by David McDougal
Screen2Screen is a series where we explore software adaptations of films and television series -- the weird, the wacky, the somewhat obscure. In this edition, Disney’s Aladdin on the Sega Genesis — let’s see if it holds up!
When we left off on our previous edition, Disney was in a bit of a pickle. Their hot new property, the masterful Aladdin, was ready to arrive in theatres and Disney did not even have a game for the hot hot Sega Genesis fully in development! A collaboration with Blue Sky proved fruitless, as Blue Sky had started work on a competent if generic platformer, but competent was not enough for The Mouse.
So Disney turned to Virgin Interactive, a UK company that were making a name for themselves with ingenious, well-animated platformers like the underrated Cool Spot and the lushly rendered Global Gladiators. The problem with this match made in heaven? The license still belonged to Sega, so Sega had to agree to Virgin’s game concept even if (by Disney’s own decree) they would not be involved in the game’s development. Sega, instead, would be responsible for pushing the product they same way they would a Sonic game — Jeffery Katzenberg’s Disney was about to enter the field of high-level video game marketing, something it had never attempted before.
So, with a little bit of corporate muscling from Disney, Sega relented and let the game go through. The problem? At this point, from agreement on all parties to start production early 1993, the game’s release date was an inflexible October 1993, so that it would both coincide with the VHS release of the film and not compete with any upcoming Sonic projects.
So, the entire game had to be designed in less than eight months, from the ground up. Disney and Virgin had none of the access to assets Blue Sky head developed in the proceeding year, and frankly they didn’t want them. So the only way for Virgin’s head developer David Perry (not that David Perry) to get anything remotely resembling a good game out the door by October 1993 was enlisting the help of Disney’s legendary animation department.
Disney Animation is a monolith in the world of animation — they tower over everything. Their exceptional attention to detail, fluid and dynamic style, and incredible character design were unlike almost anything the animation world had ever seen.
And they had never collaborated with video games developers on any of their games. Until Aladdin.
David Perry was concerned, understandably so, that the animators would riot at the prospect of being forced into the dredges of low-art video game development. To his surprise, and perhaps because it was Jeffrey Kratzenberg cracking the whip from above, Disney’s animators were more than happy to assist with sharing their assets and developing new ones.
The crunch process, as you might imagine, legendary. Reports of fourteen hour workdays were the norm, usually six or seven days a week.
From here, though? The game came out on time. And it was a roaring hit, becoming the third largest grossing Sega Genesis game of all time, praised by critics and fans alike for its eye-popping graphics, animation, and sound.