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Epic Mickey
Directed by Phil Johnston
Produced by Clark Spencer
Executive producer(s) Jennifer Lee
Warren Spector
Screenplay by Phil Johnston
Pamela Ribon
Story by Phil Johnston
Pamela Ribon
Warren Spector
Based on Epic Mickey
by Warren Spector
Starring Chris Diamantopoulos
Frank Welker
Bob Joles
Jason Alexander
Charles Kimbrough
Patrcia Lentz
Will Ferrell
Dave Wittenberg
Score by Alan Menken
Themes by James Dooley
Songs by Alan Menken
Tim Rice
Edited by Tim Mertens
Production company Walt Disney Animation Studios
Walt Disney Pictures
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release date May 22, 2023
Country United States

Epic Mickey would be a 2023 American animated musical buddy fantasy adventure film directed by Phil Johnston and produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. It would be based on the Disney video game of the same name, making it the first animated Disney film to be based on a video game. Johnston would also write the film's screenplay alongside Pamela Ribon, from an story by Johnston, Ribon, and Epic Mickey creator Warren Spector, while Clark Spencer would produce the film, with Spector and Jennifer Lee servig as executive-producers. The film would star the voices of Chris Diamantopoulos, Frank Welker, Bob Joles, Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough, Patricia Lentz, Will Ferrell, and Dave Wittenberg. The film would be the first theatrical animated film to feature Mickey Mouse in an starring role since Fantasia 2000, the first film to star Mickey since DisneyToon Studios' Mickey, Donald, and Goofy: The Three Musketers, and the first feature-length film to star Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Recurring Disney songwriters Alan Menken and Tim Rice would write several new songs for the film, with Menken also returning to compose the score.

Disney would first announce plans to adapt the Epic Mickey video game in the D23 2020, with Johnston being set to direct the film. While the film would be based on Epic Mickey, the studio would take many liberties with the source material in order for the story work as a film, while also ressurrecting a few deleted concepts from the video game, althougth the studio would try to be as faithful as possible to the video game. The filmmakers would also feature a few elements from the video game's sequel, Epick Mickey 2: The Power of Two, mainly Mickey and Oswald teaming-up. The film, unlike the video game, would be set in modern times, in order to allow more cameo appearances in both the Wasteland and the Cartoon World. Epic Mickey would be the first Disney film since 2011's Winnie the Pooh to be animated mostly using hand-drawn animation.

The film would be released on May 22, 2023, and would became a critical and commercial success, grossing 712 million dollars over a budget of 177 millions, and being praised for its direction, screenplay, animation, humor, vocal performances (particularly Diamantopoulos, Welker, Alexander, Lentz, and Ferrell's), songs, sense of nostalgia, and score, with many critics praising it as one of the best films based on an video game of all time. The film would earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature, as well as both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song.

Synopsis

Good old Disney star Mickey Mouse finds himself in a big problem when he is suddenly transported to the "Wasteland", a land inhabited by forgotten toons, forcing Mickey to join forces with its ruler, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who resents Mickey because he was forgotten when he appeared, to return home. The two, along with the gremlin Gus and Oswald's friends, gargoyles Victor, Hugo, and Laverne, soon discovers that Mickey's appearance in the Wasteland is part of a bigger plot by the dangerous Shadow Blot to put an end to both the Wasteland and the Cartoon World. Now, the two must find a way to work together before its too late!

Voice cast

  • Chris Diamantopoulos as Mickey Mouse, an anthropomorphic mouse who is the biggest star in the Cartoon World, only to find himself in the Wasteland. According to director Phil Johnston, Mickey's arc in the film would be inspired by the character's lack of relevance in pop culture in comparation to earlier decades.
  • Frank Welker as:
    • Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, an anthrpomorphic rabbit and the deeply insecure former ruler of the Wasteland, who hates Mickey for being the reason he was forgotten in the first place. According to Welker, the film would focus more in Oswald after he was forgotten
    • Djali, a goat who is Hugo's boyfriend
  • Audrey Wasilewski as Ortensia:
    A friendly rabbit and Oswald's ex-wife, who helps Mickey in the Wasteland. Pamela Ribbon would say that Ortensia's role from the game was changed "because [the filmmakers] felt it could be s variayion of fridging" and saw her replacing Gus as Mickey's guide "the only other role she could play in the story". Wasilewski would say that "the filmmakers really changed Ortensia in a way that kerps her essence. She's more tought now and, while she does have a bit of a story with Oswald, she wants to redefine herself too".
  • Charles Kimbrough, Jason Alexander and Patrcia Lentz as Victor, Hugo and Laverne:
    A trio of comical gargoyle statues and Oswald's friends, who live with him at the Mickeyjunk Mountain, and who always try to help Oswald with his insecurity issues. According to director Phil Johnston, the gargoyles "go througth an arc of their own in the film. Quasimodo choose to go and live in his own a few years before the movie, and they are in a state of denial, which they show by how they treat Oswald. And througth the film, they come to terms with Quasi leaving and that Oswald is not Quasi". Hugo would be confirmed to be homosexual in the film, with him openly refering to Djali as a male. Johnston would call the confirmation of the character's sexual orientation "simply a seize-the-moment scenario", arguing that he "saw the chance to put a gay character as a star in a Disney movie, and took it".
  • Will Farrell as:
    • The Blot, an evil creature made of both Paint and Thinner who wishes to destror both the Wasteland and the Cartoon World. Farrell would define the character as "somebody who not only lives to destroy, and not only loves it, but also someone who has a deep pasion for it, like a painter with his paint. He almost makes the act of destroying life an art".
    • The Shadow Blot, a disconnected fragment of the Blot who tries to release the rest of itself. Farrell would describe the Shadow Blot as "more focused and restrained" than the full Blot, as he "wants to destroy everything he sees, but he musn't, as it dooms his plans".
  • Dave Wittenberg as the Mad Doctor, the Blot's main ally in his conquest to destroy the Wasteland.

Additonally, Alan Tudyk would provide the vocal effects for the Blotlings, minor spawns of the Blot who serve as his army. Tony Anselmo, Tress MacNeille, and Bill Farmer would reprise their roles from the game as animtronic versions of Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, and Goofy, respectively. Farmer would also provide the vocal effects for Pluto, Mickey's loyal dog in the Cartoon World. Grey DeLisle would voice Minnie Mouse, Mickey's girlfirend. Corey Burton would reprise his roles as Yen Sid, a powerful sorcerer and creator of the Wasteland, and Ludwig Von Drake, a brilliant-but-eccentric scientist who is the real Donald's paternal uncle.

Eric Coleman would cameo as the voice of the head of Disney Television Animation in the Cartoon World. Brenda Song and Amanda Leighton would reprise their roles as Anne and Polly from the animated Disney TV series Amphibia. Tom Hanks would briefly potray Walt Disney in a live-action sequence at the start of the film, reprising his role form the film Saving Mr. Banks (2013).

Differences from the source material

  • The game is set around the 40's, while the film would be set in modern times.
  • Unlike the game, the film would be a musical.
  • In the game, Victor, Hugo, and Laverne made a brief non-speaking cameo. In the film, they would appear in a supporting role.
  • The game starts with a narration by Yen Sid, while the film would start with a live-action/animated sequence depicting Oswald's fall from grace.
  • In the game, the Shadow Blot was created by Mickey after an accident in Yen Sid's workshop, while in the film he would be an accidental creation of Oswald's who was unknowingly banished by Walt Disney by trashing the only sketch in which he appeared.
  • The film would feature more scenes with Mickey in the Cartoon World than the game
  • In the game, Mickey was transported by the Blot to the Wasteland. While this concept would be mostly retained in the film, Mickey would accidentaly give a hand in this version, by weaking the walls between the Cartoon World and the Wasteland while trying to use Yen Sid's magic to become a big star again.
  • In the game, Oswald lives in the Mickeyjunk Mountain alone to guard the Blot's bottle, while in the film Oswald would live there alongside The Hunchback of Notre Dame characters Victor, Hugo, Laverne, and Djali, and would be because he feels like trash.
  • The film would feature Oswald and Mickey working together to gather the rocket pieces to get Mickey out of the Wasteland, while in the game Mickey worked alone.
  • Mickey meets Oswald in the Mickeyjunk Muntain in the video game, while, in the film, they would meet at Mean Street. Additionally, their meeting would more hostile in the film, with Oswald attacking Mickey out of anger
  • The film would feature a deleted concept from the game in which Oswald and the Blot join forces near the climax.
  • In the game, The Mad Doctor was defeated by Mickey in his laboratory. In the film, he would instead be defeated by the gargoyles and Djali in the Dark Beauty Castle. Additionally, his defeat in the film would be an inversion of the game, as he was shot up to the sky inside a machine in the game, while, in the film, he would fall to his death instead.
  • In the game, The Blot was destroyed using fireworks. In the film, he would instead be destroyed by the Thinner Guardians upon being weakned.

Production

Casting

On the D23 2020, while announcing the film, Johnston would reveal that Frank Welker would reprise his role from the video game as Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, while Chris Diamantopoulos would reprise his role as Mickey Mouse from the Mickey Mouse TV series. On June 23, 2021, Dave Wittenberg would confirm that he would reprise his role as the Mad Doctor from the video game. On August 24, 2021, Will Ferrell would reveal that he would voice both the Blot and the Shadow Blot in the film. On December 12, 2021, Jason Alexander would reveal that he and Charles Kimbrough would reprise their roles from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) as Hugo and Victor, respectively. On May 4, 2022, Johnston would reveal that Bob Joles would reprise his role as Gus from the game, while Patricia Lentz would reprise her role from Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance as Laverne. During the premiere, Brenda Song and Amanda Leighton would reveal that they would reprise their roles as the voices of Anne and Polly from Disney's animated series Amphibia.

Recording sessions

Most of the film's cast would record their voices separately, througth Diamantopoulos and Welker would record their voices together, as Johnston would feel that their characters' dyanmic would benefit if their actors worked together. Jason Alexander, Dave Witterman, and Will Ferrell would improvise some of their lines during recording. Welker and Ferrell would simultaneously record their line for when Oswald and the Blot are fused into the Storm Blot.

Animation

Most of the film would be animated with traditional animation, aside from the scenes taking place in the Cartoon World, which would be animated with computer-animation. According to director Phil Johnston, the different animation styles used in the film would be used in order to showcase the contrast between the Cartoon Word and the Wasteland, as he would feel it would make sense to animate the Wasteland with traditional animation as it has been "forgotten" in comparation to the more used computer-animation. According to Johnston, the animation on the scenes set in the Wasteland would be strongly inpired by films such as The Three Caballeros (1944) and early Disney shorts in order to "further evoke the feeling that the Wasteland is full of things everyone forgot and left behind".

As scenes in the Cartoon World feature characters from animated Disney series, which are made using hand-drawn animation, the animators from those series would be brought as consultants in order to create computer-animated models for the characters that resemble their hand-darwn animated counterparts.

Additionally, a brief flashback with Oswald in the Cartoon World as he's forgotted would be animated with hand-drawn animation, which producer Clark Spencer would say it would be due to the fact that, at that time, computer-animation wasn't invented, and the filmmakers would feel it would make more sense if the scenes in the Cartoon World were animated with the most popular animation at the time the scene takes place.

Due to his experience with both hand-drawn and computer animation, and due to having animated Mickey in the 1983 featurette Mickey's Christmas Carol, Mark Henn would serve as Mickey's supervising animator. Henn would draw inspirations from the 1930s Mickey Mouse shorts for Mickey's appearance in the Wasteland, while his appearance in the Cartoon World would closely resemble his appearance in the 2013 Mickey Mouse TV series. Andreas Deja, Oswald's supervising animator, would draw inspiration from both the original Oswald shorts and the cinematic sequences of the original videogame for Oswald's appearance in the film, as he would want Oswald to "look just like in the game yet at the same time be physically ready for a fight". due to the shorts' slapstick nature.

Eric Goldberg, the supervising animator for the Blot, would describe the character as "a quite hard job to do", as "his body has to look like its always leaking, yet without really leaking. Its like he was sweating, yet the drops are part of him, and never once they truly fall to the ground. And he has to feel like both a liquid and a solid". Goldberg would draw inspiration from his work as animator for the Genie in Aladdin (1992) in order to "make Will Ferrell's performance felt througth the animation", while the character's appearance in the climax would be strongly based on the character Chernabog from Fantasia (1940). Will Finn, who previously served as Laverne's supervising animator in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, would serve as the gargoyles' supervising animator in the film.

Music

Alan Menken would compose the film's score, which would contain motifs from the videogame's score by James Dooley. According to Johnston, Menken would be hired "as [he] felt natural that the studio's oldest composer scored a film starring its oldest characters".

Menken would say that his score's style would be "changing, reflective of the set", with a score more akin to his recent films during scenes in the Carton World, while his score for the scenes in the Wasteland would be more akin to his earliest scores for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. For the flasback sequence at the start of the film, Menken would compose a score "very much like those of" Wilfred Jackson and Bert Lewis, who composed Mickey's first released short, Steamboat Willie.

Menken and recurring collaborator Tim Rice would write several songs for the film, which would be performed by the film's cast. Menken would say that "while most buddy films don't work as musicals" he would feel that "Epic Mickey is the exception", arguing that "we get to know the characters and their wants long before they meet each other, which makes it easier to incorporate those 'I want' songs into the film". Menken and Rice would work closely with the directors in order to determine which moments would work with songs. Menken and Rice would draw inspiratin from their work in 2017's Beauty and the Beast remake for the film's songs.

Reception

Critical reception

The film would have an aproval rating of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The critical consensus would read, "A wonderful adaptation of a great game that manages to retain its soul in spite of its alterations, Epic Mickey is a visually stunning and emotionally affecting tale that manges to tell a great story by taking its source's characters and concepts and giving them a new look in many ways." On Metacritc, the film would have an weighted average score of 71 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Trivia

  • Mickey Mouse and the Blot would be the only characters from the game to have a different voice actor in the film, as they were voced by Bret Iwan and Frank Welker, respectively, in the game, while Victor, Hugo and Laverne only made a non-speaking cameo.
  • During the battle against the Blot and the Blotlings, Victor and Hugo would build a catapult, which they would try to throw to some blotlings, causing an annoyed Mickey to say "all these years and you still don't know how to use that thing!", referencing a similar gag featured in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), in which the two build and threw a catapult to Claude Frollo's soldiers during the climax.
  • This would be the first WDAS film to feature characters from a Disney Television Animation series.
  • A recurring gag througth the film would involve the gargoyles being declared as "annoying" by other characters, to which they would react calmly, referencing the negative reaction caused by the characters' inclusion in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
  • According to director Phil Johnston, Amphibia creator Matt Braly would serve as a consultant for Anne and Polly's appearance in the film.
  • While the Cartoon World would feature several Hidden Mickeys, the Wasteland would instead feature "Hidden Oswalds". According to Johnston, this would be in order to further show the contrast s between both worlds.
  • While unlocking a door to Tomorrow City's Tomorrow Square, Oswald would use the following color pattern: Red, yellow, green, red, blue, blue, blue, red, purple, green, yellow, orange, red, red. This would be a reference to The Spectrum Song from the first episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, "An Adventure in Color/Mathmagicland".
  • During the opening sequence featuring Mickey in the Cartoon World, a wedding photo of Mickey and Minnie would be briefly seen, implying that the two are indeed married. This would be further suggested by the fact that both Mickey and Minnie live together, and sleep in the same bed.
  • This would be Alan Menken's second time working with Tim Rice on an animated film, after Aladdin (1992).
    • This would also be Menken and Rice's first cinematic collaboration in which Rice does not serve as a replacement for late lyricist Howard Ashman, as Rice stepped in as lyricist in Aladdin after Ashman's death, and later wrote alongside Menken on 4 new songs for the 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast, which featured songs from the 1991 film written by Menken and Ashman.
  • Johnston would say that the film's main theme as "letting go", stating that "Mickey has to let his heydays go and accept that he's not as relevant in pop culture as before. Oswald has to let go every bad thing in his life, from being forgotten to the Thinner Disaster, in order to find that light in himself. And the gargoyles have to let go their life with Quasimodo so they can help Oswald".
  • According to Johnston, the actions of the characters having a "choice and consequence"-role in the movie would be inspired by the game's ending, which showed the positive/negative consequences of the player's decisions in the game. He would felt that featuring such a plot element would "help keep some of the game's essence in the movie" and create a more character-driven plot.
  • The scene in which the Blot is sucked back into the Wasteland would be inspired by the Honred King's death in The Black Cauldron (1985).
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