Disney's Mirrorverse Brings Disney And Pixar To A Whole New World June 23

40 of Disney and Pixar's famous characters will be reimagined like never before in this mobile action-RPG.

11 Comments

Walt Disney Games and Kabam Entertainment are partnering up for Disney's Mirrorverse, an action-RPG launching June 23 on mobile devices that brings Disney and Pixar characters together in a brand-new adventure.

Mirrorverse is set in an alternate universe where enemies called the Fractured are attempting to break the Stellar Mirror and harness its magic. Some of Disney and Pixar's most famous characters--both heroes like Sulley from Monsters Inc. and villains like Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent--have been amplified by the magic produced by the mirror in order to protect it, turning them into Guardians that fight the Fractured hordes.

These Guardians are reimaginations of those iconic Disney characters, giving them new powers and abilities. Beauty and the Beast's Belle, for example, is a powerful sorceress wielding a staff powered by the cursed rose from Beast's castle, while the aforementioned Sulley is a melee warrior tank wearing armor made from the doors of the Scream Floor. 40 Guardians will be available to unlock at launch, with more coming via monthly content releases post-launch.

Disney's Mirrorverse is casting a brand-new light on some of the most famous characters in history, turning them into powerful warriors of both might and magic. GameSpot recently spoke with two key members of the game's development team, executive producer Mark Raham from Kabam and VP of creative Will Rosas from Walt Disney Games, about what makes this new Disney game different from anything we've played before.

We spent time discussing the thought process behind Mirrorverse, especially the radical departure from what Disney fans would consider the norm. Character designs, building a brand-new story from scratch, and how far into the Disney vault Kabam will go in future releases are all discussed, and I came out of the interview with a clear understanding of why this new look at Disney will be a welcome one.

This interview was conducted via video conferencing and edited for readability and clarity.

GameSpot: A lot of the character designs that we saw would be considered "out of the box" for the characters they're portraying. How much freedom was Kabam given to design the characters this way, and how much collaboration with Disney went into these designs?

Mark Raham: This has been a really amazing partnership with Disney. One thing that we decided pretty early on is that these amazing evolutions of these characters that everyone knows have to be rooted in authenticity. We did a lot of testing early on around this concept, and the one thing that kept coming back to us was this: if you preserve the core of who that character is, if that's still present in the battle-ready evolved version of Mirrorverse, then people are willing to accept it and love it.

What's been really exciting about developing this game is working with Will and our partners at Disney hand in hand to really understand those core essences. Who are these people? What matters to them? The Mirrorverse is a world where the forces of light and dark are really exaggerated to a cataclysmic degree compared to these characters' original films. What would they do in these extraordinary circumstances and how would they adapt in order to stand up for what they believe in and the people that they care about? That part has been an amazing process.

Will Rosas: To echo that, the collaboration with Kabam has been phenomenal. We're big fans of their game Marvel: Contest of Champions, they've done a phenomenal job in terms of the execution, the action, and the storytelling. We were thrilled to work with these guys again.

To Mark's point, if you're going to take these guys and put them into this high-stakes world, how do you evolve their design in order to "meet the moment?" That's a big thing here; you don't want to necessarily take them and place them into this world. They have to be ready to meet the moment. That's where we're able to evolve their designs, which are still rooted in authenticity, and that's what makes it plausible. That's what makes players believe that this can happen, and this idea is what got us the buy-in from the rest of the organization.

It makes sense that there would be a few more hoops to jump through, from a design standpoint, in order to turn Belle into a sorceress than, say, have Sulley being a tank with armor made from the doors of his factory. Belle as a magic-wielder is a bit more of a mental leap, but after seeing her in-game it makes perfect sense.

Rosas: You're hitting on something there that's very important to Mirrorverse, and that's storytelling. Storytelling is at the heart of everything that we do; we've got these ideas around these characters, but we have to have a bit of backstory in order to present them. Some of these things you'll see via the in-game bios for each character, like with Belle in particular there were some choices that were made. The world of the Mirrorverse is changed, amplified by what's called "stellar magic," and that creates this divergent path that turns Belle into the sorceress that she is.

The presentation we saw made reference to the references in each of the characters, for example the stone in Belle's magical staff is the rose from Beauty and the Beast, or the part of Sulley's armor that has Boo's door number written on it. Clearly there will be little things like this to find on all of the characters, so how challenging was it to research what would make the perfect reference to include in these character designs? Was there an attempt to balance references that might be too obscure versus those that everyone will know?

Raham: We feel like there has to be those layers, right? The ideal thing is someone who's familiar with a movie because they watched it on Disney+ or played with an action figure would recognize some familiar faces, while the true, die-hard Disney fans who are super-steeped in the lore will have things to find targeted to them in every single character, maybe even more than one for some characters.

Is there one reference in particular that you're particularly proud of?

Raham: It's hard to pick just one, they're like my kids. I'm extremely proud of what the character team between Kabam and Disney is building. One of my favorites--what I'm playing in the game right now--is Maui from Moana. In the Mirrorverse, the "stellar magic" has changed Maui's relationship with the sun and the earth, giving him different powers. In gameplay, he's an amazing tank that can also protect those around him. He's got these radiant tattoos coming off of him that blast magic off of them, and his talents can be customized in such a way that he gives armor to his teammates during combat. His story is great, his visual representation is awesome, and he's super useful in the dungeon mode.

Rapunzel is another great one, she's actually one of our starter Guardians right out of the gate. She's a powerhouse melee fighter that's really easy for new users to understand: push button, swing medieval battle frying pan. She has a nice, gratifying action feel, and her magical hair can add healing in a pinch. Her dialogue is sharp, she's funny and curious about the world, and it really feels like the actual Rapunzel from Tangled is going on this adventure with you.

Will there be alternate costumes/skins for each of the heroes? Other mobile games have employed them in the past, and as you've mentioned Maui, we now like the idea of playing with Sharkhead Maui.

Raham: I'll go back to authenticity for this question; it's really important for us that every single one of these Guardians is rooted in a truth about who they are and what they've gone through. As such, I don't know that something like a magical hat would make sense in our game. We want this to be a game that people really invest emotionally into for years to come, and to that end we want a real sense of place, story, and purpose for these characters. Their visual representation is going to be driven by what's happened in this world and what will happen going forward.

In terms of customization and personal expression, we're going to focus on that more on the player side rather than the in-game characters with icons and decorations, mixing and matching to say "this is who I am as a player."

You mentioned wanting players to enjoy the game for many years. Obviously there's a massive vault of Disney content that characters can be pulled from. How deep into the vault would Kabam be willing (or allowed) to go for character ideas? Are there any limits to what you can pull from?

Raham: From Kabam's perspective, we're definitely not going to exhaust the pantheon of Disney content. What's great about the world we've set up is that we can reach into the vault of Disney classics, from the iconic animated movies to live-action films and even to Pixar movies and shorts, with a reason to bring them together in a cohesive way, which is really great.

In terms of who and how, even looking at the launch list you'll see expected franchise blockbusters like Elsa, Jack Sparrow, and those types of characters. However, you're also going to find characters that our players have told us resonate with them. Scrooge McDuck is a perfect example; Scrooge is in the game because players have said, "Scrooge is the man, we want to play with him in this game." The possibility to dig deep and find things that mean a lot to our players gives us a lot of opportunities.

Rosas: I completely agree with that, and I would also say that as Disney and Pixar continue to add new content through films and Disney+, there's opportunities there to introduce new characters into the world as well. There really is an infinite amount of characters we can choose from, and there's going to be a combination of fan favorites, new characters, names that the team is passionate about, and more. It's really exciting, and I think there's a lot of great characters to come.

Speaking of those infinite possibilities, could Mirrorverse expand into other Disney-owned properties like Marvel and Star Wars, or will it focus strictly on the aforementioned Disney and Pixar?

Raham: For now we want to focus on getting this right, and there is already a lot to work with. I want to be sure we don't spread our attention too thin, because it's the small details that matter most.

Rosas: I would add that while we really appreciate our Marvel and Star Wars fans, I think Mirrorverse features Disney and Pixar characters in gaming like you've never seen them before, and I think we want to continue down that path. Whenever you see a new character, there's both a surprise and delight around what that character can look like. What is the Guardian version of that character? That question really excites us when we think about it, there's an unexpected nature around how these characters are represented in this game. If you're a big fan of Sorcerer Mickey, for example, wait until you've seen our version--he's unlike anything you've seen. There's so much richness in the Disney and Pixar universes, and we're going to really lean into that.

Regarding the idea of the Mirrorverse itself: Was it something that started at Kabam that was then presented to Disney, or was this built from the ground up as a collaboration as a brand-new Disney-themed project?

Raham: We had a great relationship with Disney previously thanks to Marvel: Contest of Champions. We've known each other for a long time and enjoy working with each other. Contest has been out for six-plus years now and we're hitting a large part of planet Earth every single day. We wanted the opportunity to do that with a new story, with new properties, and working with our partners to do that.

At the very beginning of the discussion, there was an opportunity identified to say, "Does this have to be a cross-over or mashup, or can we build something really new that really lasts and people want to play for 4-5 years down the line?" What it came down to was, we had to build a brand-new lore, new mythology, and a new grounding for that type of storytelling.

Rosas: It took us a bit to get to this place, as we tried to consider how people think about these characters, how it is possible for them to do the things they're doing in this world, etc. The characters don't normally coexist, so what is the event that brings them all together? What is this high-stakes world, and is it worthy of bringing them all to it? What's the call to action when the characters get here? Building all of this got us incredibly excited and working towards the setup and the power of the mirror symbol in both Disney and Pixar. We started riffing, and we're super thrilled about where we landed.

How long would you say development has been going on Mirrorverse? When did the project first begin?

Raham: We started talking about the idea of Mirrorverse and building the foundation back in 2018. It really was a process of not rushing to the end; as Will said a lot of these characters have never talked to each other before, and we had to have a grounding for that. Have Belle and Maleficent ever talked about things like magic with each other before? These were the things we had to consider while talking about ideas and concepts and stories. Getting that part solid and clear, making sure people understood the reasoning behind this concept, was the first big job.

How are you planning to tell your story in Mirrorverse? Will there be seasons? Will there be one overarching story with follow-up stories coming later on? How will that structure work?

Raham: The main story is told through the game's Story Mode, which has eight chapters. Within that story there are specific arcs, but as you know, this is mobile: the game is never done. You can look at Contest of Champions for example, building out dozens of characters and creating tons of dialogue within the game and the community. That's what we think Mirrorverse is ripe for; speculation, anticipation, and eventually our community working together to find out what's next.

This last question is focused on the Disney side of things: the Mirrorverse idea is a bit of a departure from the "standard" thought when it comes to the way that these characters are portrayed. If an idea would ever be brought to you by Kabam or another company that is a similar departure--for example a Street Fighter-style fighting game with Disney characters--would those ideas be considered, or is there a boundary to how far you'd be willing to go with how characters are portrayed?

Rosas: I don't think we ever go into initial conversations with partners with any preconceived notions. We always have an open mind, and that's actually how we approached Mirrorverse. When Kabam and us started talking, we were really excited about the idea and immediately started planning how to do this. We always go into these things with an open mind, while providing clear swing lanes for various teams to carve out a unique story that works for them and these characters.

Our goal with any of our partners is to tell original stories. The medium of gaming is an incredible platform; we've got so many fans, and we want to make sure we're not just retelling stories from films. We want to make sure we're building new experiences, innovating in how gamers see our characters and worlds, and reintroduce them to characters they haven't seen in a while if ever before. This is an absolute thrill for us, because when you play these characters you get to see them in a whole new light through actions, dialogue, and more. We're bringing something new, and that's ultimately what gamers want, what Disney fans want, and it's a really exciting medium for us to tell new stories.

Jason Fanelli on Google+

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Join the conversation
There are 11 comments about this story