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E3 2010: Epic Mickey - hand-on with a deep Disney dork

Anybody who isn’t as in to Disneyana may just want to turn back and reread another Halo: Reach preview, because the cartoon talk is about to get absurdly deep. There’s no other way to put it: For animation fans, Epic Mickey is an absolute revelation! Not only does the game spin a meta-yarn encompassing almost a century’s worth of Disney legacy, it’s rooted in fascinatingly bizarre historical accuracy. Kingdom Hearts cast the Disney menagerie as Square-Enix characters, but Epic Mickey… Epic Mickey could be the truest tale of fictional characters ever told.

Above: Roots...

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was the first breakout cartoon star created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks in the 1920’s. Unfortunately, disagreements with Universal stripped the two animators of rights to Oswald, and his potential sputtered out in just a few cartoons without the two pioneers at the helm.

Fortunately, this spurred Disney into forming his own studio, and that lead the immediate creation of a certain mouse known the world over. Disney studios wouldn’t regain control of Oswald until 2006, when he was essentially traded back to Disney for living and very real sportscaster, Al Michaels.

No, seriously: This all actually happened.

Epic Mickey adheres to the above course of events like the video game equivalent of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Follow me as each sentence gets more and more surreal, but this is where the game’s theme of moral ambiguity comes into play: Oswald is not Mickey’s enemy. The rabbit is the longest living resident of the Cartoon Wasteland, an animated refuge created by Yen Sid (the sorcerer in Fantasia) for cartoon stars discarded by time.

Above: Gus your guide through The Wasteland, and created for Disney by the man who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Smee from Peter Pan lives there. As does the forgotten Horace Horsecollar and Gus the Gremlin almost-star of a feature film collaboration between Walt Disney and Roald Dahl that never left the planning stages. The Wasteland is also home to dismantled Disneyland attractions, such as the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse (which has since become Tarzan themed IRL.)

Mickey’s mischief has thrown The Wasteland Oswald oversees out of balance. They’re certainly adversaries, but check this: They’re also brothers. Compounding the situation, Mickey has unwittingly assumed the life of stardom Oswald was denied through, no fault of his own. And playing as Mickey, you’ll decide how the sibling rivalry will be resolved through the course of your behavior.

Pardon the somewhat narcissistic write up, but as an unapologetic Disney nerd, my whole body is spinning with delight. Apologies for not describing my impression more succinctly, but I just wanna go home and watch cartoons…

If you wanna here me talk even more in depth conversation with Warren Spector, listen to the last 15 minutes of2nd TalkRadar E3 2010 Special.

Jun 18, 2010