In 2002, the world was given "Kingdom Hearts" on the PS2. Children rejoiced. "Final Fantasy" fans cheered. Disney fans got stoked. It turned out to be not just a great game, but also a stellar franchise. The saga about a young, starry-eyed hopeful traveling to weird and fantastic worlds and meeting all manners of bizarre characters may be a cliche ("Star Wars", cough cough.), but the expansive universe of Kingdom Hearts keeps us drawn in with all the awesome franchises and IP's. Sora and friends not only battle wicked villains, but also engage in interactions with other Disney characters in ways we couldn't experience before.
As a Disney fan, I've kept a weathered eye out for some movie's settings and characters that I've wanted to see Sora, Donald, and Goofy explore. At the time of this writing, there have been 54 full-length animated movies, 15 Pixar films, over a dozen animated TV series, and far too many live-action properties to count. The only problem is that Disney knows how passionate its fans are, but they take the easy way out by promoting the same films over and over. Why coast through "Finding Nemo's" Eastern Australian Current when you could visit Agrabah four times? "The Emperor's New Groove"? No, but we need to re-visit Neverland again. "Pocahontas"? Nah, Pooh and his friends want a few more mini-games.
We know "Big Hero 6" and "Tangled" are coming in the third and possibly final (Well, for Sora's journey, anyway) installment. But if we could just spitball for a bit which worlds would be the most fun to explore and possibly the most interesting, whether for the sake of story or characters. For this list, I'm eschewing the Marvel, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Muppets (Though the thoughts of an adamantium or light saber keyblade are too awesome to comprehend for mere mortals.), and sticking with animated, Pixar, and live-action/animated realms. So let's imagine some cool new worlds for Sora and crew, eh?
10. Prydain ("The Black Cauldron", 1985)
This movie was Disney's first animated feature film to be rated PG, and was released during a time when the general public was not looking at Disney animation favorably. Due to a bloated budget and unfocused direction, "The Black Cauldron" tanked badly at the box office when it easily could have been a predecessor to Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings". Based off of Lloyd Alexander's "Chronicles of Prydain", the movie stars a wide-eyed twerp named Taran, who is eager to fight in devastating war. He gets caught up in conflict anyway when he gets captured by the Horned King, meeting up with a stuffy young princess, a oracular pig, a trio of batty witches, a slew of fairies, an inept bard, and a gravel-voiced ape-dog creature named Gurgi.
Despite the fact the movie itself is pretty bad, it isn't without redeeming qualities. Taran wields a magic sword sans a backstory that could be seen as an incentive for he and Sora to bond over, concerning being reluctant heroes in a massive conflict they feel ill-equipped to handle. The titular cauldron has powers to raise the dead as cauldron borne, but it could easily be worked into a storyline in which the Horned King must resurrect anything from heartless to nobodies to zombified deceased enemies. The Horned King's barbarian soldiers and pet gwythaint are perfect foes for Sora and Taran to face. Donald could have several hilarious encounters with Gurgi. Even just the vast world - Dallben's farm, the Horned King's labyrinthine castle, the fairy's underground kingdom, and the marshes of Morva - all provide endless opportunities to explore. The only obstacle is the film's lack of popularity, but that didn't seem to stop "Tron" and "Chicken Little" from showing up in "Kingdom Hearts 2".
Oh, and by the way, the Horned King is easily the scariest, baddest Disney villain ever.
Keyblade: Hope of Prydain
9. Uncle Remus' Stories ("Song of the South", 1946)
Before you retreat to the comment section with blind and vivid rage, internet, let me explain a few things: Yes, I'm fully aware of the movie's uncomfortable history. I own a copy and I have seen the movie. Bill Cosby does not own the rights to it. And they DID use the characters in Disneyland Adventures Kinect to a wonderful degree. And Disney CAN do it IF THEY WANT TO...but they most likely won't for the aforementioned uncomfortable history. But this list has little to do with realistic expectations.
We have been to the Hundred Acre Woods many times over, and while I adore the stories of Pooh Bear and his friends, I wouldn't mind a change in routine once in a while. Since the animated segments are the best-known (Thank you, Splash Mountain!), and melee combat is not really appropriate here, even up against Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear, it'd be best to look at this the same way we've looked at Pooh's world.
Say Merlin pulls a dusty tome from his shelf; a long-forgotten relic: the stories of Uncle Remus (Framing device. Boom!). Sensing a darkness, Merlin sends Sora into the book, where he meets Br'er Rabbit, who recruits the boy in playing some pranks on Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear. Here, Sora can be taught different moves and power-ups, but still enabling battle action so to not be completely dull to the average gamer. Perhaps thwart off bees, or battle in the river with Br'er Gator (A character not in the movie, but on the ride.), go fishing with Br'er Frog, or using the briar patch as a trap. The exposure on this game could empower faith in a product that bears an uncomfortable stigma that only gets worse the more Disney ignores it.
Keyblade: Southern Folklore
8. Sherwood Forest/Nottingham ("Robin Hood", 1973)
From "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah" to "Oo-de-lally", "Robin Hood" is a hugely undervalued movie. Despite its lackadaisical nature, there isn't much action, but the property can still provide a lot of it. Of course, first things first, in a world where all the denizens are anthropomorphized animals, Donald and Goofy are safe. But Sora could be...I don't know, a rabbit? A raccoon? I have no idea. I just know a fox would be redundant.
Once the gang lands in Sherwood Forest, Prince John could have thrown King Richard into the dungeon, with the nobodies feeding off his negative energy, and heartless running rampant, terrorizing the citizens of Nottingham. Some of the rhino guards could even be empowered by the powers of the darkness. The worlds are minimal in terms of options - pretty much just Prince John's castle, Robin's camp, and the archery tournament - just the expansive nature of the castle and forest would be enough to hold just about anything our heroes need.
Robin eagerly joins Sora at his side, empowered with either a broadsword or his trustworthy bow and arrow. But frankly, I'd just love to battle Nutsy, Trigger, and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Keyblade: Spirit of Outlaw
7. Monstropolis ("Monsters, Inc.", 2001)
In the first "Kingdom Hearts" game, Jack Skellington of Halloweentown claims he wanted to use the heartless to scare trick-or-treaters, but it backfired when he saw the nasty vermin attacking people instead of scaring them. As redundant as it may be, I can see a very similar setup being utilized in a "Monsters, Inc." world.
We saw in the first movie that the company was facing tough financial woes, so it's not unusual to imagine Mr. Waternoose and Randall bringing aboard the heartless to keep the flow of energy going. Of course, Sulley and Mike are very concerned, and thanks to their experience with Boo, are relatively cool with humans. In fact, just the fact that Sora is a human could create all sorts of puzzles to solve (Like getting from point A to point B without being seen by other monsters), or nobodies posing as CDC agents. and when all's said and done, the doors can be used as a hub for Sora to have quick and simple access to various worlds (By entering through their closets, of course!)
Sulley as your party member is the obvious choice. His size, strength, and claws make him a perfect ally, plus it opens up a possible storyline for our heroes to rescue Mike Wazowski. Plus, fighting Randall is easily one of the scariest, yet coolest villain battles, not unlike the first game's Stealth Sneak from Deep Jungle, only smaller.
Keyblade: Horn and Fang
6. Anything from ("Toy Story", 1995 - Present)
This one has been in demand from the beginning, and it's no surprise why. It's a huge franchise and a wildly successful one at that. Just the thought of Sora the action figure, Donald the rubber ducky, and Goofy the toy soldier is almost too deliciously adorable to imagine.
The reason I didn't pin down a certain world was because of the the fact the worlds from the various movies are so disparate. Andy's room, Sid's house, Al's Toy Barn, Al's penthouse, Sunnyside Daycare, or even Bonnie's room are all wonderful places to explore, and baddies like Zurg, Stinky Pete, or Lotso are great villains to face off against when you're only 3-1/2 inches tall. Buzz would be the de facto comrade in your escapades (Because why wouldn't you?), but Woody could certainly hold his own, too.
The missions could range from escaping Sunnyside to exploring Bonnie's House, or even escaping Sid's. Possibly the aforementioned doors from Monstropolis could even be portals to the different houses. After all, they are all Pixar movies, and supposedly have that huge fan theory, right?
Keyblade: Sold Separately
5. The Big Easy ("The Princess and the Frog", 2009)
From the soulful soundtrack to the saturated swamps, New Orleans is a delightful setting to turn loose a teenager wielding a massive keyblade. Especially one finding an absurd amount of heartless and nobodies running rampant. Of course, who's behind it all, but one deeply-indebted Dr. Facilier seeking to claim the souls of the city, leaving only Sora and his friends to stop him.
Tiana and Naveen are of course in tow, but since their human forms are not conducive for battling spirits, it may be best to keep them frogs, as well as Sora, Donald, and Goofy. Plus, it works in Louis the alligator as transportation, and Ray could teach Donald his patented light attack.
Naturally, because Kingdom Hearts is LIGHT...this makes it by far the clearest application to the game's lore as they battle the shadows and dark spirits of Facilier's friends on the other side.
Keyblade: Lame de la Bayou ("Blade of the Bayou")
4. Duckburg/St. Canard ("DuckTales"/"Darkwing Duck" 1988 - 1995)
As a kid of the 80's and 90's, I watched A LOT of Disney Afternoon: "Aladdin", "Chip n' Dale Rescue Rangers", "TaleSpin", "Gargoyles", "The Adventures of the Gummi Bears" and "Timon and Pumbaa" were regular watching for me. In my decision to choose any of Disney's TV shows, I dismissed "Kim Possible", "Phineas and Ferb", "American Dragon: Jake Long", and "Gargoyles", since Kim, Agent P, Jake, and Goliath would do better as summons than fleshed out worlds. But when I couldn't focus on the two finalists, I couldn't decide. But since the shows were connected ("Darkwing Duck" was a spinoff of "DuckTales"), why not have the two worlds joined together, not unlike "KH2"'s Halloweentown/Christmastown world?
Aside from Donald getting to see his Uncle Scrooge and nephews, the scenario is perfect for bringing about Magica DeSpell, the sinister witch, to use her magic to employ heartless and nobodies to steal Scrooge's number one lucky dime, and throw in a few Beagle Boys for good measure. And as tempting as it is to have Scrooge and his legendary pogo-cane at your side, let's be honest: we all want to have GizmoDuck taking them out.
Of course, once Sora and friends breach into St. Canard, the Terror That Flaps in the Night is going get rather territorial. But there's little time for egos once NegaDuck and the Fearsome Five are on the loose! Magica's teamed up with NegaDuck in the Kaboom! comic books (Which I highly, highly recommend reading, by the way.), so it's not without precedent. And for a world with multiple action heroes, it'd be a crime NOT to fight alongside GizmoDuck and Darkwing Duck.
My only misgiving is naturally the liaison between the two worlds is Launchpad McQuack, Scrooge's pilot and Darkwing's sidekick, but where would he be inserted? And what about Webby, Doofus, Gosalyn and Honker? We nineties kids need this.
Keyblade: Justice Ducks
3. Toontown ("Who Framed Roger Rabbit", 1988)
Roger Rabbit has been the unlucky stepchild in the past two decades. He helped spur the animation renaissance that would make Disney a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry, but since it was a co-production with Amblin Entertainment, he quickly became forgotten about once Disney had their own products to capitalize on. But for those who still love the film and characters, this could enable many, many opportunities.
First and most obviously, what is "Kingdom Hearts" but humans teaming up with 'toons?
The town can be as big as however the programmers want it to be, full of puzzles, games, and any sort of logistics can be made up on the fly (provided they don't tick off the players.)
Judge Doom could be using the Heartless to eat away at the town. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit could be used in his second big video game exposure. Donald and Goofy could visit their houses. A racing game with Benny the cab can be used. Sora fighting the weasels...need I go on? But frankly, just the inclusion of Roger and his wife Jessica would alone make the game worth the sticker price.
Keyblade: Stretch and Squash
2. Casey Junior's Circus ("Dumbo", 1941)
Dumbo was used as a summon in the first game and "Chain of memories", where he uses a powerful water cannon splash attack, but the rest of his home world has been untouched. With the story about Heartless and nobodies and pain and emotions and sorrow...why hasn't this been explored?
"Dumbo" is a dark movie, with a lot of troubling subtext on issues like abandonment, loneliness, and prejudice: subjects that the KH franchise has never shied away from. Where a better place than for Riku to show up and watch his friend from afar as Sora has a heart-to-heart with the baby elephant?
In addition to the nasty heartless, what if they took on the form of clowns? I know too many people are afraid of them, and having them be played by heartless is no better, but admit it, it's too easy an idea not to use. Plus throw in plenty of circus tents to explore, freeing Mrs. Jumbo, or even battling a few of the circus lions or tigers? Or even those pink elephants? Heck, maybe the crows can even teach Sora how to glide.
Full of strong emotion, both light and dark, "Dumbo" is a rich source for all sorts of escapades for Sora to get into.
Keyblade: Circus Act
1. The Seeonee Jungle ("The Jungle Book", 1967)
This world was supposed to be in the first "Kingdom Hearts". What happened? Apparently, it was too much like Tarzan's "Deep Jungle"; another world underused due to licensing issues. And it was supposed to appear in "Birth by Sleep", but was, for whatever reason, discarded, possibly due to time issues. It remains a hackable level, where one of the three main characters can roam through the jungle or King Louie's throne arena.
Why has this one taken so long? First of all, the boss battles between Sora and, oh, I don't know, A TIGER would be unbelievably fun. Shere Khan is bigger and stronger than Scar, and unlike Sabor, he can actually talk, and since his beef with humans is based in hatred, the heartless would eat that negative vibe like candy.
Kaa, the python, is another fun battle. With a small target (his head), that would be hard enough. But what if he would fire off a zap attack at you that would slow your reflexes after every hit? After all, his primary weapon is his hypnosis.
Just the story alone is trying to find and rescue Mowgli, alongside Baloo and Bagheera, and a big battle in Louie's lair with bouncywilds and other monkeys would be natural. Once you find Mowgli, he joins your side as an ally. Now why the scrawny ten-year-old? Well, for two reasons: Baloo is big and strong, and yes, he teaches Mowgli to box in the movie, but he's no fighter. Bagheera, the panther, is more adept at battle, but he seems to be more of a pacifist in nature, since he was mysteriously absent during the movie's climactic battle, it feels weird to picture him fighting. Mowgli, on the other hand, may not be very fast or strong, but put a bunch of fruit in his hands and he could probably stun several enemies. The other reason is the discussions he and Sora can have: Mowgli has always been resistant in going home, and Sora could find himself in a moral quandary about going back to Destiny Islands. And when the story ends with Mowgli and Shanti, the little girl, it seems apropos to have Sora have reflections about Kairi.
And who better to give you military training than Colonel Hathi himself?
The world may seem limited in scope, but among other locations: Louie's Ruins, Council Rock, the Dawn Patrol's camp, the wastelands, the waterfall, Kaa's tree...there's so much to explore.
"The Jungle Book" is a great movie, but it saddens me it gets so forgotten and brushed away in favor of reusing Agrabah, Wonderland, and Olympus. There are so many other worlds to explore and discover, it seems such a waste to, as Walt put it so infamously, try to "top pigs with pigs".
Keyblade: Song of the Seeonee