Before Organization XIII, before 385/2 Days…heck, before Sora and Riku, the heart and soul of the Kingdom Hearts series used to be the Disney franchises that were woven together to form a bizarre, yet wonderful, RPG. Though there obviously needs to be a framework to tie everything together, what mattered most was interacting with Pinocchio, Cinderella, Aladdin and dozens of other beloved characters in new and exciting ways.
While I’m currently really enjoying Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, I can’t shake the feeling that the Disney ties have become almost an afterthought. I love ”The Hunchback of Notre Dame” more than most, but why are we revisiting Monstro the whale again? Why am I playing through a direct-to-DVD musketeers movie to which I have no emotional connection? It’s a major issue the series will face when it gets to that inevitable third installment. The good news is that there are still plenty of awesome Disney films and television that are presumably viable…
1. “Toy Story” – The biggest question that comes up whenever anyone discusses the future of the KH series is if and when Pixar will be brought into the fold. Though Disney still has its own in-house animation studio, Pixar is the king of the box office. It’s odd to not see it represented. Why not start with its most iconic movie? With three movies worth of material, there’s much to draw from with the “Toy Story” series, and seeing Buzz Lightyear launching himself in the air on his Hot Wheels ramp would be particularly nostalgic for twenty-somethings like me who grew up with the series. Also, you could finally have those “‘Toy Story’ quality graphics” Sony touted back when the PS2 was released.
2. “Wall-E” – You could make a whole list full of just Pixar movies, but I limited myself to two. Though “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles” could also be great, “Wall-E” sports a unique outer space theme that KH hasn’t really explored yet. For a series that’s becoming known for being talky, the quiet Earth landscape could offer a welcome respite. Also, it’d be amusing to see Sora as a blob-person in the back-half of the stage.
3. “Brave Little Toaster” – Appliances hopping around, singing Little Richard songs and being really cute. I don’t see how Square Enix could mess this up.
4. “TaleSpin” – “DuckTales” could be an exciting choice as well, but I’d prefer to explore the open skies. Disney’s movie legacy tends to overshadow its television output, but its afternoon lineup in the early 90s was unbeatable. With “TaleSpin,” you get air-surfing, aerial dogfights, cool Art Deco architecture and the best damn theme song a cartoon could ask for!
5. “Wreck-It Ralph” – I guess this one’s a wait-and-see, seeing as “Wreck-It Ralph” doesn’t hit theaters until November. Lots of potential meta-commentary in the movie’s video game parody worlds, and you’d theoretically get a chance to see Sora, Riku and company in 8-bit pixel art. Bonus points if any of those gaming cameos we’ve seen in the trailer survive the transition.
6. “Mary Poppins” – The KH games have highlighted a few live-action films, but those were often newer stuff like “Tron Legacy” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Perfectly fine, but why not draw further back from Disney’s rich history? Perhaps “Mary Poppins” would be tougher to adapt than others, but between the penguin waiters and umbrella levitation, I’m confident that Square Enix could figure out a way to make it work.
7. “James and the Giant Peach” – “The Nightmare Before Christmas” tends to get most of the stop-motion love, but this adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic should be surreal enough to make the cut. Flying over Antarctica inside a giant peach with insect allies – sounds like it would stand out under any circumstances.
8. “The Muppets” – Disney now owns the Muppet Studio, which means Kermit and crew are on the table. I’d rather they not pattern the level on the recent Jason Segel vehicle. Instead, take the action backstage for “The Muppet Show.” This worked to great effect in the recent LittleBigPlanet 2 Muppet level pack.
9. “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” – I have no great love for the movie, but the potential for a massive scale is huge here – giant bugs, giant marshmallows, giant grass! I think back to the “Honey”-themed Disney World ride from when I was a kid and get goosebumps. It’d be amazing to have that in game form.
10. Walt Disney World – Speaking of Disney World, why not include Disney’s flagship amusement park (with Epcot’s Figment as your guide)? This was the basis for at least one middling NES game, but current consoles could do Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion and other classic rides justice.
*BONUS* I know there’s no chance in Hell of this happening, but seeing as Disney has a great relationship with Studio Ghibli, why not get some Miyazaki in Kingdom Hearts? Even a Totoro cameo would be incredible!