Disney characters have appeared in a number of different games with varying levels of quality -- from the excellent DuckTales on NES, to the totally radical Disney Sports Skateboarding, to the fiddly controls of Epic Mickey in 2009.
But most of the titles that boast Disney characters cast the iconic Mickey Mouse as the star. We all know him and most of us love him, but variety is the spice of life. And Disney is really missing out by not letting some of its other characters take center stage in their own games.
Providing some of its forgotten characters with their own game-based narratives would present a unique opportunity for Disney to answer some of its fans' burning questions about them -- like when did Baloo get his pilot's license and move to Cape Suzette? Why is Pluto a proper dog but Goofy is an anthropomorphic canine? And why the heck is Minnie Mouse always second fiddle to Mickey?
Here are a few characters from Disney's archives that definitely deserve to be brought (back) to life in their own video games.
Baloo the Bear does have some games -- including one based on his pilot persona from Disney's 1990s cartoon TaleSpin. But the TaleSpin video game, developed by Capcom, was pretty hard no matter which platform you played it on. (Personally, I found the NES incarnation to be the hardest, and far less forgiving than Darkwing Duck.)
1994's The Jungle Book, published by Virgin Interactive, is an excellent game based on the original 1967 film of the same name. But Baloo is merely a supporting character there, as the player takes the role of Mowgli.
Baloo would benefit from a new game where he's the star, and I'd personally love to see one where we find out exactly how this bear went about getting his pilot's license. It could even be a direct prequel to TaleSpin, if Disney ever decided to remake that game. They seem to be into direct sequels when it comes to their IPs, so a prequel might be a fresh direction to head without feeling too unfamiliar!
Heck, you could even call it something like The Road from Jungle to TaleSpin. Perhaps it could be created as an action RPG game, where Baloo receives a letter summoning him from the jungle to Cape Suzette in order to help out a long-lost relative who's being harassed by Shere Khan and Don Karnage. Perhaps Baloo would lose Bagheera in a moment akin to Aeris' death in FF7?
Considering that Disney is already working with Square Enix on Kingdom Hearts, it would be a short leap to involve them in a new IP like this!
Unlike Goofy, who retains human characteristics, Pluto is portrayed as a regular dog and Mickey’s loyal pet. This has confused many Disney fans over the years -- and is perhaps why Pluto appears in the Kingdom Hearts series, where he acts as a messenger for a letter from King Mickey.
Having Pluto as the main star of a game akin to a 1990s character platformer will allow us to fulfill our childhood daydreams of being a dog. And Disney could include cameos of their other doggy characters, like Dug from Up and Pongo from 101 Dalmatians. Heck, you could even release some VR DLC where we actually get to be Pluto and chase cats, fetch papers, and bury bones!
Much like Pluto, Minnie tends to be second fiddle to Mickey if she is included in a game, and does not yet have a standalone game of her own. In the much-maligned NES classic game Mickey’s Mousecepade, you often have to rescue Minnie as she gets kidnapped. Given the recent resurgence in strong Disney women, as evident in Moana, the time is right to give Minnie her own game.
Minnie Mouse’s game should be an open world driving game in the vein of Grand Theft Auto or the more child-friendly Lego Undercover series. Perhaps we could see something dubbed Minnie’s Road Trip, with Minnie driving across America to meet other people and discover what makes her unique outside of her more famous beau. The trip may also involve adventuring for treasure in a vein similar to Lara Croft – perhaps she might run into Nicholas Cage and have a National Treasure crossover!
Figaro first appeared in the 1941 classic Pinocchio, where he (like Pluto) acts as a normal animal rather than sharing Goofy’s anthropomorphic qualities. After finding movie fame, he appeared in many animated shorts as a foil to Pluto (most notably in Pluto’s Sweater, when Figaro ended up in a sweater Minnie had knitted for Pluto after Pluto had deliberately shrunk it in the rain).
Disney has been very successful with domestic cats in The Aristocats and big cats in The Lion King. And I'd love to see a game called Figaro’s Big Adventure, where Figaro stows away on a steam ship from America to Italy, where he goes on a search for Gepetto. Such a game could perhaps have a VR expansion to allow the player to experience life as a cartoon cat and try their hand at outsmarting Pluto.
We know all about Phil’s success when Hercules saves Meg and becomes a hero -- but what we don’t from the 1997 Disney hit is how Phil trained heroes and champions long before Hercules came on the scene.
Phil may be smaller than most, but he is quite nimble. So it would be cool for him to battle in a badass style similar to Yoda in Star Wars. Phil’s game would be a co-op cartoony brawler or shooter similar to Smash Bros or Overwatch, in which you would be helping other Ancient Greek heroes (such as Achilles) fight various mythical beasts like minotaurs, the Hydra, or a sabre tooth tiger.
Disney could even get Danny DeVito to reprise his role with witty one liners whilst ridding the world of foes.
The Disney universe is an expansive one -- and it's gotta be a tough job for Disney animators to keep up with the lore in old comic books, animated shorts and TV series. This sometimes means that our favorite characters get left out of consideration for new ventures and IPs.
The five classic Disney characters we've examined here really deserve a game in their own right. They've either had a bad run of difficult or underwhelming games where they weren't the star, or they've just sat in Mickey's shadow for way too long. With all the advancements in technology and the proliferation of multiple IPs and development studios, now is a better time than ever to revisit some of these beloved characters.
Hopefully, someone at Disney is looking for inspiration and giving this a look. (If that's you, please give me a share of the profits, thanks!)
What Disney characters would you like to see make a return as the star of their own video game? Let me know down in the comments!