In the first episode of Double Fine’s new “Devs Play” series, Westwood Studios co-founder Louis Castle explores the challenges of turning one of Disney’s most beloved animated films into a 16-bit platformer. I’ve learned so much.
I’m a huge fan of The Lion King for the Sega Genesis. I still remember buying a Genesis bundle that included the game from a local Media Play, the first console I’d ever purchased for myself with my own money. I’ve still got the cartridge here in my office as I type this.
I thought I knew everything there was to know about the game’s development, but the stories Castle tells as Double Fine’s Greg Rice plays (expertly) through the game are pretty astounding. For instance, none of the levels between Simba growing up and confronting Scar were simply padding — the team created them based on content that was cut from the movie, a whole series of adult Simba adventures.
My favourite story regards the game’s famous forward-facing stampede level, in which Simba has to dodge animals coming at him from behind while jumping over obstacles. This strange departure from the game’s core platforming gameplay made Disney nervous, to the point where they called a meeting with the devs in order to scrap it. Westwood got the heads up about the meeting however, and while the Disney rep made his case to scrap the level, they booted up the game and started playing it.
The whole video is fascinating, packed with behind-the-scenes information on what it was like to create a 16-bit game for Disney back in the day.