The animatic for a pilot episode of a planned Kingdom Hearts animated TV show has been uploaded to YouTube by executive producer Seth Kearsley, who worked on the pitch for the series in 2003. The footage is confirmed to be legitimate, with the release following teasers for a full reveal posted earlier in October. According to the video’s YouTube description, Kearsley felt it was finally time to share it as he wanted to show his work, nearly 20 years after it was first created.
The pilot episode is essentially an animated storyboard that shows off key scenes and characters. It includes basic voice work, including an entire narration guided by Jiminy Cricket, and plenty of character models and locations that will be familiar to fans of the long-running game franchise.
Notably, Haley Joel Osment does not voice Sora in the episode, due to alleged scheduling conflicts – he’s instead replaced by voice actor Bobby Edner. Both Riku and Kairi maintain their original voice actors – David Gallagher and Hayden Panettiere.
You can view the full animatic episode below, although given it’s technically the property of Disney, it may not be long before it’s pulled:
This episode is a fascinating find. The Kingdom Hearts TV pilot has long been known to exist, and snippets of a script have been posted online, alongside select screenshots – but it’s never been available to view in full.
Understandably, this has a lot to do with complex rights issues. The pilot never made it to full series, and exists only as an example of what could have been. The reason for the cancellation of the series – or more accurately, the reason why Disney chose not to pick it up – is currently unknown.
On Kearsley’s YouTube channel, he described the conditions for making the pilot as being very strenuous, and difficult due to the involvement of multiple parties:
‘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,’ Kearsley said, as transcribed by Screen Rant.
‘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.’
Until the video was posted online, the original pilot animatic was believed to be lost media. Now that it’s available for everyone, it can be preserved with the care it deserves.