Interview
Jeff Matsushita: Kinect Rush

By Jorge Figueiredo - April 17th, 2012

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Recently, Toronto Thumbs had the opportunity to talk to Jeff Matsushita from Disney Pixar about Kinect Rush: A Disney/Pixar Adventure. Asobo Studio’s latest offering for Kinect injects fun and fantasy into our lives by allowing us to experience what it’s like to “be” a Pixar character.

TT: To what extent does the on-screen character resemble the player?

JM: Using the technology in Kinect, the game scans your face, color of your clothes, your hair. It then takes that raw data and matches it up against a set of art components that Asobo created with guidance from Pixar. The result is a young Pixar-inspired version of you. The key things on which we tried to focus were clothing and hair colour because these are the kinds of things that translated more readily between the five Pixar worlds. Wear a blue shirt and you will be a blue car or a blue robot.

How many of the original voice actors were you able to bring on board for this project?

We worked with the tremendous folks at Disney Character Voices to bring to Kinect Rush many of the original voice actors from the movies. If you go through our credits, you will see names like Owen Wilson, Joan Cusack, Craig T. Nelson, Ed Asner, Patton Oswalt. For instances where the original talent was not available, we worked with Disney to identify people who they approved as being on-character and absolutely right for the parts. Additionally, we worked with Disney’s international colleagues to bring this same experience to audiences in each of the 11 languages in which we offer full voice-over localization.

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The game pays attention to your clothes to create matching colours on your characters.

How much content is there in the game that never made it into the feature films?

Pixar was very deeply involved in the development of Kinect Rush so they were very helpful and excited about helping put into the game things that did not appear in the movies. For instance, to help balance out the genders in Ratatouille, Pixar identified the role of a female rat named Celine who ended up on the cutting room floor. Both she and another rat, named Twitch, who was also cut from the movie, appear in the first episode in the Ratatouille world in the game. We also worked from movie concept art to show more of Tokyo than was shown in the Cars 2 movie. I think some of the most exciting stuff is the original art that Asobo, the developer, created under Pixar’s guidance. In The Incredibles, players will have a chance to see what the Omnidroid factory looks like. And in Toy Story, players will become a Toy Robot that was originally suggested and designed under guidance with Toy Story’s Production Designer. Pixar’s work on Kinect Rush has given us a way to provide the movie fans with new and interesting material in addition to everything that they already loved.

How specific are the voice commands?

When we implemented our voice commands, we kept in mind that our focus needed to be on families and children. We originally had a much more robust feature set that included things like summoning the Pixar characters. We quickly realized, however, that most children, while fans of the films, do not know the names of all the characters. This kind of revelation forced us to rethink the way we used voice and kept it limited to the menus. In this way, we have created a very convenient way for parents in the room to help children navigate through the menus without even having to get off the couch.

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Want to fight an Omnidroid? Are you sure?

This looks like a really fun game to play. Do you think that smaller kids will have a tough time with it?

We have always known that making a game for kids would take a lot more attention. So very early on, we engaged the User Research team at Microsoft to help us iterate everything from control schemes to interfaces. We had 6-8 year olds coming through almost weekly to provide feedback on what they thought of the game and to watch where they were having fun and where they were not. Asobo Studios also brought through kids on a frequent basis for the same feedback. This not only helped us ensure that the game was always easy to understand, but we also developed technology to support the wide range of input that the game must support. For instance, with driving, we integrated a dynamic system that captures the range of motion and adjusts accordingly. This means that kids can drive with big wavy arms motions and adults can drive with smaller more precise motions, but both groups can still expect to have fun playing the game the way it works for them.

Will there be significant add-on content (new movies being incorporated into the game)?

We know that most families want as complete as possible an experience without having to pay for new stuff all the time so we choose to get our five favourite movies onto the disc and make it easy for everyone to play. We may consider additional content in the future, but we feel that we have crafted a solid experience on the disc that provides high replay-ability and fun without the need for add-on content.

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If Jeff were flying this plane, you know he’d want to dog-fight.

Who is your favourite Pixar character?

My favourite Pixar character has got to be Dug from Up. He comes across as a simpleton, but he is dedicated, loyal, and always willing to be friends. There is something wonderful and hopeful about the strength of a character who can remain positive and upbeat in even the toughest circumstances. Like every great Pixar character, I like to think there is a bit of Dug in all of us.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Jeff!

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