LucasArts' Secret History #14: Escape from Monkey Island The Disneyland Connection

Escape from Monkey Island: The Disneyland Connection

The game designers designed the art and storyline of Escape from Monkey Island to fit within the limitations of the 3D game technology. The bright colors of the pre-rendered backgrounds showed a limitation of the technology of the time, and that was that computer rendered images tended to look like plastic.

The plastic-looking buildings on the islands in Escape from Monkey Island were explained by an Australian private investor named Ozzie Mandrill buying all the land in the Caribbean. The businesses that were on these lands were redesigned into lifeless tourist traps that contained kitschy pirate surroundings, on the same spot where visitors could once find real pirates. This seemingly strange plot and setting actually got its inspiration from the same thing that inspired the original Monkey Island game: Disneyland.

The Secret of Monkey Island was based on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. This influence was later referenced in Monkey Island 2 with Walt the dog, who guarded the keys and was tempted by a bone in exactly the same way as the dog on the ride. The name Walt was a reference to Walt Disney, who, of course, designed Disneyland. The Disneyland influence on the series would also appear in the tunnels beneath Dinky Island in Monkey Island 2, where Guybrush would find an E-ticket, which was a ticket at Disneyland and Disney World that allowed the visitor to ride on the newest, most expensive, or most popular rides and attractions. The Disneyland influence also carried into The Curse of Monkey Island, with LeChuck frozen beneath The Carnival of the Damned, in reference to an urban legend which states that Walt Disney had himself cryogenically frozen and placed in a chamber under Disneyland.

The plot in Escape from Monkey Island was actually a clever satire of the state of the Disney theme parks in the late 1990's and early 2000's. Under Disney CEO Michael Eisner, the general feeling among the public was that the parks were less focused on entertainment and more focused on making money. In 1998, Tomorrowland in Disneyland was given a redesign, leaving many fans with the feeling that the new redesign lacked the enthusiasm and soul that was evident in the creation of the other areas of the park. Like Ozzy Mandrill's redesign of the Scumm Bar into the Lua Bar, Tomorrowland seemed like a tacky version of its former self.

The entire Jambalaya Island is a reference to the Disney theme park experience. From the Micro Groggery which serves drinks influenced by grog, but doesn't serve the original beverage of which the drinks are based, to the tourists who hate real pirates but love the fake pirate actors. But, the biggest reference to the Disney Theme Parks in the Michael Eisner era, is the restaurant which is themed after Guybrush Threepwood himself.

Planet Threepwood is, of course, a parody of the real life restaurant chain Planet Hollywood. But its appearance in the Monkey Island universe makes more sense than at first meets the eye. All of the restaurants in Disney theme parks were once given artwork and background stories that fit the theme of the part of the park where they were located. This changed when Planet Hollywood restaurants opened in Disney theme parks such as Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World. These restaurants don't fit into the mystique of the areas of the parks the occupy, but rather are just standard tourist traps which seem sorely out of place among the atmosphere present in the rest of the areas in the parks.

As you can see, what at first glance seems out of place in the Monkey Island universe actually fits within it quite snugly. All of the games in the Monkey Island universe show their Disneyland influence, but outside of Monkey Island 2, no other game in the series shows that influence as clearly as Escape from Monkey Island. And, being as huge of a Disney fangirl as I am, I love the designers dearly for it.

-- Jennifer McMurray

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