Kingdom Hearts was almost an animated TV series, and 'still could be,' says former director
Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts was almost turned into an aminated TV series. Fan-site KH13.com reports that back in 2002, when only one Kingdom Hearts game was released, there was talks of developing an animated series based on the concept of initial game which blends an original storyline with characters and settings from various Disney universes. However, the idea was eventually scrapped when it was decided that more games would be made.
Seth Kearsley, the TV series director and writer, took to DeviantArt to post the storyboard of the animated series, while explaining the origins of the potential Kingdom Hearts animated series.
This goes back to about 2002. Only the first game had come out at this point. I was hired by Disney TV animation to develop and direct an animatic for a possible Kingdom Hearts animated series. I played the first game from beginning to end and was so excited to get this opportunity. This would have been the perfect thing for me, especially because of my action/comedy background with Mummies. It was dark. It combined anime and classic disney characters. Are you kidding me? This was awesome. I also had control of the script on this so it was INCREDIBLY DARK...but then so is the game. The darkest moment in the pilot was when Maleficent possessed Riku after he snatched the lamp. That's the very last panel here.
You'll notice a series lack of backgrounds in these boards. There was a pretty good reason for that. As part of the project, I was able to go to the Disney Animation Archives. The episode took place on Agrabah, so I pulled actual production BGs from Aladdin and boarded with it in mind that I would use this backgrounds.
This is one of those projects I really wish I could go back and have another crack at. Especially with the technology now. Looking back at these drawings, I can't believe how small some of them are. I also can't believe I inked them and did marker tones on all of them. I must have been temporarily insane.
At any rate, the pilot animatic tested exceptionally well but it was decided there wouldn't be an animated series because they planned on making many more games. WHO KNOWS...there could be a Kingdom Hearts animated series at some point.
Kearsley later went on to add the following:
I actually played the entire game myself to the end and tossed the script they originally had because it read more like an episode of Aladdin guest starring the characters from Kingdom Hearts. I wanted to be very true to the game without just copying the game. The episode took place in Agrabah and centered around Sora and Riku trying to get the lamp, which was the key to Argrabah. It started on the island the way the game starts so we could meet Sora, Riku and Kiri then it turns into a bit of a nightmare and Sora wakes up on the ship with Donald and Goofy as they're approaching Agrabah. We see Riku with Maleficent and Jafar. Riku and Sora meet up in a fight against the heartless in the streets. They both go for the lamp. As soon as Riku touches the lamp it's as though Maleficent has control of him and ultimately Sora gets the lamp away from Riku before a giant heartless hand pulls him through a portal. SOOO....quite a lot of information to get through in a 7 minute pilot presentation.
Ultimately, it tested very well but there was so much respect for the Japanese Director who was doing the games and there were still so many games in the works that they didn't want to muddy the water with a series. Who knows. Maybe they'll still do one down the road. When I see Disney acquiring Marvel and then LucasFilms, all I think is, "Those would be awesome worlds to battle heartless."
It would have been such an amazing show. With the pilot, I actually went to the Disney Archive and pulled production backgrounds from Aladdin to use as backgrounds for the pilot and then did the board with those backgrounds in mind. So when Sora and Riku were fighting in the streets, it was the actual backgrounds from the movie. When Riku grabs the lamp, it was the background from when Aladdin grabbed the lamp. My plan was to do that for all of the lands they would visit in the series. I felt that using the actual backgrounds would not only save a bunch of money it would keep us from recreating the wheel for each of those lands and it would have a visceral effect and make you feel like you had seen this before. I thought it would do an interesting thing to the brain of any hardcore fans.
So...yeah...it was the coolest project that never got off the ground for reasons that had nothing to do with the project itself but more company wide strategizing.
To date, there have been seven Kingdom Hearts games spread across various platforms. Square Enix recently announced Kingdom Hearts 3, the third game in the core console trilogy. I'm definitely a fan of the games, but damn it would've been sweet to also have an animated TV show. Who knows, maybe we'll get one some day. But can you imagine trying to follow this complex storyline on tv?
Below is the storyboard Kearsley posted alongside his explanation.