Nearly 20 years after its launch on the PlayStation 2, the Kingdom Hearts franchise is bigger than ever. In just the last year, we’ve had the release of the highly anticipated Kingdom Hearts III, and the announcement of two new spin-off games. Among that influx of news, rumors have spread about a Kingdom Hearts animated show being developed for Disney+.
But what is Kingdom Hearts? In laymen’s terms, it’s an action role-playing game that sees the player teaming up with Disney and Final Fantasy characters to defeat evil. Over the years, the series has expanded its lore and character roster immensely. The result is an extremely messy story that gets more convoluted with each installment. So that begs the question: can Kingdom Hearts actually work as a TV series?
As mentioned above, the overarching story of Kingdom Hearts is infamously contrived. There’s time travel, character regression, plot holes, retcons, the whole nine yards. But it wasn’t always this way. The story of the first game is pretty straightforward; after losing his home to a terrible darkness, a plucky hero named Sora must travel across the universe to eliminate this darkness, rescue his lost friends, and restore his fallen world. It played very much like an episodic adventure fantasy, ala Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Dragon Prince. On top of that, the motivations were clear and the narrative concise.
If Kingdoms Hearts is brought to the small screen, a faithful adaptation of the first game would make a perfect first season. The first couple of episodes can focus on setting up Sora, his friends Riku and Kairi, and the main conflict. The next batch can center the Disney worlds, with hints to the greater plot scattered here and there. Everything would culminate in the season finale, which sees Sora facing off with the main villain and ultimately saving the day. This stuff writes itself.
The issue comes with the sequel games. If the show garners multiple seasons, it would make sense to simply retell the stories of the sequels. However, as the sequels are the source of the series’ endless narrative problems, the best move would be to ignore them altogether and tell original stories. Sure, cherry pick elements from the sequels, but retool them to serve a more coherent narrative devoid of time travel, cloning, etc.
The original Kingdom Hearts cast was primarily made up of preexisting characters from Disney and Final Fantasy. It was a safe move, and a smart one at that. As the series found its footing, tons of original faces were added to the roster like Roxas, Axel, and Naminé. Unfortunately, a lot of these original characters have notoriously asinine backstories that just get messier throughout the series. Therein lies the problem.
If it were up to me, I’d just get rid of most of them. But the omission of these characters would undoubtedly garner major backlash from fans, so I don’t expect that to happen. Instead, I feel that a Kingdom Hearts series can have its cake and eat it too. As I said about the sequels’ stories, the TV series can take the sequels’ characters and retool them to fit a more coherent narrative. In lieu of every other character being a glorified clone, recast them as independents that Sora meets during his adventures. I liken this concept onto the reboot of DuckTales, which adapts its classic characters with entirely new backstories and professions, to better suit the show’s continuity—often to great effect.
So, can Kingdom Hearts work as a TV series? Yes, but it would take major revisioning. From a narrative standpoint, this series is plagued with problems. It is a very “style over substance” IP, as it stands. A TV adaptation has the opportunity to change that entirely; take what works in the original, omit what does not, and add new elements to make the show stand on its own. It all comes down to the creative team. If done right, a Kingdom Hearts TV show could be something special. Either way, I know I’ll be tuning in at its launch if a show does come to fruition.
What do you think?Do you think Kingdom Hearts will work as a Disney+ series? Sound off in the comments!
Edited by: Kelly Conley