Ron on the actual Secret - SPOILERS!

In the new interview with Ron Gilbert (which is really good and thorough) he says this (at 42:17 in):

The thing that I’m not sure people really understand is this is actually the secret of Monkey Island, as I conceived the secret in 1988 when I first started working on this game and it got the title, “The Secret of Monkey Island”, this was the actual secret of the game.
It was that Guybrush was just in a giant amusement park.
And that’s where it got its title. And so when I thought about, ‘you know what, I really want us to actually tell people what the secret is,’ this really is it.

He continues:

That whole concept was kind of abandoned early on in development, as the original game really started to take fruition, but you can still see that, the Grog machine in Stan’s, those little hints here and there. So it’s not like those things are just put in as jokes, they were a continuation of the fact that this is actually the secret of Monkey Island and Guybrush is just in an amusement park.

And so when Dave and I decided ‘let’s just tell people what the secret is,’ we debated about it a little bit at the beginning, maybe we don’t tell them what the secret is, but we felt early on, we need to actually tell people what the secret is. And this is what it is.
Because I’ve seen some stuff on twitter where people talk about ‘oh we just made this up at the last minute’ and whatnot, but it’s not.
This really is the secret, this is the thing people have spent thirty years wanting to know.
I always got asked, “what’s the secret of Monkey Island?” and this is it.


Pretty interesting but expected. Ending of MI1 was almost perfect no hint whatsoever except the grog machine. In that sense I like its ending best. MI2 is my personal fave but the ending was messed up and was much more questions than answers.

Because of Curse and other games these questions stand:
Who’s Elaine? in real life how do they mimic the amusement park ride?

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How was this not already revealed in MI2? :face_with_monocle:


Repeating from another topic:
Why does Guybrush say something in the sense of : “Oh not again” or “not yet” when he get through the door to the melee island? So it seems like he expects this but not this soon. is it like the ending of the ride?

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I still want to know how Mutiny on Monkey Island, with Governor Fat sending pirates to find the Treasure of Monkey Island, which turns out to be a crack in the earth into hell that crafts people into the undead, a “secret” which the cannibals guard carefully…

I’d like to know if that was conceived before or after the narrative of a kid in a theme park who is trapped by a villainous theme park manager.

Because when you play Secret, it’s hard to fathom that Herman, his Captain, and LeChuck sailed to Monkey Island to learn that Guybrush was a kid in an amusement park.


I thought the same thing. I believe that Ron Gilbert has now revealed openly HIS secret of Monkey Island. As he decleared, he had HIS secret in mind at the time of the first game already; and then this secret partially emerged in the end of the second game, where it was linked to Big Whoop rather than to Monkey Island.
But I think we should agree that in The Secret of Monkey Island Ron Gilbert’s idea of the secret remains in the background and is not explicit (the grog machine, the t-shirts, etc.), while THE secret explicitly referred to in the game (by the characters and by the title) can’t be anything else that the hell existing under the giant Monkey Head on Monkey Island; or, more generically, it can’t be anything else that Monkey Island being a mysterious island, apparently impossible to reach except with a voodoo potion, inhabited only by ghosts and by a tribe of cannibals who hold the key to its mystery.
In Mutiny on Monkey Island the object of the quest is not a secret but an elusive treasure that does not exist and which, however, according to a ‘fake’ map, is found in correspondence with a crack that leads to another world, «the name of which changes from religion to religion, from faith to faith. Most pirates call it Hell». It is no coincidence that in the next draft (The New Monkey Island) the idea of ​​the treasure is replaced by that of the secret: «In a last-ditch effort, the Pirate LeChuck announced he was going to sail to the legendary Monkey Island and return with its secret», a secret he discovers when he dies and rises as a ghost (that’s why in The Secret of Monkey Island the authors let Estevan say about what the secret is: «Only LeChuck knows»).
I guess the overlap between the treasure, the secret and the hellish place under Monkey Island means that we can’t be very far from the truth if we believe that the secret of Monkey Island as an island is the hell beneath it. This doesn’t mean that the secret of Monkey Island as an island referred to by the title of the first game (the secret INSIDE the game) excludes the existence in parallel of Ron Gilbert’s idea of ​​the secret (the secret OUTSIDE the game or ON THE BACKGROUND OF the game): i.e. the secret of Monkey Island as a world (a theme park world). The existence of this idea since the first game is confirmed by the 1990 ad for TSoMI that was posted on Reddit two years ago (link:


What’s funny is that Ron apparently never saw that language on the CD case about 4’6". It must have been the marketing department!


Yep. I suppose several people who worked at Lucasfilm Games were aware of Ron’s secret and this explains that phrase in the ad.
Now we can say that Ron undoubtedly alluded to this secret in the interview published in The Adventurer first issue (fall 1990), where he talks about the sequel to The Secret of Monkey Island:

I suggest calling it «the secret BEHIND Monkey Island» (or «the REAL secret of Monkey Island»), while the hell under Monkey Island could be referred to as «the in-game secret of Monkey Island».

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Should the catacombs under Monkey Island in MI1 Part 3 be seen as equivalent to the underground tunnels under Dinky Island in MI2 Part 4?

MI1 uses the term “catacombs” in two spots: for the mushroom hell under the Monkey head, and for whatever Guybrush sees in the Stump Joke. Should we understand that part of the Stump Joke is Guybrush looking into that part of the game, and that if Disk 22 did exist we’d skip to that area in Part 3 and as seen in the “Meanwhile” cutscenes?

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I didnt’ think so, but Return to Monkey Island seems to suggest something like this.

Instinctively, I always thought about it in the way you put it: at first, it seemed to me a joke about some missing floppies that would have allowed the player to win the game earlier, leading the pirate-wannabe Guybrush directly to Part Three, in the catacombs under Monkey Island.
However, upon closer inspection, it must be noted that Guybrush closes the joke by saying: «I’ll just have to skip that part of the game». This suggests that the hole at the base of the stump would give access to an additional part of the game, a part we can’t play in the rest of TSoMI and which maybe refers to the part of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade that is set in the Venetian catacombs.
Anyway, despite this detail, the hypothetical connection between the forest of Mêlée Island and the catacombs under Monkey Island becomes somehow more concrete after the release of Return to Monkey Island.

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Thinking of it, Curse does surprisingly fit the amusement park idea quite well.
And even Escape is not far off with displaying Jambalaya Island as a tourist’s place probably part of a theme park.

Of course, all by incident, since Ron was not involved in those.
Or is it? I suppose there is indeed the possibility that Curse and Escape did build on that idea on purpose after all:

If true, those LucasArts emplyees are very good in keeping a secret for themselves.

I suppose, being a giant amusement park, those maintenance tunnels could connect to every place.

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I’ve speculated the designers of Curse had access to the Mutiny on Monkey Island documents because they fulfill the ship-to-ship combat section along with the idea that LeChuck found a hellgate and is using it to create an army of undead.

But the new Cressup interview with Ron adds something that I don’t think we knew: that originally, the antagonist was the owner of the carnival, and Guybrush needed to figure out he was in an illusion to triumph. And eventually over development, this evil carnival owner shifted to become the LeChuck character.

And bless me bagpipes, but Curse gives us LeChuck as the evil carnival owner (including exposition about designing a physical amusement park around the gates of hell to incorporate them together) in a plot explanation that many of us saw as silly, but it turns out to be the closest thing to that bit of Ron’s original vision!

Because of the carnival owner antagonist idea, one could argue that Curse gives us more insight into “Ron Gilbert’s original secret of Monkey Island” than Return does. Or at least, it gives us an equal portion of the full picture!

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Curse’s Bill Tiller also revealed the actual secret in 2003, it’s just we didn’t know it was the actual secret until now…

Bill Tiller: Well this is all I know, and I learned it from Larry Ahern and Dave Grossman. Ron went to Disneyland, rode Pirates of the Caribbean ride. thought it was cool and wondered what it would be like to get out of the boat and explore the pirates cave and village. Calvin and Hobbes was very popular back then. It is a daily cartoon strip about a boy and his stuffed tiger going on all sorts of adventures and imagining themselves in all sorts of different things like dinosaurs, spacemen and monsters.

I speculate that Ron combined the to together - Pirates of the Caribbean and Calvin and Hobbes - and created Guybrush.

I was told that the ending of MI2 was originally going to be the ending of MI1. But Dave Grossman and Tim Shafer didn’t like it and talked Ron out of it. Then I heard from Larry Ahern that two to three months before MI2 was supposed to be done, an ending had still not been decided upon. And about then Ron decided to go with the amusement park ending he was originally going to use in MI1.

The explanation I heard is that Guybrush was lost in the Pirates Ride at Big Whoop Amusement Park the whole time, imagining the whole adventure. Then Chucky, his mean older brother goes and pulls him back to reality. The end. And that magical lightning coming out of Chucky’s eyes and Elaine waiting by the hole on Dinky Island (which sounds a lot like Disney Land) was put there just in case there was to be a Monkey Island 3.

The secret is that the MI world is not real. now I have no clue how Ron would have written his way out of the MI2 ending. He either knows and isn’t telling. Or he doesn’t know and he isn’t telling you he doesn’t know. Or he has a bunch of ides of what he would do and isn’t telling you that either. That is a bigger secret then what the secret of Monkey Island is.

But secret being that the whole MI world is imagined sucks. Why? Because we want the world of Monkey Island to be real, not in a kids imagination.

Enter big whoop the portal of hell. Lechuck goes in, comes out a powerful ghost. Then he is killed again, comes back as a zombie and hatches a plan to lure pirates through the portal of big whoop and come out zombie/ ghosts. Guybrush had spell cast on him and that is why he was a little kid. he escaped Big whoop in a bumper/ dodgem car and reverts back. Elaine had to rush back to Puerto pollo to defend it from Lechuck renewed attacks because Guybrush is safely under his spell back on Monkey Island. That is the official secret of monkey island in CMI.

Sean [Clarke] and Mike [Stemmle, lead designers on Escape from Monkey Island] don’t like that secret or want to add to it, so they either borrow Dave Grossman’s idea that the monkey head is jut the top of a giant monkey robot, or they came up with it independently. That is the official secret of Monkey Island in EMI.

Is this all cleared up now? There is no ‘one’ secret of Monkey Island. Period. Maybe in Monkey5 there will be yet another one. Personally I’d like to know more about Guybrush’ s origins. Where did he come from? Who are his parents? Any brothers or sisters? Who was the voodoo priest who brought LeChuck back to life?


A few things I’ve been thinking but not said, that this current convo has me just wanting to say now:

I am not trying to diminish anyone’s strong emotional reaction to the ending of RTMI, but I do have to say I am confused by it. Maybe someone can put into words why they think it gave them a strong emotional reaction? I know sometimes we just feel things and can’t put into words why, but maybe someone can.

I just am having this disconnect on understanding why finding out that the pirate adventure was in his imagination is so powerful? It’s just so disconnected from the experience of the game. To me, for this ending to even tie into stuff in the adventures we’ve had, you have to look at these games in almost a fan theory kind of way (something I strongly dislike, btw); for example, that grog machines and other anachronisms and inaccuracies being present in the comedy game were signals that it was all fake. But I wouldn’t even qualify this as subtext (it is less than that) and somehow it turns out to be the spine of everything? The only non-fan theory feeling part that ties it in is the ending of part 2, which basically already gave us the ending. But by telling us the reveal had not come and we would get it here felt like a lie to disarm me and make me believe that they must be revealing some non-amusement park secret as I played.

I think that between the decision to exclude the amusement park element from part one, then slipping it in very unusually at the end of two, and then bringing it to the front very suddenly at the end of Return that Ron just muddled things too much for this narrative. Like, maybe this was there once but in the decisions that wound up being made it was lost and you couldn’t go back. There was probably a streamlined way to do this in an organic way, they eschewed that opportunity, and then forced it back in in a way that felt like a mindfuck. People can talk about little hints until they turn blue, but in the end to me this reveal was all about making the game about something it was never really about even if to Ron’s mind it always was. It just did not exist in any meaningful way in the gameplay, even with the frame story in RTMI.

As BaronGrackle mentioned, if “the secret” was always meant to be that they were in an amusement park and that this was in Guybrush’s imagination, then that means that within Guybrush’s imagination he built a story around characters going on a mission to find out that they were in his imagination? It just doesn’t track. You can come up with convoluted reasons to make it work if you want, but it’s just not the way people consume stories. It creates more inconsistencies than it clears up anything.

I feel like if they were intent on doing this amusement park bit and just couldn’t live without it, they could have done this in a satisfying way if they had done a few things differently. There were probably many ways to do this, but I’ll choose the simplest:

They could have revealed a “secret” that the characters were actually after (and not a t-shirt once in the real world) in the regular narrative after a satisfying true climax. And then as a coda they could have added the amusement park stuff. In this way, there would be a secret of monkey island that the characters were actually after and then a “secret of the secret of monkey island” afterwards if they were intent on sticking to the amusement park idea.


Why are you so surprised?

The original Secret was revealed with MI2, after all, when we discover that everything happened was a fantasy of two brothers playing in a theme park.

It seems to me quite normal that the following games are set in this scenario.

What I find surprising is how come people for years gave for granted that “the secret” hadn’t been revealed.

The Original Secret had been revealed back then, but nobody noticed it.
So Ron explained everybody that, with the plaque.
With the T-Shirt in the Chest, he gave us another new Secret (since the original one wasn’t anything new), and trolled the hard core fans at the same time. That’s brilliant.

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Well, Ron told us that nobody had quite guessed it right.

EDIT: This 2002 article speculates: ‘Of course Ron couldn’t have said, “It’s very close.”’


MI2 doesn’t exactly say, “this is the secret”. Neither does CMI.
Well, CMI does suggest the kids scene to be related to the secret, but it made LeChuck’s evil curse out of it, instead of just kids playing in an amusement park.
If either of those games were clear on the secret, we wouldn’t have discussed it for all those years.

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No. But it reveals it, indeed. You know it, but you maybe didn’t realize you knew it.

My theory back then was “there’s no hidden secret of MI”. the two games reveal 1) Monkey Island is the Gateway to Hell and 2) Monkey Island is set in an amusement park. That was all, to me.

I was happy to read the plaque and learn what Ron had in mind for the Secret.
But that isn’t the secret anymore, it was given away decades ago.

The NEW, REAL Secret -what Ron decided to gift us- is JUST the T-shirt. I’m proud of deserving it, and can’t wait to wear it.

That’s why I love the T-shirt.
It’s the peak of all these years in which Ron passively trolled us :slight_smile:

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I think this came about partly by how things shook out in terms of Dave and Tim talking Ron out of using the ending for MI1, and then Ron not knowing how to end MI2 and using it then, but also having planned a trilogy he wanted to go back to, so he could reveal the secret in a third part. Also the effect of having games made without him in the interim which elaborated on things he would have explored in his own game (theme park ideas, hell, etc.).

If he had revealed the secret at the end of MI1, it would have wrapped the whole secret thing up right there and would have had a strong impact as a surprise twist ending.
By using it at the end of MI2 but making it a cliff-hanger and saying there was always meant to be a part 3, it made it seem like there was a lot more we didn’t know, and also gave away too much of the secret at the same time. I think if he’d ended MI2 with something else (i.e. not mentioned a theme park at all), then the ending in RtMI would have been a lot more effective, as it would have been surprising.

Even though I love MI2, its ending is kind of the problem in the originally planned trilogy - it gives away the secret way too early, and so the reveal in RtMI is diminished, and it also creates an odd cliff-hanger that needs answering and creates more problems.

I think the other thing that makes it all seem kind of messy is that Ron likes ambiguous things (like he mentions in the recent interview), and he’s said before that he doesn’t like planning story things out, he likes to let the story go where it wants to go. In the recent interview he answers several things by saying they’re “open to interpretation”, and also he didn’t have a way of resolving the MI2 ending before starting RtMI, they brainstormed and came up with the Boybrush idea as a new thing.
So I think a lack of planning meant that lots of things contradict and don’t resolve, and Ron sees that as an arty David Lynch-ian thing, rather than a problem.


Guybrush never wears his t-shirts.