Interviews - Steve Purcell
Main page

Monkey Island 1
Monkey Island 2
Monkey Island 3
Monkey Island 4
Monkey Island 5?
Where to buy
Fan creations
MI play
Technical help
View guestbook
Site history
Linking to us
Steve Purcell

Could you please tell the fans something about yourself?

I'm in my 40's, grew up in California, and have worked in comic books, games, TV and feature animation. I first animated at Lucasfilm Games in the late 80's and I'm currently in Story Development at Pixar Animation Studios. Last year I signed a deal with Telltale Games to bring Sam & Max back to the small screen.

How did you get to work at LucasArts?

They were Lucasfilm Games at the time and were still at Skywalker Ranch. Their art team was still pretty small and Gary Winnick, the head of the art department was looking for a few artists for some new projects. I knew Ken Macklin, who was working there (he did the original Maniac Mansion cover painting) and Ken recomended me for one of the positions based on having seen my first Sam & Max comic which had come out shortly before. I got called in to create characters for a roll playing game which was cancelled almost as soon as I started on it. They knew I could paint so they brought me back in to do the cover for Zak McKraken as well as a bunch of illustrations for the fake tabloid newspaper in the packaging and a little alien standee that was meant to display the free nose glasses that were part of the story. Shortly after that, I started in as an artist and animator on the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade adventure game.

Do you have a favourite game artist, or any other talented person you look up to?

I worked with Peter Chan who has continued to do game concept art with Tim Schafer. Peter always brings a great sense of scale to his environment concepts and he does great characters too. I like what Bill Tiller has been doing with visual design in games. In comics, I went to school with Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy) who is looked up to by anyone in games and animation. He's worked harder than anyone I know to get to where he is in his career. He's a writer, artist and go-to guy for movie concept art.

How was it to work at LucasArts, and especially on a game like Monkey Island 2?

I worked on both Monkey 1 and 2. On the first one we only had sixteen colors we could use so nighttime and the color black became our friends. Black looked the same on everyone's monitor so we ended up building a lot of our backgrounds onto black. By the time we were working on Monkey 2 the idea of scanning painted backgrounds was available to us. Peter Chan was handy with the markers and he could do backgrounds super fast. I did some marker work and painted some as well or mixed the two. We had more disk space to do elaborate animations. I spent weeks laboring over the animation frames of a corpse reassembling in a coffin.

How was it to work on a title that would gather such great masses of fans later (I'm referring to The Secret of Monkey Island)?

Well at the time of course you don't know what impact the work will have. You just do something you like and you want to share it with people. I remember it being something of a struggle for Lucasfilm Games to get enough distribution for those products at the time. It was frustrating because we knew the level of quality but the audience wasn't finding the games in the stores very easily. We never considered that years later so many people would still be invested in the Monkey Island games.

How did the process of creating the locations take place in the adventure games you've worked on? How much freedom did you have in doing that, and to what extent did you have to take into account the puzzles and gameplay?

In those days the game design was less a fixed document and more floating around in Ron Gilbert's head. There would be discussions about what we were designing and much like in the story process of movies, ideas come out of the drawings. We had a lot of freedom and the anachronistic world lent itself to goofy ideas being incorporated. I remmeber including the Grog vending machine at Stan's with "Grog" written like the coke logo and it ended up being incorporated in to the gameplay. That would happen from time to time.

Would you have liked to work on both Monkey Island 3 and 4? What do you think of those games, if you have played them?

I did some concept art for Monkey 3 and they asked me to paint the cover but since the visual style was so strong on that one (in a good way I think) it felt like I would have less to bring to the table as far as interpreting the characters. In the early games the animated characters were so small and minimal that the covers were an opportunity to see what the characters might really have looked like fully illustrated. I've only played parts of 3 and 4. I think they're really great but I'm actually not much of a gamer myself.

Do you have any tips for artists of Monkey Island or LucasArts-related fan art, or people who are seriously pursuing a career as a game artist or a professional animator?

Drawing is always the basis of almost any kind of art. Study drawing, practice drawing. The more you understand and feel comfortable drawing what you observe, the easier it will be to translate your ideas in more specific mediums like 3D modeling or digital painting. It all begins with observation and drawing.

Would you like to share some of your (concept) art with us?

I'll see what I can dig up.

What do you think of The World of Monkey Island website?

The amount of energy I know it takes to keep a site like yours going is amazing. You do a great job maintaining the spirit of the Monkey games.

What is your favourite LucasArts-related (or Sam & Max-related) website?

I'm fond of Jake Rodkin's Unofficial Sam & Max site. (

How would you describe your current job? Any interesting projects you are working on at the moment?

Probably won't be able to say what I'm doing at Pixar for a few years but my job focuses on the Story.

What do you like best about working at Pixar?

It's a company that appreciates creative people. They make you feel useful.

What can you tell us about the rumours of ILM making a Monkey Island movie, and a Frankenstein movie?

I think most of what was developed on Frankenstein morphed into Van Helsing, which I've never gotten around to seeing but I hear is a much broader, less subtle version of an old monster movie than what we were doing. I worked on the story crew of the digital Frankenstein movie for a couple of years. As far as a Monkey Island movie, I'm probably not allowed to confirm or deny in print for numerous, obscure contractual reasons. Although I'd love to share some completely random unrelated pirate images I have lying around.

Now, some Sam & Max questions. Could you tell us something more about your work on 'Sam and Max Hit the Road'?

It was planned that I would consult on it sporadically but as it moved forward I became more and more involved and ended up having a cubical in the middle of the production pod. I just wanted to make myself available in as many areas as possible. So I ended up doing a little of a lot of different things. I think the whole team fell into a groove that kept the spirit of the characters very accurate and consistent.

How was it to work on creating a whole interactive world for that bizarre duo with their original sense of humour (Sam and Max)?

Sam & Max had been on a roadtrip in the comics so it was an easy jump to imagine a roadtrip story. It was fun to come up with the different locations and finding over time you could combine different ones to pile up the gameplay in fewer separate places. Sean and Mike were comics fans. Stemmle is able to conjure up Sam & Max jokes so obscure they sail over my head.

What do you think of the new Sam & Max game that is currently being developed?

It's still in the early stages so we're hoping for something that lives up to fans fond memories of that last time we saw Sam & Max in a game.

Some people have expressed concerns about the fact that the game will be episodic. How do you feel about this? Do you see episodic gaming as the future of adventure gaming, perhaps revitalizing the genre?

If there's a wider audience for adventure games I would guess that they're not as interested in sitting down for fifty hours of game play all at once. I love the idea of episodic content, especially for Sam & Max. It allows you to try some different things without spending as much money and effort. If a story line is working you could expand on it or if it's less successful you can change direction if you need to.

In the Gamecloud interview, you talked about Sam & Max returning in print. Could we perhaps see those comics being sold by Telltale, as they do with the Bone comics?

It's being discussed. I'm doing the web strip which I would hope to collect in a little square book at the end probably with some additional pages that weren't included online in favor of keep the story moving through the weeks. If I had that to release I'd feel better about rereleasing the collection. If Telltale wanted to carry all this stuff on their site so much the better.

What can we expect from the new Sam & Max website (, other than an early depiction of the duo? Speaking of which, where did you get that picture?

If you do a Google Search for Kilpeck church you'll find that ancient carving, an ornamental corbel on the church. Somebody sent me an image of it years ago. It was odd for the time period, a cartooney dog and bunny, especially the rabbit's little arms. I've been wondering how to make use of it for years and decided I would find a way to hook it in with the webcomic that I'm working on at the Telltale site. As far as I would like to put stuff there that isn't already being covered on another site. Been sorta' busy is all.

Thank you very much for your time. We would like to wish you the best of luck with your work and your future.

This interview is exclusive to The World of Monkey Island. This interview was conducted by Haggis; questions by Haggis. Not to be reproduced in any way.

© Copyright 1997-2018, The World of Monkey Island®. All rights reserved.
Monkey Island is a registered trademark of LucasArts. This website is in no way associated with LucasArts.
No monkeys were harmed during the making of this website.