American McGee Interview Follow-Up: OZombie cancelled, Alice Film Rights

Alice_in_Otherland_Concept_ArtRight after our previous interview was conducted, American McGee cancelled the “OZombie” Kickstarter in favor of a new Kickstarter with a limited timeframe. This new Kickstarter is for “Alice: Otherlands” whereby he is trying to get the film rights to “Alice.” With a goal of $200,000, which at the time of this writing was at over 50% funded with 10 days to go, American McGee and Spicy Horse hope to bring us back to the “Alice” universe with a series of animated shorts which could potentially lead up to a feature film or even another game.

American McGee was gracious enough to answer some follow up questions we had regarding “OZombie,” “Alice,” and other sundry things. Thank you again to American and to Spicy Horse for the interview.

Gerry: So now that the “OZombie” Kickstarter has been suspended, what is the current status of “OZombie” and what plans do you have for it in the future?

American McGee: For now it’s simply on the back burner. Plenty of our supporters are asking that we revive it and try again. My personal feeling at this point is that the market has spoken. In my mind there’s no point in trying again with something that failed to get traction – at least no point in trying anytime soon. The first time I tried to make an Oz game (and failed) happened over 10 years ago. This recent attempt also failed. Maybe I’ll wait another 10 years and try again? Maybe Oz is doomed to fail? Cursed? Who knows?

G: Had you planned the “Otherlands” story arc from the very first Alice game?

AMG: With “Alice” I knew from the start that potential existed for additional journeys and sequels. The shape of Madness Returns and Otherlands didn’t come into focus until later. For Madness Returns I started thinking about the story some years after the first Alice was released. For Otherlands I formed the central idea when we were finishing Madness Returns. I’ve said before, but it’s worth repeating, I don’t feel like I’m really creating these stories. They come to me in nearly complete form – as if Alice is telling me how things should be.

G: There is a very large list of characters that Alice might be visiting the minds of including Jules Verne, Thomas Edison, and even Ulysses S. Grant. What was your method in choosing those individuals and how do they factor into the bigger story?

AMG: We have basic rules regarding Alice’s ability to enter these “Otherlands.” The most obvious one is that the mind she’s invading must be alive – and since our game takes place (starting) in 1876, that limits us to a range of dates beyond that year. I’d like to avoid Alice entering the mind of an infant – even if that infant eventually grows up to be someone extraordinary. There’s also the issue of whether Alice is able to enter someone mind at a distance – or if she must have direct contact with them (the Vulcan Mind Meld problem) – we’re still working to answer that question.

For the Otherlands animation project, we’re choosing based on characters that will provide us rich subconscious landscapes for Alice’s “vacations of the mind.” For the game, we’ll present a series of minds that are connected by their ability to shape the future – and by extension, provide interesting “levers” for Alice to pull. Ultimately, Alice’s journeys in the game are going to be about manipulating the interior mental spaces of these minds in order to impact the world outside. You never know which butterfly wings result in what hurricanes – so putting together that tapestry is going to be interesting.

G: What style of animation, such as anime, western, rotoscoped, etc, will you be looking at for “Alice: Otherlands?” Will it be a consistent style across all of the minds or will the style vary depending on who she is entering?

AMG: The plan is to present a wide range of styles from a number of different animators, directors and writers. The more the merrier. Consistency is certainly not the goal. I think each individual mind should have a tone and style all its own. The animations will reflect that idea.

G: One of the questions in the AMA asked how you were able to “break away from standard female video game stereotypes” in “Alice.” I’d like to ask the question a bit differently, were there any real world women that you based Alice’s character and/or appearance on?

AMG: As I’ve said before, I feel Alice speaks to me in a very direct fashion. When I see proposals for her dresses or physical proportions, it’s like there’s this little voice in my head that says, “that’ll do,” or, “no way.” As much as possible I try to stay out of the way and let that voice be the guide. One of the things I like about Alice is that she’s original in so many ways. She doesn’t look or feel like something “outside.”

G: You’ve mentioned a variety of influences both literary and multimedia on both the Kickstarter page and the AMA you just completed. If you had to build a reading or watching list for people of your personal influences, what would that list include?

AMG: It would be a spastic list. If you look at what I happen to be reading right now, you’ll get some idea. Next to my bed or on my Kindle you’ll find… “Don Casey’s Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual”, “The Personal MBA,” a collection of all the Wizard of Oz books, “A People’s History of the United States,” a book on Chinese idioms, “Light Years” by James Salter, “Uses of Enchantment,” and “Build your own CNC Machine.”

I like to absorb as many topics as possible – on everything from psychology and physics to electronics and cooking. My fiction reading spans sci-fi and mystery, thrillers and Westerns (big Louis L’Amour fan). Same goes with films and music. There’s very little I won’t try once – as I feel inspiration comes from all around us. It’s all about being open to the world.

G: Like our last interview our final question is one for you: is there anything you have not been asked or would like to say to people?

AMG: Would be the same response as before I guess – help us get the word out about the new campaign. Would be a shame if the Alice rights ended up in the hands of some faceless corporation.

G: Thank you again for doing another interview with us! Good luck with the Alice Kickstarter and I know I am looking forward to seeing what you do with the “Otherlands.”