Have you ever thought about hand drawn animation? Do you really, really think about it? And the absolutely massive amount of artwork that goes into even doing a single short walk cycle? StudioMDHR certainly put a lot of thought into it during the development of Cuphead. The studio then went around Delicious Last Course and decided to do the same amount of animation work again.
For a DLC.
According to Maja Moldenhauer, the sheer volume of animations in Delicious Last Course stemmed from the team’s desire to bring to life everything they had left behind in the cutting room of the original Cuphead, with a playable Miss Chalice serving as a catalyst for the rest.
“We really wanted to experiment with the art form… I don’t have an inventory or frame count yet, but it’s comparable to the entire main game in this DLC. […] With the additional frames of animation, we go from that more basic, early 1930s style. [Disney], closer to Fantasia. I say this loosely, it’s nowhere near the quality of Fantasia, but it’s something we strive for, something we aspire to,” says Moldenhauer.
Moldenhauer later jokes that the members of StudioMDHR are the “kings and queens of scope creep,” which is one of the reasons Delicious Last Course is such an monstrosity of animation. Originally, the DLC was limited to Miss Chalice and “five oversized bosses,” but other ideas were quickly thrown into the mix, including a specific one that Moldenhauer can’t mention yet that “is going to be a surprise to everyone.”
“One of the things we’re known for is boss transformations in the main game,” he continues. “One thing we did this time was the transformation of the location. In the Mortimer Freeze boss fight you will see, he is not in the same arena for the entire fight. Each phase takes you to a new location, which means a lot more watercolor background paints.”
Delicious Last Course also offered its animators a different degree of freedom with boss designs that they hadn’t had in the original game due to the design process itself. On Cuphead, Moldenhauer says the team asked composer Kris Maddigan to “make a bunch of music” which they then paired with each boss after designing it. It’s a process Moldenhauer describes as “disorganized,” though he admits it worked quite well given Maddigan’s skill and the variety of music he came up with.
Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course screenshots
But this time, they turned the process on its head.
“We had the bosses cemented in our heads,” she says. “We knew exactly what cadence they were going at, if they had a lot of energy, what the theme was. Then we questioned him about these levels and bosses and we said, ‘Now go.’ So they are very personalized and specific… we did everything possible. The original soundtrack had 65 musicians. This one is 110. Really just to help put things into perspective and scale compared to the main game.”
With such a massive scale of work on Cuphead, we also spoke to Moldenhauer about StudioMDHR’s decision to take its time to preserve the mental health of its developers, as well as where the studio plans to go now that Cuphead is complete.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @patovalentine.