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January 23, 2013

‘Monkey Island’: Ron Gilbert ready for return voyage, is Disney?

Posted in: Games

Will Guybrush return? Creator Ron Gilbert says he'd like him to. The might pirate was last seen in Telltale's "Tales of Monkey Island." (Telltale Games / LucasArts).

Will Guybrush return? Creator Ron Gilbert says he’d like him to. The mighty pirate was last seen in Telltale’s “Tales of Monkey Island.” (Telltale Games / LucasArts)

Fans of Ron Gilbert’s “Monkey Island” series might want to take a seat in their “screaming chair” for this one.

The famed game designer wants to make another “Monkey Island” adventure, but he’s doubtful it will ever happen.

In a recent interview with Hero Complex to discuss his new adventure game “The Cave,” released this week by Double Fine Productions and Sega, Gilbert said, “I would love to make another ‘Monkey Island.’ Whether there is room for one …”

“The Secret of Monkey Island,” a graphical adventure Gilbert created while working for LucasArts in 1990, follows an unlikely (yet mighty) pirate named Guybrush Threepwood. To this day, it remains one of the more celebrated titles of the point-and-click era, championed for its mix of humor and its personality-driven story.

Guybrush and Elaine from "Tales of Monkey Island" (Telltale / LucasArts).

Guybrush and Elaine from “Tales of Monkey Island” (Telltale / LucasArts).

Characters, be it the ghost pirate LeChuck, the mysterious voodoo lady or the no-nonsense governor/love interest Elaine Marley, are all vital to not just exploring the islands but also to revealing different facets of Threepwood’s personality.

The property is now owned by Disney, which recently acquired Lucasfilm, and while the studio has announced that a new “Star Wars” film is coming in 2015, there’s been next to no word on the fate of some of the lesser-known Lucas properties.

Gilbert certainly has been trying to get executives’ attention.

“Dear Disney,” Gilbert tweeted when the Disney/Lucasfilm deal went public in October, “I would like to buy the IP for a game I created called ‘Monkey Island’ from you.” Then he added: “P.S. I have no money.”

Knowing that the architect of the beloved series — dubbed “the master” of the adventure game genre by Sega of America executive Chris Olson – actually wants to return to the fantastical and pun-filled world of Mêlée Island, but might never have the chance is beyond frustrating for fans, the equivalent, perhaps, of being caught in an endless battle of insult sword fighting.

Hero Complex reached out to Disney Interactive, which recently unveiled an ambitious new project dubbed “Infinity,” to see if anyone wanted to discuss “Monkey Island” but received no response.

Famously, “Monkey Island” has been compared to one of the studio’s biggest franchises — the similarities between the game and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films have long been a matter of debate and discussion.

Around the release of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” Gilbert wrote on his blog, “I’m thinking to myself, ‘Hey, I’ve seen this before… no… I’ve played this before… no… I’ve designed this before!’ I’m thinking, ‘This is the ‘Monkey Island Movie!’”

Separated at birth? At left, is ghost pirate Davy Jones  from "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." At right, is ghost pirate LeChuck from "Tales of Monkey Island. (Walt Disney Pictures / Telltale & LucasArts)

Separated at birth? At left is ghost pirate captain Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) from “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.” At right is ghost pirate captain LeChuck from “Tales of Monkey Island. (Walt Disney Pictures / Telltale & LucasArts)

The most obvious commonality, aside from the whimsical tone both share, is the use of ghost pirates and voodoo. “Monkey Island’s” LeChuck, in fact, looks rather similar to the Davy Jones of the “Pirates” film, minus the tentacles.

Of course, “Monkey Island” has made no effort to hide its debt to “Pirates of the Caribbean,” with “Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge” even ending at an amusement park.

Gilbert laughed when asked, inevitably, about the common ground.

“I did heavily base ‘Monkey Island’ off of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride,” he said. “There’s probably some circular stuff going on.”

Even without a new Gilbert-created effort, “Monkey Island” fans haven’t exactly been starved for content.

LucasArts released a total of four “Monkey Island” games — though Gilbert only spearheaded the first two — and in 2009 Telltale Games licensed the property from LucasArts for the five-part “Tales of Monkey Island.” Gilbert has spoken positively of Telltale’s take; though he was working on RPG “DeathSpank” at that time, he contributed some ideas to the project.

While he’d now love to book a return voyage, he’s circumspect about whether such a trip is likely to take place in the immediate future.

“I don’t really know,” he said. “My criteria for making one is so specific that I’m not so sure Disney would be into it. My ultimate dream is that I could eventually get those rights back, own them and do whatever I want with the ‘Monkey Island’ universe.”

There’s plenty of fans that share that dream.

– Todd Martens

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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