Despite the involvement of many well-known Disney characters in the Kingdom Hearts series over the years, Square Enix and Disney have kept the relationship between the two franchises relatively distant. Kingdom Hearts characters tend not to appear in Disney parks, for example, outside of the rare costumed appearance. But there was once a time when Disney itself intended to more directly involve Sora and other Kingdom Hearts characters in its media empire. Animator Seth Kearsley has revealed an animatic sequence once meant as a pilot for a Disney-produced Kingdom Hearts cartoon.
Check out the Kingdom Hearts cartoon animatic below. An “animatic” is essentially a “concept art” stage for animated and live-action productions. It’s typically made to give production staff a rough look at how a given sequence will flow when in motion. Animatics are often created by shooting storyboard frames in sequence and setting the result to music or dialog readings. More modern productions sometimes use rough CGI animation or placeholder models and preexisting assets.
The 11-minute pilot takes place in medias res, plotted as if it were an episode taking place somewhere after the series had already begun. It uses narration by Jiminy Cricket to lay out the basic premise of Kingdom Hearts, as well as recapping briefly its interpretation of Sora, Riku, and Kairi’s relationship. In the Kingdom Hearts cartoon, Sora would be traveling the universe searching for his lost friends, while Riku would be stuck cooperating with Maleficent for the same reason. Meanwhile, Donald and Goofy would be acting as guides and mentors for the young traveler, as they’re tasked with finding a prophesized hero to beat back an invasion by the Heartless. The trailer shows a rough synopsis of Sora, Goofy, and Donald’s adventure in Agrabah.
Kearsley, who worked as Executive Producer on the project, found a VHS recording of the animatic late last month. It was originally produced in 2003 to pitch the Kingdom Hearts cartoon to executives at Disney and Square Enix. Though the project was initially greenlit sometime in 2002 (after the launch of the first game on PS2), it was eventually scrapped.
In a video on his YouTube channel, Kearsley explained his motivation for sharing the content despite not speaking much about it for nearly 20 years. In addition, he showed off more production materials that had been almost never seen publicly. One interesting point of trivia: Actor Haley Joel Osment wasn’t available to voice Sora due to scheduling commitments, though much of the game’s voice cast did reprise their roles.
Though the Kingdom Hearts cartoon was canceled before it could be produced, the games are available on various platforms. Kingdom Hearts 4 is also in development.