NYCC: On ‘Epic Mickey 2’ Graphic Novel, Pin Buffs, Voices, Collectors Edition and Cartoon?

It seems like less than a week before, I was in Disneyland checking out new areas of ‘Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two,’ but here I found myself once more in the presence of Junction Point director and driving force Warren Spector at a press-only event at New York Comic-Con. This time, however, we were also joined by Peter David, who penned the graphic novels for both games, as well as a lustrous career writing comics, particularly for Marvel.

While most of the materials presented were a rehash of what I had learned and seen the week before, there was plenty of new information strewn throughout, so here’s my addendum to the original report.

It wouldn’t really be Disney unless there were pins to collect and this time there are over 120 different pins in all. Not only can be they be collected and displayed in the pin shop located on Mean Street, but pins can also carry a buff with them as well, affecting gameplay.

Junction Point developers also found out that it is possible to collect all of the pins in one play-through, to Spector’s surprise and delight, but he was quick to note that these are also serious game testers and that the game wasn’t really designed to allow you to get everything in one run-through, so he cautioned that while the game mechanics do allow for it, the chances of any player doing so is pretty slim at best.

The good news: there is one. The bad news: it won’t be published in North America, not even digitally, unless someone at Disney Publishing Worldwide changes their minds. There was a copy present at the roundtable and I was able to skim through it and it really is a shame it won’t be available as comic writer Peter David has done a great job at adapting the story by Marv Wolfman, alongside the beautiful illustrations by Fabrizio Petrossi.

Despite not being able to read the graphic novel beyond that room, we had the opportunity to quiz David on the project, who spoke on the challenges of squeezing 20 hours of gameplay into a 48 page comic. Having adapted both ‘Epic Mickey’ titles as well as movies, David said it’s the ‘same exact principle… boiling it down to the essence of what the game is going to be.’ He went on to explain: ‘what you do is you try to tell the essence of the story while ideally hitting all the major things that people are going to remember… so I have to try and pick and choose and guess which of the things that it’s not going to feel like a graphic novel adaptation if this isn’t in it.’

While the game allows the player to choose how Mickey behaves, a graphic novel doesn’t have that luxury, so David has to make that decision for the reader. ‘I tend to have Mickey going around constructing things rather than destroying them,’ he explained, ‘because number one, I tend to feel that’s more consistent to Mickey and number two, that the Disney approvals process probably feels more comfortable with Mickey being a positive force rather than going around being destructive. If the player wants to go around and erase everything, well that’s the player’s play style, but I have to work to stay very much in character with Mickey.’

That’s not to say that Mickey doesn’t ever opt to use the thinner, quite the opposite. David feels it’s a necessary plot device not only to show Mickey’s range of tools, but to use it as a character development moment as well. ‘In both graphic novels, I had him initially use the thinner and find that he did not like the destructive properties that resulted from his using the thinner so he subsequently — for the rest of the book — moves in a positive direction but at least it’s a character moment,’ he told us.

Oswald, however, is far more aggressive when it comes to how David portrays him. He explained that whereas Mickey is in the Wasteland to ‘play the hero,’ it’s Oswald’s backyard, so he’s naturally more defensive about it.

Around this time, Spector jumped in to talk about how he’s amazed that despite having to omit game references to fit the space, David is able to actually add to the story by conveying the character’s internal thoughts in a way the game can’t do.

Another interesting thing to note about the graphic novel is that while the Mad Doctor sings throughout as he does in the game, the lyrics rarely correlate between the two mediums. David told us that this was due primarily to two things: the game’s songs not yet being approved for him to reference and the changes that had to be made to the story to adapt it for the graphic novel. Therefore most of the lyrics in the graphic novel are the handiwork of David himself.

Since ‘Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two’ is fully voiced, it’s fair and easy enough to say that the characters are voiced by their officially designated actors (i.e., Mickey Mouse is voiced by Bret Iwan). However, there are many characters who will be speaking for the first time in the Disney Universe. While we know Frank Welker has assumed the identity of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and that Cary Elwes will be taking on the role of Gus Gremlin, but there are still plenty of other surprises waiting to be revealed such the voices of the other Gremlins like Prescott and Jamface and — until now — Ortensia.

Spector spoke at length regarding finding voices for the Gremlins, Gus in particular. Although he relayed being told by multiple sources that Walt Disney had gone as far as to produce a fabled scratch track for the short that never came to fruition, no such recording has been uncovered to date. Instead, Spector and his team relied on the Roald Dahl book as well as comics by Walt Kelly to get a feel for how the Gremlins were. Junction Point then went on to create backstories and develop personalities for each of them based on their research and provided their own scratch vocals to Disney Character Voices to find the talent. Gus, Spector explained, was determined to be a ‘gruff, old Colonel Blimp’ type. Elwes handily won the role and other actors were obviously awarded their parts as well, but we won’t know exactly whom until the game is released. Teasing the talent, however, Spector noted that some ‘pretty big named actors’ auditioned for roles, but stopped short of dropping their names.

As for Ortensia, she is voiced in the game (and everywhere else from this point on) by Audrey Wasilewski. Wasilewski did provide other ‘voices’ in the first game and also counts the voice of Terk in other video games amongst her numerous credits.

During the roundtable, we picked up a few other interesting items of note regarding ‘Disney Epic Mickey 2’ so we offer this speed-round of things you might want to know:

  • After a lot of back and forth with PDP and Disney Interactive, the final answer regarding PDP’s Epic Mickey 2 controllers is that while they are technically compatible with Wii U, they can only be used for co-op play (Oswald). So basically you can use the paintbrush, but only for Oswald. The primary player (Mickey) requires use of the GamePad.
  • Spector talked about costumes but once again remained vague on their attributes, stating only that it ‘should be fairly obvious’ what a suit of armor will do for Oswald. He noted the suit of armor costume was inspired by the 1928 short, Oh What A Knight, in which Oswald does not get to don armor, so this is his reward.
  • Spector mentioned the observatory which will allow players to explore the origins of the Wasteland universe, but hinted that its location is actually hidden somewhere on Mean Street
  • There will be a collectors edition, but only overseas in Europe and Australia and the like, not in North America. Spector is obviously very fond of what Disney Interactive pulled together for it, as you can see from its listing on Amazon Germany.
  • Spector was asked if there were plans to re-release ‘Castle of Illusion,’ perhaps on virtual console, which resulted in an instant ‘no comment.’ We do know however that Disney recently applied for a trademark for a video game with that title.
  • Spector also offered a ‘no comment’ on the potential of a Duck Tales game. Later on I spoke with Spector on the side and he was quite clear that his heart is in developing games using classic Disney IP and that he hopes to continue doing so for what that may be worth.
  • Indelible ink may keep Mickey and Oswald safe from shallow thinner, but deep thinner will make the player puddle, so swim at your own risk.

Being familiar with ‘Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two’ and a lot of the plot devices I will spare you, I was inspired to ask Spector if he ever considered producing shorts or more based on the ‘Epic Mickey’ video games. Not only has Spector considered the possibilities, but he told me he’s actually produced animation as a proof of concept. He was quick to note, however, that he is doing this all independently on his own as a pet project and it is in no way on Disney’s radar at this time.

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