The Surprising Disney Influence In Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell

by Joe Juba on Aug 29, 2014 at 09:01 AM

When you think of Saints Row, many things come to mind. Gangs, aliens, and unsettling melee weapons are just a few of the series’ hallmarks. Where could wholesome source material like Disney cartoons fit into that violent mess? You might be surprised. During a visit to Volition, creative director Steve Jaros revealed several ways – both obvious and subtle –that the upcoming Saints Row IV expansion follows Disney’s example.

The clearest example is the presence of a full-blown, multi-part musical number at the end of the game’s first act. As the person responsible for the most chaos in human history, the Saints’ leader has been kidnapped by Satan to marry his daughter, Jezebel. However, out of everyone involved, Jezebel is probably the least enthusiastic about the arrangement. During a tense argument with her father, their dialogue quickly transforms into song. Even Kinzie and Johnny get their own musical scene. This kind of experimentation is not something you typically see in games – especially outside of a zany credit sequence. “This is the critical path,” Jaros says. “The first time you see Jezebel, she’s singing. It is true story conveyance in what the actual plot is and the dynamic – it’s just happening in song.”

All of the main characters bursting into song is the most overt homage, but other elements find their way into the story in different ways. Despite having horns and being the daughter of Satan, Jezebel’s design is deliberately reminiscent of Disney princesses. Many fairy tales feature sidekicks in the form of faithful animal companions – which is maybe too saccharine for Saints Row, but the team managed to work in something similar. “We don’t have a talking animal,” Jaros says. “But we do have a talking gun.”

Other parts of the game are more like winks to familiar aspects Disney presentation – like a storybook narration – though they aren’t lifted straight from the source material. “A lot of the plot of this is very Disney-inspired,” Jaros says. “The story book is at the beginning of Sleeping Beauty. All of the cutscenes were inspired by different Disney movies. Sometimes it’s a lot subtler. This is the 'Part of your World'” cutscene. [Jezebel] runs away, and there’s a scene like the one where Aladdin meets Jasmine. There’s the Merida cutscene; she doesn’t want to get married. They’re based on small kernels.”

Don’t take all of this to mean that Saints Row is drastically changing its bombastic tone or reputation for satire. “It’s not like a parody, because no one scene is ripping off something,” Jaros says. “Saints Row IV was a lot more direct parodies, whereas this is more of our version of what a Disney story would look like in the Saints Row world…which is really f---ing terrible.”

From my time playing it, Gat Out of Hell seems like a Saints Row game through and through. It has hilarious moments, sarcastic characters, and plenty of over-the-top action. The Disney side of things may be informing some of the plot points and presentation, but when it comes to gameplay, Gat Out of Hell feels like more of the Saints Row fans have come to expect.