Disney Wii games, but none of them depicting Mickey in such an advanced light as Epic Mickey.

    Kudos to Mickey for re-inventing himself in a big way while not losing sight of his roots, and to Warren for having the sensitivity to Walt’s original vision of storytelling and obvious love and respect for a special Mouse.

  • MONDOdsb

    My family and I have been looking forward to this game since it was announced. I had hopes it would include Disney past, present and future and from your interview it certainly appears that it will! The screenshots have shown us enough to make us want to buy it right away, and I really like the idea of being “part of the story” We can’t wait for our chance to play this on our Wii!

  • MonkeyWmn

    I love learning about how this world of Disney has evolved since it’s beginnings …. This game will be HUGE! Thank you for the article!

  • srmst44

    This looks very interesting! Hoping to check it out this Christmas!

  • boyerjames

    love the new game idea
    way to go disney

  • vwdiva93

    This game looks so amazing! I love the idea of the lost/abandoned rides. Lost rides are kind creepy but so cool! :)

  • merrybee

    Looks like fun. Glad to know what it is really about!

  • erinbwa

    The history and thought put into the game is great! Love the idea of Mickey finding old, forgotten pals. Thanks for the interesting article!

  • momlvsgoofy

    This game looks so great can’t wait to play it. Hoping Santa brings it for my little guy (then I can play)!

  • annmarieda

    My husband and I agreed on not giving our children video games for Christmas this year. That was until we saw this game! It is the ONE game I am willing to make an exception for.

  • pasofan01

    I really like the premise of Epic Mickey. I will definitely try this one!

  • pasofan

    I cna’t wait to see Mickey’s old pals and lost attractions!!

  • Peter Pan Fan 22

    Great blog Dave! My nephew would love this game!

  • NHWX

    I think this might be a video game that I like! My two boys would definitely love this game.

  • pjcinderella

    OMG! This would be such a magical win from Disney! This game looks so awesome! Would be great fun for the entire family.

  • vhartwell

    This would be a fantastic game to win from Disney!!!! your blog is fascinating!!!

  • wnissen

    My wife is excited about this game.

  • kimmyz05

    I have been waiting for this game FOREVER !! I loved playing the Disney Game on Nintendo and then when they had Kingdom Hearts. But this truly goes back to the Disney Story.

  • Wayne Toigo

    Great story Dave. Everything about this looks amazing!

  • disneydenisel

    My 11-year-old daughter is a HUGE Oswald fan! She was Oswald for Halloween! This game has been on her mind ever since it was announced, we cannot wait to try it. Your blog article is great, thanks for getting us even more excited!

  • cindyneko

    This is outstanding! I just saw some empty boxes displayed in anticipation for this game’s release! I think that a hero is someone who has courage and strength and honor. What a wonderful idea to focus a game on Mickey!

  • pryncesschrysty

    Great blog, Dave!

  • 7500Wondergirl

    Great article. This game just looks like it wold bring the kid out in everyone! Looking ofrward to playing.

  • 7500Wondergirl

    How about this:-P Great article! This game looks like it would bring out the kid in everyone. Looking forward to playing! A little distracted and tried to stop it, but oh, well….

  • ishy

    Looks like a fun game – Cant wait to check it out!

  • Faldred

    Nice article. I hope the gameplay lives up the the hype… and that I win one of the collector’s editions to check it out first-hand! :)

  • kulnet

    I would love to win this but if not, I hope to receive it for Christmas. It looks awesome!

  • jpear34

    This looks like a really cool game and I’m looking forward to playing it.

  • cindy0519

    Looks liek an awesome game…my grandson would love it!

  • alexi120

    If we don’t win it, I’ll just have to buy it!

  • megaron1

    My kids and I got to play this last week for just a few minutes at Best Buy and it was so great! Can’t wait to have it at home to play- the only problem is that it is only one player, so we’ll have to fight over who gets to play first!

  • Trish

    Thanks for the great blog! I so want this for Christmas!!

  • lundve

    Would be awesome to own and looks a blast to play.

  • Naively Occur

    Looks great

  • thatguyinthesky

    The game looks great. The story line of it looks great. The idea of it is just genius. I REALLY want this game.

  • verticalhaze

    My nine year old son pointed out this game to me as top of his Christmas list, and after reading this it is on mine also. :)

  • met19

    great story and interview. now im gonna get a Wii

  • hippiechicken

    I can’t wait to play!!

  • gerberdaisy1234

    Hoping Santa, Mickey or a little pixie dust brings this to my stocking.

  • beckypooh1972

    The game looks outstanding – well done!

  • http://www.webstar13.com SallyDollx13x

    Can’t wait to see this game, it doesn’t look like any other game I’ve played before… Fingers crossed :)

  • Krisa1

    Looks like a great game. Love the graphics! Interesting article, I liked knowing some of the inspiration behind the product. Love the shape of the Epic Mickey ears too!

  • ptcrn

    I am so excited to try this game out- we just got our Wii recently and I’d love to have this game for Christmas!!

  • phred1betty2

    Would love to give something like this to my Grandkids;LOVE that Disney is doing this type of gaming!

  • SueM in MN

    Nice article.
    Want a wii just so I can get the game.
    I Agee that it would make some awesome Steampunk attractions

  • chefmickey123

    This game looks so cool. I hope the price drops after Christmas a few bucks. Thanks for all the work on the blog.

  • meldawn12

    This was a big surprise to me, I had no idea that it was coming out but I’m so glad that it is on the Wii (not sure what I would do if it had come out on another platform-I guess I’d have to buy that too)! Can’t wait to see how all of those details unfold together in this kind of format!

  • Illini Disney Guy

    It is on my Christmas List. Hope I get it. It looks really cool.

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