Obsidian is a glaring name that is often renowned for the making of some of the greatest role playing games of all time. Including, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, The Outer Worlds, and more.
However, despite the developer being superb at what they do, many of their ideas couldn't make it out of their development cycle. The fate of these ideas ended up being cancelled and forgotten, never to see the light of the day.
Today, we will take a look at one interesting title that was once planned to be released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and probably PC. And that title is Dwarfs, a dark Snow White RPG.
With the success the Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (1937) film has garnered, Disney wanted to expand the overall story further and elevate the franchise to higher heights.
At first, Disney began development on a prequel to the movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The movie would've focused on the seven dwarfs, but the overall story was to veer from Disney's previous movies as the story would have followed a darker tone with a slice of comedy elements included in.
Plans quickly evolved into adding a video game that was intended to be tie-in-to the movie. Similar to the movie, the game would've followed the same path while taking inspiration from works such as The Lord of the Rings.
The overall plot, like I said, would have centered around seven dwarfs on a quest with a girl to thwart the wicked plans of a wizard. However, as it turns out the young girl was the daughter of the evil wizard, and was only manipulating the seven dwarves. They end up being betrayed by her, resulting in her success to take over the kingdom.
Many who were working on the project at the time saw it as the potential to a new franchise to go alongside other Disney works such Fairies and Princess, and Alice in Wonderland. To make this dream come true, Obsidian was approached thanks to their expertise with handling role-playing games.
Internally known as " Project New Jersey ", it was supposed to be a third person action game similar to the likes of American McGee's Alice filled with sad and disturbing moments. Kevin Saunders, known for games like Neverwinter Nights 2 and Alpha Protocol, was on board as the lead designer for Dwarfs. He gave a glimpse of the opening of the game in one of his interviews with Kotaku. He says:
"This wasn't a happy-go-lucky Disney game. Disney's Buena Vista Games wanted dark and I gave them dark. In the opening sequence, for example, you, as a teenage prince, awake in your bed to haunting sounds. Exploring the dark castle, you come across a terrifying shadowy creature that you kill in a desperate struggle its cries shifting from a supernatural shriek to that of a human woman's bloodcurdling cry of death. The illusion is then dispelled, and your mother, the Queen, lays dead before you, the bloody knife that killed her in your hand. This wasn't a cinematic it was all a gameplay sequence that you'd actually play out."
The project built an intimate bond between the staff as it had veterans on board who saw it as one of those projects that would boost their reputation to higher levels. It was also a project that they felt proud working on during that period. To make things crazier, Brian Mitsoda, known for being a writer for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, was also on board as the creative lead on the project. Surely, when you see these names, the adrenaline starts flowing and your mind is imagining what the game could have become if it became a reality.
Kevin talks about how if he had the chance to revive any RPG, this project would be the first one on his book. He says:
“If I could resurrect any project that I worked on, it would be this one. This was essentially our action-RPG version of a Pixar movie crossed with a first-party Nintendo game. I don’t know how much is still covered by NDA, but it was obviously inspired by Disney’s classic movies artistically, although script-wise we definitely wanted to capture the characterization and emotion of Pixar films. Conceptually, it was a darker fairytale type of story, but it was mostly focused on the journey of the teenage protagonists as they journeyed around the land meeting up with these eccentric little men and using their unique powers to advance through the plot. It had a lot of heart, great monster and character concepts by Brian Menze, and very interesting level potential.”
Kevin also shows his appreciation of being part of a project this big: He said:
"I wrote the backstory for the Snow White/Dwarfs world and the overall story outline for the prequel how cool of an opportunity is that? =) I felt very lucky."
Back then, everything looked bright. Obsidian team was ready to rock n roll with their ideas. However, things weren't going so smooth for the movie. Countless conflicts happened at the studio since everyone wanted to implement their ideas. One side was fighting for the sequel stay true to the original movie, while another side wanted to veer from it.
Popular film director Mike Disa was involved in the making of the film. but sadly, in the end he felt burnt out with the project. The executives at Disney wanted the character Dopey to speak in the movie and explain the reason behind him being mute in the original film. Mike Disa was against this idea. He explains in one of his interviews with Integrated Catholic Life:
"The studio executive wanted Dopey to talk! [Laughs in disbelief.] It just comes down to my respect for great films. Snow White today is still the best animated film ever made. Those characters are spectacular. It’s a sad statement on our industry that the best film was 80 years ago, but it’s still the best film. I would never walk into a sequel and do anything to disrespect the core of the characters like making Dopey talk.”
After all the constant struggle to make this project a reality, John Lasseter, Pixar's creative director, took over the project. This was the nail in coffin for both the movie and the game as John wasn't impressed much with what he saw.
Many who were involved with the making of Dwarfs felt sad seeing it go. It was one of those games that the team was happy working on, but fate had other challenges in store for Obsidian.