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On this day 16 years ago: Bill Tiller revealed the secret of Monkey Island 09 Feb, 2019 / 7 comments

Now we've got a brand spanking new Mojo, but not much new news to report, let's take a look backwards into some (possibly) forgotten history.

Back on February 8th, 2003, exactly 16 years ago to the day, Bill Tiller (famed lead artist on The Curse of Monkey Island), graciously attended a fan-hosted IRC chat (ask your grandparents), and for 30 minutes answered their questions. One question came out of a thread on TheScummBar's LucasForums, and it was this:

The "secret" of Monkey Island has come up in some forums recently. Can I just ask you - what was Ron Gilbert's Secret of Monkey Island? Do you know it? Was it all a kid's imagination or is that just a theory?

Bill Tiller went on to give probably the most explicit and straightforward answer regarding the "secret" of Monkey Island, and Monkey Island 2's contentious ending that has ever been given.

And it was this:

Well this is all I know, and I learned it from Larry Ahern and Dave Grossman. Ron went to Disneyland, rode Pirates of the Caribbean ride. thought it was cool and wondered what it would be like to get out of the boat and explore the pirates cave and village. Calvin and Hobbes was very popular back then. It is a daily cartoon strip about a boy and his stuffed tiger going on all sorts of adventures and imagining themselves in all sorts of different things like dinosaurs, spacemen and monsters.

I speculate that Ron combined the to together - Pirates of the Caribbean and Calvin and Hobbes - and created Guybrush.

I was told that the ending of MI2 was originally going to be the ending of MI1. But Dave Grossman and Tim Shafer didn't like it an talked Ron out of it. Then I heard from Larry Ahern that two to three months before MI2 was supposed to be done, an ending had still not been decided upon. And about then Ron decided to go with the amusement park ending he was originally going to use in MI1.

The explanation I heard is that Guybrush was lost in the Pirates Ride at Big Whoop Amusement Park the whole time, imagining the whole adventure. Then Chucky, his mean older brother goes and pulls him back to reality. The end. And that magical lightning coming out of Chucky's eyes and Elaine waiting by the hole on Dinky Island (which sounds a lot like Disney Land) was put there just in case there was to be a Monkey Island 3.

The secret is that the MI world is not real. now I have no clue how Ron would have written his way out of the MI2 ending. He either knows and isn't telling. Or He doesn't know and he isn't telling you he doesn't know. Or he has a bunch of ides of what he would do and isn't telling you that either.That is a bigger secret then what the secret of Monkey Island is.

But secret being that the whole MI world is imagined sucks. Why? Because we want the world of Monkey Island to be real, not in a kids imagination.

Enter big whoop the portal of hell. Lechuck goes in, comes out a powerful ghost. Then he is killed again, comes back as a zombie and hatches a plan to lure pirates through the portal of big whoop and come out zombie/ ghosts. Guybrush had spell cast on him and that is why he was a little kid. he escaped Big whoop in a bumper/ dodgem car and reverts back. Elaine had to rush back to Puerto pollo to defend it from Lechuck renewed attacks because Guybrush is safely under his spell back on Monkey Island. That is the official secret of monkey island in CMI.

Sean [Clarke] and Mike [Stemmle, lead designers on Escape from Monkey Island] don't like that secret or want to add to it, so they either borrow Dave Grossman's idea that the monkey head is jut the top of a giant monkey robot, or they came up with it independently. That is the official secret of Monkey Island in EMI.

Is this all cleared up now? There is no 'one' secret of Monkey Island. Period. Maybe in Monkey5 there will be yet another one. Personally I'd like to know more about Guybrush' s origins. Where did he come from? Who are his parents? Any brothers or sisters? WHo was the voodoo priest who brought LeChuck back to life?


Thank you Bill Tiller! And to mymipage for hosting the event and asking the question! Read the complete interview here courtesy of Archive.org.

(Note: On this day 16 years ago... yesterday (unless you're in the US). I missed it by a few minutes!)

7 Comments

  • Avatar
    Javier Tolstoi on 10 Feb, 2019, 08:38…
    I think that the secret and the ending of MI II are not related at all.
    The secret of MI was really a small joke in the first game without an actual content behind it.
    And the mysterious ending of MI II might mean that they're just kids in a dream world 'n all. But that's a different thing.
    And the hints in Thimbleweed Park were, in my opinion, hints to a later-ly-assigned secret. Not to what the original intentions had been in 1990.
    Well that's just my hömblé opinion.
  • Avatar
    OzzieMonkey on 10 Feb, 2019, 08:36…

    AlfredJ

    The biggest mistake Ron Gilbert made (assuming he ever gets to make another MI, and yeah, you know...) was suggesting that there was ever supposed to be an actual secret. That caused way too many fans to take that idea too seriously, instead of treating the entire concept as the joke it obviously is. Now he's in a Lost (the tv show) situation: whatever the explanation is going to be, it's never going to be good/funny/satisfying enough. Although I do like Tiller's suggestion of just endlessly adding more and more contradictory explanations of the nature of the world of Monkey Island. That might just pull it back into being the joke it was always meant to be.

    But of course, that's assuming there will ever be another Monkey Island, and that Ron would be involved. Which I would love, but not because of any mysteries I want answers to. I just like the jokes.

    Thimbleweed Park probably already gave the closest answer we're ever going to get anyway.



    Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I think the "secret" is to be taken at face value. Creators of popular culture often feel pressured into answering questions they never thought themselves to ask. People to this day still think that George Lucas had all 6 Star Wars films planned, which from the prequels alone makes it pretty evident he was winging most of it (and it frustrates the hell out of me that people use Disney's method of creating the new trilogy as some kind of knock against them because they're not planned out). At the end of the day, not every storyteller has some intricately woven plot for the worlds they create, some people take one entry at a time. We give them a little too much credit, really. Not everyone is JK Rowling writing Harry Potter (and if you look at all the Pottermore stuff and these spinoff films, some would argue she's bitten off far more than she could, or should, chew) . I think that Ron probably knows that the likelihood of him ever taking on the franchise again is slim to impossible and he's taking advantage of that by alluding to things he'll most likely never get to fully realize. The series moved past him literally decades ago and I think deep down he knows that. I think the idea of Monkey Island having many secrets is way more appealing and leaves tonnes more room for wacky and creative adventures to come (if ever), so IF Ron were to do one, that would be a really cool way to go. Honestly though I'd be more keen to see a continuation of Tales than MI3.
  • Avatar
    ThunderPeel2001 on 10 Feb, 2019, 05:20…
    Totally agree. I always assumed that the “secret” of Monkey Island was a cool sounding title, in keeping with other adventure game titles of that era, and nothing more.
  • Avatar
    Remi on 10 Feb, 2019, 02:40…

    AlfredJ

    Thimbleweed Park probably already gave the closest answer we're ever going to get anyway.



    Bingo.
  • Avatar
    AlfredJ on 10 Feb, 2019, 02:10…
    The biggest mistake Ron Gilbert made (assuming he ever gets to make another MI, and yeah, you know...) was suggesting that there was ever supposed to be an actual secret. That caused way too many fans to take that idea too seriously, instead of treating the entire concept as the joke it obviously is. Now he's in a Lost (the tv show) situation: whatever the explanation is going to be, it's never going to be good/funny/satisfying enough. Although I do like Tiller's suggestion of just endlessly adding more and more contradictory explanations of the nature of the world of Monkey Island. That might just pull it back into being the joke it was always meant to be.

    But of course, that's assuming there will ever be another Monkey Island, and that Ron would be involved. Which I would love, but not because of any mysteries I want answers to. I just like the jokes.

    Thimbleweed Park probably already gave the closest answer we're ever going to get anyway.
  • Avatar
    ThunderPeel2001 on 09 Feb, 2019, 15:06…
    Yeah, can't say I've ever had the burning desire to learn more about Guybrush's history. It would be like that SOLO movie: I'm very happy remaining ignorant of Han Solo's past.

    I found it interesting that Grossman and Schafer didn't like the "kid's dream" idea, and vetoed it in MI1. It throws Gilbert's talk about ambiguous endings into question, too. Seems like he retroactively decided that's what MI2's ending was all about, rather than it being a brilliant plan. (After all, he has always claimed to have an idea for MI3, which would have cleared up ambiguity in MI2's ending if had ever been made.)

    Anyways, been a long time since these sorts of conversations happened around here :)
  • Avatar
    Kroms on 09 Feb, 2019, 12:46…
    If there's one thing I don't want to know more of, it's Guybrush's past. Whatever crazy happenstance made him want to become a pirate (and that includes the idea that he's just a kid with a big imagination) can stay securely in the realms of, well, big imagination.

    Also, props to whoever designed the new LucasArts news logo. That's hilarious.

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