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DICE 2010: Disney Execs Talk Epic Mickey, Inspiration From Kingdom Hearts

In an interview after Disney's DICE keynote, execs Steve Wadsworth and Graham Hopper discussed Epic Mickey's Wii
In an interview following his DICE 2010 opening keynote, Disney exec Steve Wadsworth and colleague Graham Hopper discussed Epic Mickey's currently Wii-exclusive state and what Kingdom Hearts has taught the Mouse about video game franchises. As part of the Gamasutra-attended group interview, Wadsworth -- who heads up the Disney Interactive Media Group, including the firm's online game (Club Penguin) and console game (Split/Second) areas, was asked about the decision to make the Warren Spector-helmed Epic Mickey into a Wii-exclusive title. Longtime Disney game exec Graham Hopper, also present at the interview, explained the company's thinking, noting that since "the key mechanic [in Epic Mickey] is an ink and paint mechanic", it seemed "completely intuitive to people" to play the title using a Wiimote. But with both Xbox 360's Natal and the PlayStation 3's motion controller debuting this year, might it not have made sense to use those? Hopper commented that Epic Mickey has been in development for quite some time, suggesting: "If we started it 6 months ago we would have potentially thought differently about it." But as Wadsworth had earlier noted: "We have a very large audience base that has Wiis in their home", making Nintendo's platform a natural choice. However, he cautioned on the much-awaited Junction Point-developed title: "That's not to say that we won't go to other platforms [in the future]." In comments elsewhere in the wide-ranging Q&A, the Kingdom Hearts franchise with Square Enix was discussed, with the Disney duo refusing to be drawn on questions about whether Kingdom Hearts III was planned -- but noting that overall: "The franchise is alive - it's doing well". Hopper pointed to major Japanese chart success for the new PSP title Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. He said that the franchise had actually provided some key learnings for Disney as a company, and for Epic Mickey specifically. He noted that "taking Disney characters and applying them in a whole different way that's surprising to people", particularly in the way the Tetsuya Nomura-led Kingdom Hearts franchise mixed together settings and character worlds from many Disney creations. In fact, Hopper commented, it was "so radical" for Disney that Kingdom Hearts got made at all, since mixing Disney's properties and characters together so completely had led some to internally worry it might be "an abomination", while still in development. Yet the final product from Square Enix showed that character universe mixing "worked really well", and consumers were not at all bothered by the conceit of multiple Disney worlds coinciding -- learnings that will be apparently applied to Epic Mickey's universe as well.

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