Evidence has emerged that Warren Spector's Junction Point Studios is working on a game codenamed "Epic Mickey" for the Wii, offering a dark, steampunk-style take on Mickey Mouse and the Magic Kingdom.
Most of the evidence comes from the rumour-hunter's faithful friend - concept artists' websites - and appears to corroborate a Gamasutra report from late last year that first identified the "Epic Mickey" codename.
Tireless digger Superannuation has turned up the website of concept artist Tony Pulham, whose resumé reveals he recently joined Junction Point to work on "Epic Mickey", and identifies it as a Wii game.
Another Superannuation post unearthed some beautiful concepts for "Epic Mickey" on the website of artist Fred Gambino. Pictures show the Mickey Mouse ears adorning a gigantic, crumbling paddle-steamer, the spires of the Magic Kingdom castle perched atop a twisted tower of rock, and a semi-mechanical "Zombie Goofey" [sic].
Meanwhile, a poster on the NeoGAF forum has found what appear to be the same concepts described in the original Gamasutra report, showing more distorted, nightmarish, mechanical versions of classic Disney characters, including the Seven Dwarves. They come from the artist Gary Glover's site.
Disney Interactive Studios bought Junction Point - which Deus Ex mastermind Spector formed with several other Ion Storm alumni - two years ago. Not long after, it was rumoured - notably in American gaming magazine EGM - that Spector was working on a Mickey Mouse platform game intended to rival Mario.
Last year, Spector said that he was "tired of making games about guys in black leather carrying guns" and that "100-hour games are on the way out". He also revealed that Disney Feature Animation and Pixar were collaborating on Junction Point's game.
And there's more. In an archived Edge interview from E3 2006 - before the Disney acquisition - Spector said: "I want to do a cartoon game really bad - well, really good. People don't realise that I did my Masters thesis on Warner Brothers cartoons, you know - I used to teach animation classes, I've been a Disney stockholder since I was 19. I'm a cartoon freak, I've met a bunch of the old WB directors, and did Toon, the cartoon [pen-and-paper] RPG And I've been trying to get somebody to let me do a cartoon game for the entire time Ive been in the videogame business."
In that same interview, Spector even alluded to a project that sounds an awful lot like "Epic Mickey". "I did some concept work on a license with a media company that was very cartoony, and boy, we did some great work," he said. "It was the most fun I've had in a long time, maybe since Deus Ex. The work was phenomenal, and I'll never be able to show it or talk about it with anybody. But hopefully the project will happen. We were gonna let people live in a cartoon world, and it was going to be wacky."
A friend of Eurogamer also once spotted Warren Spector wearing a Mickey Mouse backpack and hoodie in public. True story.
Here's hoping Spector's paymasters at Disney allow him to realise some of the extraordinary vision hinted at by those concept images, because it's mouth-watering stuff. And a long way from the Castle of Illusion...