games reporter

Game, movie guys meet for 'Robinsons'

With the release of Disney Interactive's "Meet the Robinsons" video game, the Walt Disney Co. is looking at video games in a new light.

According to Dorothy McKim, producer of the CGI movie, the project marks the first time that gamemakers at Disney Interactive and Avalanche Studios collaborated with filmmakers on a game. She says Disney's Animation Studio head John Lasseter is open to this type of teamwork.

"In the future, with other projects coming out here, they're going to get in earlier and collaborate with us more closely on video game projects," says McKim, now a development producer for the studio.

THQ and Disney/Pixar instituted this type of exchange with the games behind such CGI films as "The Incredibles," "Cars" and this summer's "Ratatouille." These games incorporate the Hollywood actors from the big-screen incarnations and introduce new characters and ideas that were cut from the films. With "Robinsons," Disney is following this model.

"We brought in the Disney Interactive group and showed them a little bit of artwork and told them the story of the film about 2 1/2 years ago," says McKim, who adds that the film had been in development for about two years before that. "They came back a little while later with some ideas for the game, and we did a huge brainstorming section with our story guys."

Rather than focusing on the protagonists from the film, the games take two characters that appear for a few minutes in the movie and make them the focal point.

"Lizzie (voiced by Tracey Miller-Zarneke) and Stanley (Paul Butcher) are kids in the science fair," McKim says. "She has a fire ant farm and Stanley has a volcano. We were able to pull them and make them the villains of the story and then create their whole world. They'll interact with the characters from the movie, including the game's protagonists, Franny and Wilbur, throughout their adventures."

McKim says the actors from the movie whose characters appear in the game lent voices for this new interactive adventure. Harland Williams (Carl the robot) provides commentary throughout, while Nicole Sullivan (Franny), Wesley Singerman (Wilbur), director Steve Anderson (Grandpa) and Tom Selleck (Cornelius) are in the game, too.

"You get to go inside the Robinson house and explore it more than what you see in the movie," McKim says. "It goes deeper into what you see in the film. Because they took this different angle, gamers aren't going to relive the movie experience."

The world of the "Robinsons" film was replicated for the games through the sharing of digital assets. Disney allowed the gamemakers access to EVO, an internal program that creates weekly dailies in CGI. McKim worked as the liaison between the filmmakers and development studio to make sure changes to the film's story and characters were reflected in the game.

"The collaboration with the interactive group has been unbelievable," McKim says. "I felt as if they were in the building working with us the whole time, but they weren't. They were in Utah. They pushed the envelope with this game."

And there could be more virtual adventures down the line. THQ worked with Disney/Pixar to create a game follow-up to "Incredibles" a year after the original film and game debuted.

"If Steve Anderson wants to make a sequel to this movie, I'd invite the gamemakers in tomorrow," McKim says.