Back when Kingdom Hearts was first released and became a far more successful game than either Disney or Square Enix expected, Disney also considered turning the game into an animated series. It was the early 2000s and that’s basically what Disney did with everything. However, Disney felt that the series was a little too dark to be a Saturday morning cartoon, so they canceled it. Storyboards have floated around the internet for years, but the fabled lost pilot episode was never found.
Until today. As promised last month, executive producer and Eight Crazy Nights director Seth Kearsley uploaded the pilot in full to his YouTube channel early this morning.
"I claim no rights to any part of this except that this is my work. I'm not profiting from it," wrote Kearsley in the video description, perhaps trying to stave off a copyright claim from Disney. "I want to show my work. It's been 20 years."
The pilot episode isn’t fully animated, but it is fully voiced by everyone from the Kingdom Hearts game save for Sora voice actor Haley Joel Osment. Instead, Bobby Edner takes the role of the series protagonist and brings a slightly more childlike voice to Sora. What little animation there is definitely gives an early 2000s Disney vibe, as does the music in the episode’s action scenes.
There are, of course, quite a few departures from the game. The opening sequence of Sora, Kairi, and Riku playing on the beach is shortened to be a recurring nightmare when the Heartless attack and Sora was found by Donald and Goofy. There’s also very little time spent convincing Sora she’s the hero that will save the universe, and even less time showing Malificent’s corruption of Riku.
Agrabah is almost nothing like the game. Jasmine and Aladdin aren’t present at all and it’s really just Sora and the gang fighting a few Heartless before Riku sends them to find the magic lamp. Then again, the whole episode is just 11 minutes long, so sacrifices definitely had to be made.
"This is not without its flaws, which I have no doubt will be pointed out, but I was really proud of the story we were able to tell in the time we had," added Kearsley. "Setting up the entire premise of a series, and doing a 'typical episode' is a tall order. I feel like we pulled that off, and when they tested it with kids, it tested better than anything else they were testing in that round."
There’s no telling how long Disney will let this pilot stay on YouTube, so you’d better watch it now before it gets taken down.
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