Jonathan Ackley, Co-Project Lead
Jonathan began his career as a programmer by teaching himself Basic on
an Atari 400. Movies, however, proved more attractive than computers,
and he abandoned his budding programming career to study film
production at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
“Yes, I am a slug,” Jonathan admits, referring to the UCSC mascot.
Out of school, he landed a job in computer file management at
Industrial Light and Magic. Friends at LucasArts wooed him over to
what was then the Learning Division. His first assignment was
acquiring images for educational products, but soon he moved ton to
part-time programmer. His first project was programming Day of the
Tentacle, followed by work on sound effects for Sam & Max Hit the
Road, and programming on The Dig.
“My favorite part of making the game was the three months of design
work with Larry at the beginning of the project,” Jonathan says. “It
was just the two of us coming up with crazy ideas that could never
work, and then finding a way to make them work. It was really a great
“I’m pretty happy with the musical number on shipboard at the center
of the game that we came up with. As far as I know, nobody has ever
done interactive singing before. I think it was an original idea and I
still laugh when I see it.”
And sometimes an idea can turn out to be surprisingly apt. “Larry and
I had thought we were so clever when we came up with the idea of
having a tropical island covered with feral chickens,” Jonathan says.
“Then I took a vacation to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It seems that
when Kauai was hit by Hurricane Iniki, it blew open all the chicken
coops. Everywhere I went on the island I was surrounded by feral
Any stuff that didn’t get in the game that would be fun to know?
“LeChuck was going to hunt Guybrush from island to island, burning
down each island just after Guybrush had left. We were going to have a
character named Matchstick McGee. Matchstick would never have escaped
the islands before they burned. He was going to show up on each
island, a bit more charred and burned than the time before.”
Larry Ahern, Co-Project Lead
Larry is a veteran of many LucasArts graphic adventures and cut his
teeth on some of the company’s classics. In fact, Larry us one of only
a handful of Curse team members to have worked on Monkey Island 2:
Larry began his career with a degree in art from the University of
California at Davis and a dream – to actually find a job with a degree
in art. He freelanced for several years on a variety of projects that
appealed to his interest in cartooning – designing T-shirts,
calendars, coffee mugs, and giftware. For several years he ran his own
business designing and distributing a line of surfwear T-shirts and
living the life of a starving artist. Then a friend from a local
illustrators’ group recommended he call what was the Lucasfilm games
about an opening in their art department.
Larry started out in the Games Division in 1990 doing background
layouts on an early version of The Dig. When that project was
temporarily shelved, he was asked to help out animating Monkey Island
2: LeChuck’s Revenge. He’d never animated before, but Larry dove in
anyway, and found the computer to be a helpful learning tool. He says
he feels lucky that he got into animation when he did: His learning
curve paralleled the technology curve that limited animations back
then, allowing him to learn on the job. Animation’s storytelling
potential inspired Larry. He found that not only was he doing art, but
often he was writing visual gags.
After Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, Larry went on to design the
characters and serve as lead animator for Day of the Tentacle. He
followed that project up with a brief stint animating and designing
some secondary characters on Sam & Max Hit the Road before stepping in
as lead animator position on Full Throttle, expanding his lead role by
collaborating with Tim Schafer in many story and game-design sessions.
Soon Larry was looking for an opportunity to get even more involved in
game design, and was offered a chance to collaborate with Jonathan
Ackley as co-project lead on a new graphic adventure. A sequel seemed
like a perfect idea. It had been far too long since the last Monkey
game. Larry immediately sketched up an idea for a new incarnation of
LeChuck as a demon, and Jonathan and Larry began brainstorming over
lunches in the fall of 1995 while Jonathan was finishing up The Dig.
The two project leads then spent the next few months hashing out ideas
for the game while playing nerf basketball. The biggest challenge by
far was how to deal with the sticky ending to Monkey Island 2:
LeChuck’s Revenge. However, after many games that went into
double-overtime, they submitted a proposal, had it approve, and then
created a final 40-page story and design document that would be the
Meanwhile, Larry’s other challenge was to put together and direct the
art and animation team that would make the final game. Marc Overney
came on as lead animator and, with Derek Sakai and Kevin Micallef,
developed the final versions of Monkey Island’s main characters. Bill
Tiller, lead background artist, was brought on at about the same time
to create the game’s beautiful storybook backgrounds.
The four art and project leads holed up in a conference room for a few
week s and storyboard specific cutscenes, for which Larry and Jonathan
wrote the final script. Larry then gave the art team a few scribbled
conceptuals, some conflicting direction, and they were off and
running, creating a feature-film-quality trailer for a European trade
show in record time.
Larry’s average production day on The Curse of Monkey Island was
anything but “average”. The thrill of leading a project like this, he
says, is having your fingers in a lot of things – design, to art, to
writing. The frustrating part can be having too little time to focus
on anything really in depth. Most of Larry’s day was devoted to art
directing, creating and maintaining the massive art production list,
or directing the animation, with time out for the occasional nervous
“I know the chaos sometimes filtered down through the ranks, as well,”
he says, “and there was some confusion on the production. But none of
that shows in the finished game.
From start to finish, The Curse of Monkey Island was a two-year
project for Larry. Everything was pirates. People gave him pirate
trinkets, loaned him pirate books, and forced him to watch bad pirate
movies. The project took over his life, and it seemed more than just
coincidence that the same week the animation team worked on the
Guybrush proposal scene, Larry went shopping for an engagement ring
himself. It was almost Christmas, and he’d proposed to his girlfriend
over the holidays.
“It was kind of bizarre, and I even considered videotaping the pencil
test of the engagement scene and using it to propose, but then I
thought better of it. It would have been too weird.”
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