PAX Prime 2014: 10 Bone-Chilling Facts About Grim Fandango Remastered

Tim Schafer's panel on his 1998 classic's re-release leaked plenty of tantalizing details about the game's past and present development.

Article by Bob Mackey, .

The announcement of Grim Fandango's resurrection at E3 2014 felt like Christmas in June for old-school PC adventure fans.

Though creator Tim Schafer hasn't revealed too many details about this new version of his LucasArts swan song, his PAX panel on the subject provided enough behind-the-scenes trivia to keep fans happy until its inevitable release. Even if you have Manny Calavera's skull tattooed somewhere on your person, it's likely some of the following facts may have eluded you.

  • Why is Grim Fandango getting a remake, and not another Schafer-directed LucasArts game? Since Grim doesn't use the SCUMM engine—which evolved from 1987's Maniac Mansion to 1997's Curse of Monkey Island—playing it on a modern computer isn't as easy as booting up SCUMMVM. In fact, Grim ran into puzzle-breaking compatibility issues during its original release, as Schafer and company designed the game for 386 processors just before 486s hit the market.
  • At the panel, Schafer made it clear Grim would be a remaster, not a complete remake. So if you're expecting its graphics to fill the displays of your rectangular HD monitors, you may be disappointed. Since its scenes were composed for a 4:3 format, they'll be presented in their full glory, and not awkwardly cropped.
  • Though Grim shipped with Resident Evil-style "tank controls"—Schafer joked "they were very popular at the time"—the remastered version will include a point-and-click interface. If you struggled with steering Manny around Rubacava in the original, you should understand just how welcome this change is.
  • Miraculously, LucasArts held onto all of Grim Fandango's source material—even if some of it won't play nice with current technology. Soundtrack composer Peter McConnell needed help extracting his original music from the mysterious .dtl file format.
  • For the remastered version, Grim's orchestral pieces will be performed by the Melbourne Symphony. McConnell also spilled a few details about his influences for the game's music: Mexican folk, the soundtracks to classic Humphrey Bogart movies like Casablanca, and swing, which was seeing a revival in San Francisco at the time of the game's development.
  • More music trivia: The guitar sting you hear during Grim's installer (and peppered throughout the soundtrack) comes from a charango, a stringed instrument made from an armadillo shell. McConnell also pointed out that he tried to work as many variations of Hector's theme into the music as possible, to reflect this character's control over the setting of Rubacava.
  • Lead artist Peter Chan went freelance before Grim's started production, and worked remotely from Washington's San Juan Island, sending over illustrations on a weekly basis. He treated Grim as his audition for the film industry, and nearly worked on Tim Burton's ill-fated Superman movie before it entered development hell.
  • Though Tim laments the content he had to cut from Grim's final version, it won't be making an appearance in Remastered. One of his favorite characters, a "dillopede," a cross between an armadillo and a centipede, will forever remain on the cutting room floor.
  • Though Schafer was cagey on the subject, it looks as if Grim might have a commentary track, much like the 2010 special edition of Monkey Island 2. His brief comment on the issue? "We love to talk."
  • The original idea for Grim Fandango came from a folklore class Schafer took at UC Berkeley, where he learned about the tradition of burying a body with a pouch of gold sewn into the casket, so it wouldn't be stolen in the afterlife. The fact that crime could exist after death sparked Grim's premise of a film noir take on the Day of the Dead.

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  • Avatar for tsamba #1 tsamba 4 years ago
    Remake is wanted and needed, but since you mention SCUMMVM, playing the old un-remastered soon-to-be-obsolete (?) Grim Fandango on a modern computer is as easy as booting up ResidualVM ( if you still have your CD.
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  • Avatar for Daikaiju #2 Daikaiju 4 years ago
    Yeah, would that someone hadn't lost my original copy...
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #3 DiscordInc 4 years ago
    @ascottx Is that stable? I remember following that for a bit when I wanted to replay Grim Fandango and had problems, but I don't think I ever tried the release version.
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  • Avatar for tsamba #4 tsamba 4 years ago
    @DiscordInc I played a couple of hours into the game maybe a year or two ago using ResidualVM and didn't encounter any problems. Would only assume it's gotten better since then.
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