I like so many others anticipate the release of Kingdom Hearts 3. I also wouldn’t mind seeing the release of the Last Guardian. I liked ICO enough and I had always meant to play Shadows of the Colossus. But for the sake of this post I’ll say I’m a realist and I understand that despite promises this may never happen. And despite all present anticipations if the KH franchise had gone in the direction I initially thought it would, Kingdoms Hearts II, 3 and all portables in-between may have leaned more Grimm then Disney.
Which leads me to ask: whatever happened to a good Disney scare? Actually Germlins director Joe Dante popped the idea in my head. If anyone’s watched Nightmares in Red, White and Blue on Netflix you might remember Dante say how Disney used fear in many of their animated films. He cites the scene in Pinocchio where the bad boys turn to donkeys and I certainly remember being terrified of the Maleficent dragon damming a young prince to Hell in Sleeping Beauty. At the time these were scary, if not disturbing, bits of animation.
Perhaps for this reason, when I first popped Kingdom Hearts into my PS2 it didn’t take long for me to believe the Disney/Square Enix team to evoke something more sinister than Heartless, Nightmares and Nobodys. I thought they were going to take me on a journey to main character permadeath.
Well, why not?
Square was never afraid to kill off main characters in its franchise and as we’ve established Disney isn’t afraid to take a dark turn. Many of their stories are derived from the twisted cautionary tales of Hans Christian Anderson and the aforementioned Brothers Grimm.
And like so many other Disney adaptations, A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh came from a place of tragedy, or so I thought at the time.
I believed the story of that lovable bear who takes a young boy on a journey through “The Wood” was A.A. Milne’s way of comforting his dying son with characters created from the boys own toys. And why wouldn’t I? My mom told me so. But my mom was wrong. The real Christopher Robin lived long enough to marry and have a kid of his own. But I didn’t know this!
For those who have played Kingdom Hearts know: at the start of the game Sora is isolated on a tiny island (outside of Riku, Kari and his Final Fantasy friends). After completing some initial tasks the player is taken to a scene of Sora lying in bed being told by his mother to come down for dinner. Of course he goes to save the raft he, Riku and Kairi had built from the storm. They were getting off that island!
I was convinced the KH team was channeling the real life, be they now imaginary, ghosts of A.A. Milne. I was further convinced that Sora was to represent a spiky haired Christopher Robin and that the Kingdom Hearts universe would be his own dying fever dream (maybe he caught a cold from the rain). He had already expressed so much confusion from the onset of the game. Is this real... is it an illusion... I was so convinced I had to play this game out until the end (this is also what motivated me to get through KH’s cardboard box of a Wonderland).
Of course this wasn’t to be his fate, because I apparently had made up the fate of the actual Christopher Robin (or rather my mom had) but think about how awesome that would have been. Taking guide of the doomed protagonist, the player could form a real connection to his or her character and really fear for his safety.
This kind of fear is important. It means we are learning and when we feel great risk it means that what we say we value, be it personal, emotional or the digital representation of our hero, has genuine significance to us (this woman says so ).
Now I don’t expect anything created under the Disney moniker to be the next Silent Hill anymore than I expect anyone to have genuine feelings for Sora. And if you do that’s fine (I guess), but you have to admit that this kind of an ending would have made for a more interesting tale than that of Sora’s current existence of a continuous false awakening where he keeps waking in the same rehashed worlds only to fight his “nightmares” again and again.
I suppose in the end, this alternate tale had been a fever dream of my own; but it was kind of a sweet one.