The Kingdom Hearts series may be a beloved success, but there was a time when Square Enix had to convince Disney to let them work with so many beloved properties. While the pitch process was mostly smooth, Disney did place one major limitation on Mickey Mouse.
“Actually, due to contractual issues, we were only able to use him in one scene,” said Kingdom Hearts director Tetsuya Nomura in the Kingdom Hearts Ultimania book. “Disney gave us permission for a role such as waving from the back of a crowd of people in town, but if we were going to use him, I thought we should use him in a single shot to leave the greatest impression.”
The shot that Nomura is referring to happens near the very end of Kingdom Hearts. It is then that we finally see Mickey Mouse (or at least the back of him) as he helps Sora close the door to Kingdom Hearts. We’d say that’s certainly better than seeing Mickey wave from the back of a crowd even if it isn’t quite the role many fans imagined for the iconic character when Kingdom Hearts was first announced.
What’s less clear is why Disney placed such a noticeable restriction on Mickey Mouse. The popular theory is that Mickey is essentially the company’s global icon at this point and that they have to be very careful about how that icon is used.
It all worked out in the end, though. Not only was the use of Mickey Mouse in Kingdom Hearts quite effective, but the success of the game led to Disney giving the Kingdom Hearts team the green light to feature Mickey more prominently in future titles (including the very promising Kingdom Hearts III). Mickey has arguably become one of the main characters at this point in the series.
That’s not the only corporate hurdle that Square Enix has had to overcome. A full report on the nature of the Kingdom Hearts/Disney relationship reveals that Pixar’s involvement was reportedly delayed by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s bad relationship with Pixar. Fortunately, his resignation led to Disney loosening the creative restrictions on Pixar properties.
Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014.