In 2016, when Disney shut down its internal games development and publishing arms, one major casualty was an unreleased project made by indie studio Dlala. But now it looks like at least some form of the game canceled back then is finally seeing the light of day.
Dlala’s original collaborative project with Disney was never officially announced. We know it involved a reboot of one of Disney’s biggest IPs, and would have been a four-player couch co-op platformer, “an episodic Metroidvania-style affair” with hand-drawn characters. And we know that Dlala had signed a $3.5 million deal to get it made. But when Disney exited publishing, Dlala’s game went with it after a year and a half of work.
Dlala was able to keep some of the payout, but had to very quickly pivot its plans to keep the studio alive long-term. And it succeeded, through contributions to games like Team17’s The Escapists, Modus’ Lost Words: Beyond the Page, and its own recent project: Battletoads.
But now, Dlala is back in partnership with Disney for a game that has at least some of the DNA of that canceled 2016 game. Announced today at the Disney and Marvel Games Showcase, we got a look at Disney Illusion Island: a four-player co-op platformer featuring Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald Duck.
Speaking to IGN, Disney VP of Disney, Pixar, and 20th Century Games Luigi Priore says that while Illusion Island is not the same game as the one Dlala had to cancel years ago, “a lot of foundational elements” remain the same. The original game, he says, didn’t have a name or a story yet, and was mostly focused on the characters. But both games share the Dlala DNA of multiplayer co-op, which was also present in Battletoads.
“Disney’s in a different place now,” Priore says. “Is it exactly the same game? It’s not. Is it Dlala? Yes. Are they bringing their creativity to it? Yes. Is it the same characters? Yes. It didn’t work then, but the environment changed with Sean Shoptaw [Senior VP, Walt Disney Games] taking over, with us bringing in people like John Drake on the business development side…we already knew [Dlala CEO] AJ [Grand-Scrutton] and the team at Dlala and we knew they could do great work, so we wanted to start a project and work with them to create this new game.”
Disney Illusion Island is coming exclusively to the Nintendo Switch later this year. You can read more about it and all the other announcements from today’s showcase in our news roundup.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.