August 4, 2012

What if Disney added Kingdom Hearts to Fantasyland?

Kingdom Hearts Mockup Poster Disney
Never. Gonna. Happen.

Now that Disney California Adventure has finished its multi-year makeover, rumors naturally turn to "What's next For Disneyland Park?" The most likely candidate for renovation is Tomorrowland, and an expansion for Frontierland could also be in the works.

I'm no Imagineer, but there's a franchise out there that Disney could -- and should -- bring into Fantasyland in one form or another. It's called Kingdom Hearts. If you don't know what Kingdom Hearts is, ask your children, your teenagers, or your resident game player. Full of Disney characters, yet darker and edgier than we're used to seeing, it's a world that could potentially be as popular and profitable for the park as the Nightmare Before Christmas.

Click below for more about Kingdom Hearts and why it could make a great addition to Disneyland. Please keep in mind that this is all wishful thinking on my part; Disney has announced no plans to build a Kingdom Hearts attraction.

Kingdom Hearts 3D Disneyland Disney
Kingdom Hearts began ten years ago, when Disney did something amazing and unexpected: they entrusted a boatload of their most beloved characters to Squaresoft (now Square Enix), a Japanese videogame company known for their epic, surreal Final Fantasy series of role playing adventure games. Kingdom Hearts was released worldwide for Sony's Playstation 2, and featured spectacular art, beautiful music and extremely challenging gameplay (this was no kiddie game).

Its story followed a boy named Sora as he desperately tried to save the Universe from the dark powers of Maleficent, Jafar, Hades, Captain Hook and Ursula -- who, in turn, were mere pawns for a far darker force. The boy's allies? Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Merlin, Tarzan, Jack Skellington, Beast, Ariel, Jiminy Cricket, and many, many other classic characters. The game's advertising tagline said it all: "You Never Know Who You'll Run Into Next." Racing down the rabbit hole, around London's Big Ben and through battles with Hook, Maleficent and the demon Chernabog, the tale had more twists and turns than a wild mouse coaster, leading to a bittersweet yet optimistic ending.

The game quickly became a critical and commercial success, and over the next ten years several sequels, prequels and side-story games were released for various game devices.

The latest entry, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, hit U.S. stores this week for the Nintendo 3DS. Initial sales reports suggest that Disney and Square Enix have another hit on their hands. This isn't a game review site, but I can tell you KH3D is fun, deep, well-produced and spectacular.

A Kingdom Hearts land and interactive dark ride would be an amazing addition to Fantasyland, and would be embraced by older children, teens and anyone who loves seeing the Disney characters cast in an epic fantasy/sci-fi tale. It plays directly to the same audience they're reaching with Vinylmations, Star Wars/Disney figures and the new Wonderground Gallery in Downtown Disney.

My thoughts: build it on the site of the old Motor Boat Cruise or the Fantasyland Theater. It wouldn't have to be anything as huge and expensive as Cars Land; a more modest-sized area with a decent black light dark ride would do the trick. If we want to dream really big, however...what if this became a rebirth of the once-rumored Villain Mountain attraction? Either way, I'd bet my morning coffee for a week that the area's gift shop would be a huge (huuuuuuuge!!!!) moneymaker for the park.

Call me crazy, but if James Cameron's Avatar can find a home in Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom, a Kingdom Hearts ride (which would feature dozens of beloved Disney characters) in Fantasyland doesn't seem like such a stretch.


  1. OMG, Rich, you have no idea how long I've been waiting for Disney to capitalize on KH! I am so addicted to this game (the card game is fun too!) and with all the great Disney characters and worlds, I have no idea how they haven't realized what a gold mine they've been sitting on! It's sad that there isn't even merchandise in the parks!

    With all the Princess talk of Fantasyland (in WDW, I mean. I've never been to Disneyland) you would think KH would be a great way to appeal to the boy demographic or even the teen scene.

    The only reason why I'd think they'd be reluctant was b/c of the licensing red tape with the Final Fantasy characters? But aren't Sora, Riku and Kairi technically Disney Characters? I'm pretty sure, right?

    It's a shame they don't realize the full potential of all this. I'm glad someone said it too!


  2. Michelle: Kingdom Hearts is, indeed, awesome! I've kind of given up on trying to keep track of the complex backstory that's been spun since KH1, but I don't care; I just love playing the games and exploring the classic Disney environments!

    I'd sure like to know who actually holds the rights to the Sora, Riku and Kairi characters. The way I'm imagining it, the ride would only have to feature them at the beginning and end; they could actually recruit you, the rider, to become the main hero of the ride adventure. Even if Square Enix owns them, I'm sure they'd cost a lot less to license than say, Indy or 3PO. :)

    Have you played KH3D yet? It's amazing; collecting and raising the Dream Eaters is a whole game in itself, and it's got two of my now all-time favorite worlds.

    DL has a few more Fantasyland attractions that aren't Princess-related (Mr. Toad, Pinocchio, Matterhorn, the Casey Jr. ride), but a KH attraction would really add a sense of unexpected discovery to the place!


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