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September 3, 2013

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit should have a meet-and-greet at Walt Disney World

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This week's Limited Time Magic Celebration at Disney California Adventure focuses on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Clarabelle's Hand-Scooped Ice Cream is featuring a special Oswald-inspired ice cream sundae in a Trolley Car Cup, and stores are highlighting their Oswald merchandise.

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Seeing again that Oswald mostly is represented at the Disney Parks in North America in merchandise makes me wonder why he doesn't have a larger presence. Since The Walt Disney Co. regained the rights in 2006 to one of Walt Disney's first animated characters, Oswald slowly has been making a name for himself with a new generation of fans. (Walt drew Oswald between 1927 and 1928 along with Ub Iwerks for Universal Studios.)

Most notably, Oswald has been featured in all three Epic Mickey video games. As such, Oswald is quite grumpy about being forgotten all this time and he's a little jealous of his "younger brother," Mickey Mouse. Still, the rabbit loves to have fun and is funny when he wants to be, and, ultimately, he tries to make the right choices.

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With the games' promotion, we've seen Oswald's image appear on more merchandise, including T-shirts, plush animals, watches, pins and even last summer's rabbit-ear hats at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) that later were introduced in the Disney Parks. My son proudly wears his hat each time we go to the theme parks, and inevitably, other guests and cast members will comment, saying how fond they, too, are of Oswald.

Surely, the next step would be to have Oswald as a meet-and-greet character in the Disney Parks. Some Oswald fans have suggested that he be a black-and-white character who adds color, such as his blue shorts, during appearances. What a great idea! That concept reminds me of Animator's Palate on the Disney Wonder; it is an amazing experience to see the animation change from stark black and white to a rainbow of hues.

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And it would seem that near the Mickey Mouse meet-and-greet in Town Square Theater at Magic Kingdom would be the logical spot for an Oswald meet-and-greet location at Walt Disney World. After all, there's already a nod to Oswald and the characters' close relationship with a drawing of the pair posted in Mickey's dressing room. At Disney California Adventure, perhaps there is a spot near the rabbit's namesake store on Buena Vista Street.

Given the range of topics Oswald animated shorts covered during the early Disney years, there are a host of other locales that could be used just as appropriately at either the Magic Kingdom or other Walt Disney World parks. Face it: If cute little teddy Duffy and his, well " questionable " historical contributions to Disney's history and lore could lead to him having a meet-and-greet site at Epcot, then surely Disney's original creation deserves the same prestige at one of the parks here, as well.

So, fans of Oswald, tell us what you think! If you could design a meet-and-greet area in the Disney Parks with the Lucky Rabbit, what would it be like? I know we all agree it should have started already.

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For a class project, my son assumed the persona of Walt Disney, and he chose Oswald and Mickey as symbols of Walt's accomplishments.

November 24, 2012

'Disney Epic Mickey 2' and 'Power of Illusion' -- everything you need to know!

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Just in time for the holidays, Disney Interactive has released sequels to its popular Epic Mickey video game that was released in 2010 for Wii only. "Epic Mickey 2: The Power of 2" is available for most gaming consoles, including Wii, Wii-U, XBox 360, PlayStation 3 and Apple and PC products. "Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion" is a separate game developed for Nintendo 3DS systems.

If you're considering purchasing any of these games for holiday gifts and wonder where to start, here's a short primer of what to expect.

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"Epic Mickey"

The story: In the original game, gamers play as Mickey Mouse who damages and then must fix the Wasteland, a land of forgotten Disney characters and concepts. Its first resident is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, one of Walt Disney's first animated characters, and this marks his first appearance as a major character since The Walt Disney Co. reacquired the licensing rights in 2006.

To play: Mickey wields his paintbrush and paint thinner -- adding and erasing elements in the game. Players hold two controllers and work both simultaneously. Epic Mickey also incorporates sketches and currency called E-tickets to give players more options to elude antagonists or move ahead in the game more quickly. Epic Mickey is an open-ended game, meaning players choose how they will progress.

Tips: Younger gamers may need a period of adjustment to learn how to juggle all the elements in "Epic Mickey." The official game guidebook really helped my son, who was 8 years old when this game was released.

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Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two

The story: Essentially, Oswald seeks Mickey's help in Wasteland to repair the damage done to the forgotten worlds there. As they do so, they meet a cast of characters along the way that confirm their suspicions about the Mad Doctor, an antagonist from the first game.

To play: Availability of "Epic Mickey 2" has expanded to most console platforms and computer systems, and some of the game mechanics, such as the camera system, have improved. Perhaps the biggest change in the sequel is that Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is a playable character, along with Mickey. He uses a remote control to fight and has other special abilities, such as flying with his ears and detaching his feet. The pair also can work together to create some magic. The game allows a single-player option (with Oswald being computer-controlled) or a dual-player option (in which Oswald is controlled by the second player). Also, in this game version and unlike in the first one, the characters talk and sing, as well.

Tips: Think about the choices you make, because they become permanent in the game -- even when you shut down the console and start again at a later time. "Epic Mickey" creator Warren Spector has some suggestions for players who feel like they are stuck: Consider other options than battling adversaries -- perhaps cooperating with a character will move you forward; and, if all else fails, follow Gus the Gremlin. He often will lead you forward to where you will want to go.

Regarding Oswald and his powers in the game, Spector told me, "We added one thing. We added a remote control. We introduced that in the first game, and that remote gives Oswald control over the animatronic enemies and also sort of lets him reprogram electronic devices. We did that for gameplay reasons. We wanted the player to be able to control those things and not have to destroy them, but actually sort of befriend them, which plays into the idea that you have to decide how to interact with stuff so in 'Epic Mickey 2: The Power of 2,' you don't have to defeat anything in combat. You can befriend everything in the game -- animatronic or cartoon. You can defeat everything in the game, too. That's up to you. And we'll show you how things change as a result of that choice."

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"Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion"

The Story: "Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion" starts much the same way the original games do, with Mickey delving into Cartoon Wasteland. This time, though, he is trying to save Minnie Mouse from the evil witch Mizrabel, who can take on the shape of many Disney villains, in the castle, which has been relegated to Wasteland. In his quest, Mickey must travel through different wings of the castle that are based on various classic Disney films.

To play: This game was developed by Disney's Junction Point Studios and Orlando-based independent video game developer DreamRift as a side-scrolling platform and a tribute to Sega's "Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse" and its 16-bit graphics. One of the unique aspects of the game is the appearance of the fortress, where side quests take place. The player helps a character, and in return, gets a reward that helps him or her back in the platform level. Plus, as the player helps the character, he or she evolves until into a fully realized character in the platform game.

Tips: Some of the mechanics, such Mickey jumping and spinning, are the same on the console and the 3DS, though players will use different moves to complete the actions. "Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion" takes advantage of both screens on a Nintendo 3DS system. However, even young players should feel comfortable -- and not frustrated -- because visual diagrams communicate concepts for beginning readers. Plus, Jiminy Cricket acts as a guide at the beginning of the game.

Spector said, "When you play on a home console, like the Wii, you're kind of sitting there on your couch, you've got a lot of time, you can really sit there and get into something that lasts a long time and is hours and hours of play with a really deep story. When you've got a handheld, at least for me, it's more like I've got 15 minutes and it's quick fun. So it's a different kind of experience, and I like them both. They have some of the same characters set in the same world but they are completely different games. So I hope people like them both and will play them both."

Here's link to my previous blogs about Epic Mickey!

November 2, 2012

Epic Mickey sequels go on sale early at Disney World's Festival of the Masters

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Fans of the best-selling Disney Epic Mickey Wii game can play the sequels at the upcoming Festival of the Masters at Downtown Disney and then purchase them more than a week before their United States release date.

Disney Interactive Studios again will host a booth at the free annual outdoor arts festival. The sequel to the Wii game, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, will be released on all console platforms on Nov. 18, but guests who stop by the booth will be able to play Epic Mickey 2 on Xbox, PlayStation 3 Move and Wii platforms.

Another sequel, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, is designed for Nintendo 3DS systems and also will be available for guests to test drive. It, too, will be released on Nov. 18. Experts will be on hand to help guests get the hang of the side-scrolling game that allows them to choose their journey. (To read more abut the games and my interview with Warren Spector, please see my previous story.)

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And though the graphics in the Epic Mickey games certainly qualify as art, the booth will offer guests other ways to become immersed in the art of the Disney video games. Mickey Mouse and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who are the stars of the games, will be featured in an original painting by David Garibaldi, the performance artist.

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Plus, Disney artists will be on hand to create complimentary character sketches for guests. When we visited the first booth in 2010, my son was thrilled to receive sketches of Mickey and Oswald. Our artist, Jason Peltz, was happy to discuss with us how he got his start as an artist, which was a wonderful bonus since my son has a strong interest in art, and certainly, all things Disney.

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This year the artists will draw Mickey, Oswald, Gremlin Gus, Horace Horsecollar, Elliot (Pete's Dragon), Lonesome Ghost, Clarabelle Cow, The Mad Doctor and Peg Leg Pete. Each guest may request one sketch.

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At the first booth, we heard guests ask repeatedly about Epic Mickey-themed merchandise, but none was being sold. Disney listened and this year, fans can buy Oswald ear hats at nearby stores. Also, those who purchase any of the Epic Mickey sequels during the Festival of the Masters will receive a collector's pin of Mickey and Oswald.

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The Epic Mickey booth will be located adjacent to Once Upon a Toy Store on the Marketplace side of Downtown Disney. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. November 9 and 10 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. November 11. There no charge for admission or parking at Festival of the Masters.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You can also buy Epic Mickey games through the AllEars.Net Amazon store here.

September 24, 2012

2 new Epic Mickey video games explore more Disney worlds

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Warren Spector

Two is always better than one, right? Especially if you're trying to form alliances in a cartoon wasteland?

During a media presentation last week in Orlando, the creators of Epic Mickey revealed more about the characters in one of the video game sequels and allowed a lucky few the opportunity to play Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for 3DS. Warren Spector, founder and creative director at Disney Junction Point, and Peter Ong, creative director at DreamRift, were even on hand to describe the new mechanics and classic Disney movies that appear in the game.

Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion starts much the same way the original games do, with Mickey delving into Cartoon Wasteland, a sort of purgatory of forgotten Disney characters and icons. This time, though, he is trying to save Minnie Mouse from the evil witch Mizrabel, who can take on the shape of many Disney villains, in the castle, which has been relegated to Wasteland.

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That storyline and the 16-bit graphics are an homage to Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, a popular Sega game released in 1990, said Spector. "Everyone is going retro now with 8-bit graphics, but I couldn't wait to get out of the 8-bit era," he said. "16-bit times, those were good times, so that's where we're going."

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Peter Ong

In his quest, Mickey must travel through different wings of the castle that are based on various classic Disney films. The first wing centers on "Peter Pan" and features such images as Never Land and Captain Hook's ship the Jolly Roger. But perhaps the biggest announcement came when Ong unveiled the second wing Thursday -- scenes from "Aladdin."

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"With the levels in this wing of the castle, it was really important for us, as it is with every room in the castle, to make sure that the visuals that we created were as realistic as possible and directly translated from the Disney classic film that we're drawing from," Ong said. "We actually got their feature animation department to give us actual source working images from the original movies."

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Players can expect to experience the final battle scene in Aladdin, the crowded Agrabah streets and the magical Cave of Wonders.

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Another first for Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is the appearance of the fortress, where side quests take place. The player helps a character, and in return, gets a reward that helps him or her back in the platform level. Plus, as the player helps the character, he or she evolves until into a fully realized character in the platform game.

"I tried to use fortress-building in every project over the last 15 years and it's been the first thing I had to cut," said Spector. "Peter said, 'This time we're not going to cut.' "

The mechanics in Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion are unique, too. Spector and Ong took full advantage of the dual screens on a 3DS, using the bottom half for painting and thinning. These mechanics of Epic Mickey allow players to add (paint) objects and remove (thin) them from the game. Using a stylus to paint and thin didn't seem to faze my 10-year-old son, who was used to performing these actions with the nunchuk on the Wii.

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In fact, he dove into the 3DS game with ease. Jiminy Cricket jumps in Mickey's pocket at the start of the game and acts as guide. "The beginning stages of game are tilted to help you learn," said Michael Veroni, art director at DreamRift, who sat down with my son to help him get started.

He said gamers as young as 7 years old can grasp this type of play. If players still are learning to read, there even are visual diagrams to communicate the concepts.

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Michael Veroni

My son liked the classic run-jump-shoot format and the bitmapped graphics, and he appreciated all the perks, as well. Earning currency during the game was a familiar theme, as many of the games he plays online, on a handheld device or at home involve a currency to motivate the players.

It only took about three minutes of play before my son declared, "I want it!"

Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for 3DS is a completely different game from the console sequel, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of 2, which is being developed for Wii, Wii U, XBox 360, Playstation, and PC and Apple computers.

"When you play on a home console, like the Wii, you're kind of sitting there on your couch. You [can] get into something that lasts a long time and is hours and hours of play with a really deep story. When you've got a handheld, at least for me, it's more like I've got 15 minutes and it's quick fun," Spector said.

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In my interview with Spector, he revealed more about Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. Among the most noticeable differences is that Oswald the Lucky Rabbit becomes a playable character in the console sequel.

"He's such a wonderful little character with his own personality and his own set of abilities. What I love about Oswald's abilities in the game is that we didn't have to make a lot of stuff up. All we had to do was go back and look at those cartoons that Walt Disney and Ub [Iwerks] made in the 1920s. He used his ears as helicopter blades. He used his ears as oars and bats. He could remove his limbs and throw them around. He could remove his head and use it like a bowling ball."

"We added one thing. We added a remote control. We introduced that in the first game, and that remote gives Oswald control over the animatronic enemies and also sort of lets him reprogram electronic devices. We did that for gameplay reasons. We wanted the player to be able to control those things and not have to destroy them, but actually sort of befriend them, which plays into the idea that you have to decide how to interact with stuff."

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Gameplay interaction is nothing new with this franchise. After all, it was a prime aspect of the original game. But there is something markedly unique with this new version: Oswald and other Disney characters will speak in Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two.

"I made, in retrospect, what was a pretty foolish decision. I decided that in the first game, nobody was going to talk, and it was really dumb. Disney fans really want those characters to talk, and they were not shy about telling us that," Spector said.

"I did it for really silly reasons. I kind of think of Oswald as almost real. It's kind of strange. I heard his voice in my head, and I heard him say, 'I'm a silent film star, and if I can't talk, no one's going to talk.' And I thought that was funny, and so I told the team that's what we were doing. There was no technical reason or financial reason. I just decided no one should talk, and it was just wrong. So, every character speaks every line of dialogue."

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two also breaks new ground in that it uses musical numbers in the story. Spector brought back composer Jim Dooley from the first game to help him create ways for players to sing during the game.

"I've always wanted to make a musical. " We have several songs and they really do advance the story and reveal emotion. It's just sort of the first step toward the crazy interactive musical of my dreams, which I will make someday," Sprector said. "I've got some ideas about how you could use songs as game mechanics in ways that don't involve beat matching or performance in the way that music games now use music."

Musical numbers, talking characters, new Disney lands to explore and conquer - it all certainly makes for great gaming for anyone who enjoyed the original Epic Mickey. But, just as with the first game, there's a sense of creativity involved that makes the game unique compared to so many others on the market today.

"Games at their best should be about players showing off how clever and creative they are. We're the interactive medium. If we limit ourselves as developers to "beat that thing up" or "solve that puzzle" we're kinda shortchanging ourselves and players," Spector said. "Really what we want to do is set up a bunch of problems and let players decide how they want to solve them. Show how clever you are when you play the game, that's what it's all about."

Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion and Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two will be released on Nov. 18, 2012.

September 22, 2012

An inside look at the exclusive Siemens VIP Center at Epcot

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When you've walk underneath Spaceship Earth, you probably think you know all about what's inside the structure that houses the geodesic sphere and the ride's post-show attractions.

But there's one area that isn't seen by the vast majority of visitors to Epcot.

Today, I'm giving you a look inside the Siemens VIP Center, a place at Epcot not usually seen by most guests because it is reserved for Siemens employees and their customers. I was invited inside the exclusive space for a Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion media event. (My interview with game creator Warren Spector and new details about the second wing of the 3DS game are coming Monday.)

The Siemens VIP Center is located above the post-show gaming area of Spaceship Earth, one of Walt Disney World's most recognized icons and one that Siemens sponsors. To access their lounge, employees use a special door inside the first-floor gaming area. Once inside, they enter a passcode they have been assigned on the company website prior to their visit, and doors open to a small lobby.

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Here, guests will get their first glimpse of one of the defining elements of this private space -- the lighting. Siemens, a company that operates in 194 countries, owns lighting manufacturer Sylvania, and it's apparent in the LED displays in the downstairs lobby and in the main spaces on the second floor.

The color palette is infinite, said Director of Operations Jim McCaskill, and the system can be programmed to use a specific shade if it's needed. Typically, though, they stick to about a dozen colors.

"Blue is most popular for dinners and evening events. During the day, we run an orange in meetings because light orange works best for reflectivity when you're writing and working," McCaskill said. "Occasionally we'll do multiple colors or a sequence."

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Employees and their guests can choose to take stairs or an elevator to the second floor, where they will be greeted by a receptionist and enter the open-area lounge. There, they can help themselves to complimentary beverages and even learn a little more about their company through interactive exhibits.

"Like anybody in a big company, you may just know your sector and may not really understand some of the others," he said.

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One touch screen displays Siemens information, as well as park data, including the weather and wait times for attractions. Another uses facial recognition software from security systems to dress up the viewer in various disguises. That screen also allows the user to take a turn at programming the colors in a walkway on the floor that leads to the large meeting space.

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This room, whose doors proclaim "Innovators at Work," is much larger and offers sweeping views of Epcot's Future World. When it's not being used for customer meetings, product launches or dinner parties 180 days a year, the meeting space also is open to Siemens employees.

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"We have a very large contingent of Siemens employees in the Orlando area, in the energy sector out by UCF, and in addition to that, we have so many international travelers," McCaskill said.

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Although Siemens employees and customers make up most of the guest list in the lounge, they are not the only ones who can take a break there.

"From Day 1, we have opened up the Siemens lounge to Give Kids The World (an Orlando charity that provides theme-park experiences for seriously ill children). Those families have a lot of challenges in the park, and sometimes they just need a quiet place to come and rest," he said.

Siemens also has started a new program this year in cooperation with Shades of Green, a Walt Disney World resort for military personnel. The company offers members of the Armed Forces passes to the lounge when they buy their discounted tickets at the resort. McCaskill said he sees about 25 military families visit every few days.

The Siemens VIP Center operates from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. In addition to Spaceship Earth, Siemens sponsors IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.


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About Epic Mickey games

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Epic Mickey games category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts is the previous category.

Ever After High books is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.