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New Disney Movie Wish Could Have Big Impact On Kingdom Hearts

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Wish, the 62nd film released by Walt Disney Animation Studios, is a bad movie. The film is meant to celebrate the studio’s 100th anniversary, but instead, its incoherent story and reliance on millennial cliches for cheap jokes come off like it was fed into an AI generator and spat out onto the big screen. And the music, always a staple in Disney films, has some really lovely parts that are sadly weighed down by terrible lyrics.

Overall, Wish is a hot mess, but for Kingdom Hearts fans, its core premise could have significant implications for Square Enix’s Disney and Final Fantasy crossover—that is, if Tetsuya Nomura and friends decide to incorporate it into future Kingdom Hearts games.

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What is Wish about?

Wish is set in the kingdom of Rosas, where King Magnifico, a sorcerer with the power to grant wishes given to him by the common folk, hoards wishes as magical orbs and refuses to grant ones he doesn’t believe will be good for the kingdom. When a citizen turns 18, they give Magnifico their wish for “safekeeping” in his study until the day he decides to grant it. While he might believe himself righteous, as protagonist Asha points out, Magnifico has created a system in which he controls the fate of everyone in Rosas, rendering the townsfolk hopeless as they wait for their wishes to be granted. As the film progresses, the king’s true nature as an egomaniacal bastard becomes apparent and Asha leads a rebellion against his tyranny.

But what does this have to do with Kingdom Hearts? As Asha learns more about the wishes in Magnifico’s clutches, it becomes clear that some of these wishes have to do with events that lead into various Disney movies. One Rosas civilian wants to fly, wears a green tunic, and is named Peter like Peter Pan. Valentino, Asha’s pet goat who gains the ability to speak because of magical shenanigans, wishes for a place where all mammals live equally, referencing the idyllic vision of 2016’s Zootopia. Asha herself becomes a Fairy Godmother and dons a cloak similar to the character from Cinderella.

Disney

There are other references, like Asha’s group of friends all dressing and acting similarly to the seven dwarves from Snow White. And when Magnifico is defeated, he’s trapped in a mirror, basically becoming the Magic Mirror from the same movie. There’s even a split-second frame in which his face is outlined to look like the mask that inhabits the mirror in the 1937 film.

What does Wish mean for Kingdom Hearts’ Disney universe?

All of this (and the 90 minutes of other Disney movie references) is part of the purpose of Wish—to celebrate Disney’s history—but there’s a larger implication here: Rosas is the center of a connected Disney universe. According to co-directors Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn, as well as co-writer Jennifer Lee, Wish isn’t hardwired as a multiverse launch pad, but it does imply characters like Peter Pan, places like Zootopia, and songs like “When You Wish Upon A Star” are the dreams of the citizens of Rosas. Prior to this, Disney has featured the occasional crossover detail before, like Frozen featuring characters from Tangled in a crowd shot, which Disney has mostly acknowledged as cute nods. But Wish makes an entire plot point out of Disney’s most beloved characters and worlds having an inception within its kingdom.

This raises questions as to how that world would function in a potential Kingdom Hearts’ crossover. Will Kingdom Hearts play with the abstract ideas Wish hints at? In Square Enix’s RPG series, protagonist Sora and his friends Donald and Goofy travel to various Disney worlds on a spaceship. But before these worlds were separated, they originated from Scala ad Caelum, which featured heavily in Kingdom Hearts Union χ and in the final section of Kingdom Hearts III.

Artwork of Scala ad Caelum.

Image: Square Enix / Kingdom Hearts wiki

Incorporating Wish and Rosas into Kingdom Hearts’ world would require a great deal of retconning, as Square Enix has already been building out its own connected lore for 20 years. It’s unclear if it will even have to reckon with it anytime soon given Kingdom Hearts IV has been in development concurrently alongside the movie, and Disney began work on Wish in 2018, a year before Kingdom Hearts III launched. While we don’t know what Disney worlds will appear in the next game, we can reasonably assume Disney and Square have been talking about Kingdom Hearts IV while Wish was in production.

Kingdom Hearts has released plenty of prequels and midquels in between its numbered entries that help recontextualize story beats or fill in gaps, but Scala ad Caelum’s place as the root of Kingdom Hearts’ Disney crossover is pretty well-established. So it might just be easier for Square Enix to ignore Rosas and Wish’s Disney cinematic universe entirely. However, the series is no stranger to tweaking characters, worlds, and relationships to fit its own narrative. On top of weaving the existence of the shadow-like enemy Heartless into Disney movie plots, Kingdom Hearts has continued to fold new movies into its storytelling.

The first game made the Seven Princesses of Heart (which included Alice, Snow White, Jasmine, Belle, Cinderella, and Aurora) into a unified, magical force that affected the entire known Kingdom Hearts universe. Kingdom Hearts III made sure to add newcomers Rapunzel, Anna, and Elsa as part of the New Seven Hearts meant to take up the mantle. So Rosas could realistically be molded to fit the needs of a new story arc—perhaps it could be the origin point of the new worlds Sora will explore in Kingdom Hearts IV, further explaining the expanding lore without stepping on the toes of the story the series told before.

Sora, Donald, and Goofy stand below Arendelle's pink sky.

Image: Disney

Wish attempts what Kingdom Hearts pulled off over 20 years ago

Kingdom Hearts’ interconnected Disney universe was a pretty novel idea back in 2002 when the first game was released. But nowadays, crossovers are so common they’re having diminishing returns. Take a look at recent Marvel Cinematic Universe box office numbers and you’ll see people are less infatuated with the concept of everything they watch and play weaving into one another. A shared Disney universe is a core theme in newer games like Disney Dreamlight Valley and Disney Mirrorverse, but Kingdom Hearts is one of the few examples where those worlds feel cleverly woven into each other, rather than thrown together in a disconnected pocket dimension. Now that Wish is at least toying with the idea of Rosas as the source of characters and ideas seen in previous Disney films, Kingdom Hearts is in an interesting position. It has to either reckon with one of the movies it may feature eating its lunch—albeit with its hands instead of a perfectly good fork and knife and just generally making a mess of the table—or find a way to wiggle out of the bind it’s put the series in.

I do wonder if, given Wish’s middling reception and box office performance, Square Enix might opt not to touch the movie or its characters at all, as it would complicate things in ways that are probably not worth the trouble. But Kingdom Hearts has put some mid-ass Disney movies in its games in one way or another, so who knows? Yes, I’m looking at you, Chicken Little. In the meantime, let’s hope whatever Disney is cooking for 2024 doesn’t read like it was written by ChatGPT.

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