Director Seth Kearsley talks more about the canceled Kingdom Hearts pilot and how well it tested with Disney Television. The Disney Channel, and historically ABC, have produced a wide array of animated television shows. The first major series from the studio was The Wuzzles and The Adventures of the Gummi Bears. However, DuckTales firmly cemented the network’s talent for producing excellent televised content. They soon graduated to adapting Walt Disney Animation Studios feature films into weekly programming with shows such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and eventually Hercules. In recent years, they have become notable for creating more diverse content with shows such as Gravity Falls, Amphibia, and The Owl House.
Over the years, Disney has passed on content to produce as well. The Houghton Brothers, creators of Big City Greens, had pitched a show to them prior called Welcome to Simpleton, which was not picked up. Jorge R. Gutierrez, the creator of Netflix’s Maya and the Three, pitched his series Carmen Got Expelled to Disney, but it too was rejected. Seth Kearsley, better known for directing the Adam Sandler film Eight Crazy Nights, was given a chance to work with Disney on a collaborative project based on the video game Kingdom Hearts. The project went under the radar for many years, with Disney, Square Enix, and Kearsley remaining tight-lipped about the failed project until recently.
Kearsley took to his personal YouTube page to break down the history of how he got involved with creating the Kingdom Hearts pilot and how it all fell apart. Kearsley was asked to come and work on the project after having shown interest in wanting to do something with the studio. Having never played Kingdom Hearts, Kearsley spent the whole week playing through the game and picking up on the story and characters. When he was given the script to adapt into a pilot, Kearsley was less than impressed:
At the time, we weren’t even really allowed to do sequential story, like every episode had to stand on its own and also with the pilot, it had to stand on its own, it had to be ‘episode seven’. I couldn’t do the origin story… so I said, I like it, I wanna do it and then they gave me a script and I read the script and the script read like an episode of Aladdin co-starring the characters from Kingdom Hearts. And I was like, ‘I don’t wanna do that’, I said, ‘I don’t like the script, I wanna do a rewrite,’ and they said, ‘You’re fired,’… I was like, ‘It’s not that I hate the script, it’s that this reads like an episode of Aladdin co-starring Kingdom Hearts characters and I really think that this should be like an episode of Kingdom Hearts that happens to take place in the world of Aladdin.’ So I got to do a rewrite. I spent a lot of time with a writer and we came up with a new version that definitely felt like Kingdom Hearts.
Kingdom Hearts’ Cancelation Was ‘Heartbreaking’
The pilot was completed and played for the Disney executives, where Kearsley claims that it tested positively, or as he put it, “better than any other pilot.” Furthermore, he was allowed to look into the Disney archives so that he could use backgrounds from Aladdin to add authenticity. Following the cancelation, Kearsley was heartbroken over the decision but held onto the storyboard and original tape containing the pilot. After a car accident nearly killed him in January 2022, Kearsley was convinced he had sat on the pilot for too long, motivating him to release it online once he figures out how to transfer the footage.
The news that Kearsley will soon release the pilot online is a welcome announcement. The Kingdom Hearts franchise is a well-loved series, and seeing what he had in store will have fans wondering what could have been. There is a rumor that a new series is in development for Disney+, but Kearsley does not appear to be involved, and there has been no confirmation from Disney whether there is truth to it. Until then, fans will have to wait for the next official game with Kingdom Hearts IV.
Source: Seth Kearsley/YouTube