All-new characters arrive for Disney Infinity: Execs hint at even more to come
Disney Infinity is continuing its march into bedrooms and living rooms across the world. Following the initial launch sets of toys that included Captain Jack Sparrow and Mr Incredible, Disney has rolled out a host of new characters for kids and grown-ups to enjoy in the toy box element of the game.
This time around films like Wreck-it Ralph, Frozen, Tangled and The Nightmare Before Christmas are featured, but as the game's executive producer John Vignocchi and art director Jeff Bunker explained to Pocket-lint, the new characters are just another part of major plans Disney has for the franchise.
That's not to say that the new characters, or any other characters, are easy to simply push out. Disney Infinity toys come with their own unique caveats. "When you are making a virtual character you can make anything work and do it without much care, but when you have to make that character real and worry about manufacturing issues it is not that easy," said Bunker.
Jeff Bunker is the studio art director at Avalanche Software, the developer tasked with creating the Disney Infinity universe. Before Infinity, Bunker art directed the Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 video games and is now in charge of creating the stylised collectors’ figures for the game.
Disney Infinity, the company's answer to Activision's Skylanders, is slowly building its character roster. Starting with a handful of Disney characters, the aim is to very much build up the platform by tapping into the vast world of Disney licences, from its Pixar movies to classics. Even the Lucas Arts catalogue it has just acquired will be reaped at some point.
Popular characters so far include Rapzunel from Tangled, plus Dash and Violet from The Incredibles. But the pair we spoke to are just as excited about the new Frozen characters, Elsa and Anna, even if they only appear in the toy box mode of the game at the moment.
"There is so much we could do," added Bunker. "Right now we are trying to give breath and depth to the fans."
Those fans range from gamers to high-level executives within Disney, we were told. "You would be amazed by the lobbying that goes on internally," Vignocchi said.
"Wall-E, for example, was a possible launch character. A very senior exec wanted Wall-E," added Bunker.
Wall-E - Pocket-lint's wanted character if we had a choice - could be coming therefore, but the cute rubbish-collecting, Hello Dolly-dancing robot isn't either of the two's first choice regardless of whether they become a reality.
"I would love Captain Eo" said Vignocchi.
If you are struggling to remember that character from the huge Disney catalogue it's because he was from a short 3D science-fiction film starting Michael Jackson and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It was only shown in Disney theme parks in the late 80s. Niche.
John Vignocchi, the executive producer, is basically the man who works closely with the team at Avalanche Software and filmmakers around the company to help deliver true-to-property experiences for Disney Infinity. It is something that is a task in itself, especially when you see that the characters in the game are not always identical to those in the movies.
"We had to work very closely with Tim Burton to get him to allow us to change Jack Skellington for the game," he said. The iconic figure's hands are bigger.
Bunker's choices for added characters aren't so left-field as Vignocchi's, but still quite niche. Taking advantage of the new LucasArts licence bought earlier this year by Disney, Bunker would like the Guybrush Threepwood from the Monkey Island adventure games to feature in Disney Infinity. Or Launchpad McQuack or Scrooge McDuck from DuckTales.
"We really pay attention to the community, the forums and messages we get when it comes at working out which characters are next," said Vignocchi.
So who's still to come? Vignocchi and Bunker are both coy, having spewed out names in such a way that neither confirms nor rejects what's possible or coming.
We mention Ariel from Little Mermaid, but are told that although they would love to have her it would mean water would have to be added to the game first.
Then there's the original troupe. Mickey was not present at launch, but soon turned up dressed as the wizard's apprentice from Fantasia. However, Donald, Goofy, Minnie and Pluto are missing. Again not ruled out, but not confirmed either.
"A few more characters will come out over the next couple of months," the duo teased. Still, it would be hard to keep up with the character generation machine of Activision and Skylanders. Especially now that SwapForce characters allow fans to create new figures from two others.
"We don't try and compete against Skylanders because our characters stand on their own," said Bunker. "We see ourselves as a game creator, our competitors are Minecraft, Little Big Planet and Lego."
Disney's hope is that the characters it has been creating for the last 80 years are so powerful that worrying about the need to let you put Jack Skellington's head on Rapunzel's will never, ever have to come up in a brainstorming meeting.