I’m not super excited about Kingdom Hearts III at the moment… but that’s only because what we’ve seen so far was so generic and abstract – and, according to Tetsuya Nomura, so early in development that it’s not really indicative of much about the game anyway aside from its visual style. Until we see more of its characters, story, and worlds, it’s going to be hard to get me too excited.
But which Disney worlds should play a part this time around? I decided to crack open that question to see which worlds would get me most excited about the game, and I came up with ten never-before-used worlds that I think really ought to appear.
Toad Hall and/or Sleepy Hollow
The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad (1949)
Back in 1949, Disney produced a two-part animated feature titled The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad, based on two stories: “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and The Wind in the Willows. The story was told by a narrator who kicked off both stories as if reading them from two books. Both stories featured more or less ordinary tales, free of connections to “magic,” though the adventures of Mr. Toad featured anthropomorphized animals that fit right into the Disney universe.
Truthfully, either story (or both!) could work well in a Kingdom Hearts game. Toad Hall with its secret passages has a lot of potential as an explorable level; the Headless Horseman would make a fantastic world villain.
Robin Hood (1973)
Disney’s adaptation of the legend of Robin Hood is one of the studio’s more-beloved features, but I imagine it’s been difficult to include it in a game because the rights to the Robin Hood name get tossed around so frequently. Still, it’d be a nice choice for a Kingdom Hearts game due to its adventuresome setting, and I think the “steal from the rich to give to the poor” social justice plot could mesh well with a more mature Sora who has to tackle other evils apart from magical ones.
Realm of the King
The Sword in the Stone (1963)
Just as Sora is chosen by the Keyblade, King Arthur is chosen by Excalibur. Disney’s adaptation of the King Arthur myth – The Sword in the Stone – features Merlin, a character who has already appeared in Kingdom Hearts as a wise old wizard who hails from Radiant Garden. Merlin was supposedly once tied to the Keyblade and to training young heroes, and as such his tutelage of the young King Arthur could perhaps play a role in the next entry.
Given Merlin’s supposed “timeline” those events should have happened years before the series kicks off, but that doesn’t necessarily have to stop the story from turning there. We could always visit this world via time travel or some other kind of magic…
Marshes of Morva
The Black Cauldron (1985)
An obscure feature from the 80s, The Black Cauldron‘s plot eerily mirrors that of the Kingdom Hearts series. A wicked king seeks the Black Cauldron, which would enable him to raise the dead as his slaves, but he is opposed by a hero wielding the only sword that can effectively repel the evil king’s minions.
This story could very easily be adapted to turn the Cauldron into an origin place for Heartless, and the “dark” setting of the story could just as easily be interpreted as a world within the Realm of Darkness – something we’ve never quite seen in the world of Kingdom Hearts.
With the revival of the DuckTales brand in DuckTales Remastered, Disney’s got a perfect opportunity to give the character Scrooge McDuck more of a spotlight in Kingdom Hearts III by taking us to his place of origin: Manor McDuck.
While Donald’s away fighting Heartless in the final battle, we could see his three nephews left in McDuck’s care…until Heartless come seeking ol’ Unca Scrooge’s riches. The question is… which of Scrooge’s nemeses should be the villain?
The New World
I’ll be honest: I mostly want to see the world of Pocahontas come to life because the movie is so gosh darn beautiful. There are plenty of scenes from the first encounter between Pocahontas and John Smith that would come alive in magnificent colors if adapted for the video game world, and the wise tree Grandmother Willow could serve as an interesting source of series lore.
Kingdom of the Sun
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
Kuzco’s kingdom in The Emperor’s New Groove, like other kingdoms within the Kingdom Hearts series, would be a great site for adventure. It’s got a gigantic city, a vast countryside, and rural villages – all of which could intersect, making for a massive world to explore.
It might not be one of the most-beloved stories in the Disney canon, but it’s one of my wife’s favorites, and I know it’s gotta have more diehard fans.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
The Kingdom Hearts series could use a few more unorthodox stories and worlds, and Atlantis fits the bill nicely. Because the world of Atlantis is more or less dormant, having been lost long ago, it could also exist within the Realm of Darkness. The voyage of Milo and crew to discover the lost city could coincide with Sora’s own efforts to pierce into the Realm of Darkness.
The Sea of Stars
Treasure Planet (2002)
Including both Treasure Planet and Atlantis themed worlds might be a bit redundant, as they’re both voyage stories and both have similar twists. However, the setting of Treasure Planet could be even more appropriate for Kingdom Hearts, which already features a similar form of travel between its universe’s worlds in the form of the Gummi Ship.
Should the story feature multiple destinations within the Realm of Darkness, it’s also possible that, like the scenario proposed above for Atlantis, Sora could need to recruit assistance in reaching many of these darkness-shrouded worlds. If that’s the case, Treasure Planet could be just one of these destinations. The question is: what role would Treasure Planet play in the overall plot?
Kingdom of the Flower
Probably the best example of a modern-day Disney classic, the setting of Tangled, with its secluded tower, vast woodlands, and colorful kingdom, would fit nicely amidst all the other fantasy kingdom settings we’ve seen across the series’ history. The challenge would, as always, be to find a way to make it stand out from those other worlds.
However, for Rapunzel’s kingdom, I think its most unique qualities could come out with cutting-edge next-gen visuals. The scene with the lanterns, for example, could be positively stunning on PS4 and Xbox One, as could the tranquil grove where Rapunzel’s tower is hidden. The evil witch Gothel would also make a fantastic villain due to her use of deceit, which could extend beyond Rapunzel to Sora & Co.
These are just a few examples of unused Disney universes, chosen because of their adventuresome settings – and in a few cases, because of their connections to existing Kingdom Hearts characters. I’m sure the team at Square-Enix will shock and amaze – there are even rumors that we’ll visit Pixar-themed worlds or the universe of Star Wars. In the meantime, however, all we can do is guess. Which worlds would you most like to see? Share your thoughts in the comments!