How The Disney Illusion Island Team Created One Of The Best Musical Scores Of The Year

Disney and developer Dlala Studios have announced the upcoming release of Disney Illusion Island in 2022, and I couldn’t be more excited. There are several reasons why this game has caught my attention – its stunning visuals, top-notch voice acting, and the chance to play as beloved Disney characters in a Metroidvania-style adventure. However, one aspect that particularly stood out to me was the game’s music, composed by David Housden. From the snippets of the score in the reveal trailer, it was evident that Housden and Dlala had put a great deal of effort into creating a soundtrack that truly captures the essence of Disney.

When I finally had the opportunity to play Illusion Island earlier this summer, I was not disappointed. The score was absolutely fantastic, and I found myself humming along throughout the game. So, naturally, I jumped at the chance to interview Housden and learn more about his role as the composer for the game. But before we dive into the interview, Game Informer is excited to exclusively reveal a Making Of video that provides a behind-the-scenes look at the process of creating the game’s score.

Pop Punk Beginnings

Illusion Island is not the first collaboration between Housden and Dlala Studios. He previously worked on the studio’s 2020 Battletoads revival and their mobile game, Janksy. In fact, Housden’s history with Dlala CEO and Illusion Island director AJ Grand-Scrutton goes even further back to their days in the local pop-punk scene in England. Grand-Scrutton explains that their separate bands crossed paths, and Housden eventually filled in for one of his bandmates.

While Housden was studying music in college, his dissertation focused on the techniques and technologies used in creating modern video game soundtracks. Although he didn’t initially intend to specialize in game music, his work on recompositions for games like Silent Hill and Dead Island led him down that path. Ultimately, his collaboration with Mike Bithell on the BAFTA award-winning game Thomas Was Alone solidified his reputation as a talented composer.

Housden and Grand-Scrutton’s friendship and working relationship have proven to be highly successful. Grand-Scrutton praises Housden’s ability to understand his musical vision, even when presented with seemingly impossible briefs like referencing the Power Rangers theme song or Hulk Hogan’s ’80s theme for Battletoads. This level of trust and understanding has allowed them to create incredible game scores together.

The Sound Of Mickey

When it came time to compose the score for Disney Illusion Island, Housden initially envisioned a “princess sound” reminiscent of the Disney Renaissance films of the 1990s. However, Dlala and Disney wanted to capture Mickey Mouse’s musical identity, which is rooted in the Jazz and Ragtime sounds of the 1930s. This sweeping and romantic style, exemplified by the work of composer Alan Menken, became the creative foundation for Housden’s score.

Despite incorporating elements from different musical eras, Housden aimed to make the score feel cohesive and capture the essence of Disneyland and its various themed areas. He explains that Mickey Mouse has his own distinct sound, which has evolved over time to include genres like heavy metal and dubstep. However, at the core of his musical identity is the old Jazz sound from the 1930s and ’40s, featuring unconventional scales and unique instrumentation.

In Illusion Island’s score, Housden utilized a human whistle to recreate the nostalgic Steamboat Willie feel associated with Mickey Mouse’s early cartoons. Additionally, the musical choices varied depending on the different biomes within the game’s world. For example, the Botany realm featured percussion and wind instruments like the marimba and woodblock to create a natural ambiance, while the Engineering biome incorporated metal instruments to evoke a sense of cognitive machinery.

Overall, the score of Disney Illusion Island is a testament to Housden’s talent as a composer and his deep understanding of the game’s world. His collaboration with Dlala Studios and director AJ Grand-Scrutton has resulted in a truly remarkable soundtrack that captures the magic and nostalgia of Disney.