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How a Phantom Thief Stole My Heart With This Kingdom Hearts Puppet Musical

It truly was so Simple and Clean

I’ve gone on record saying that I was done caring about Kingdom Hearts. I’ve also called myself out on my own lie because I tend to get giddy whenever Sora shows up because of his overwhelming optimism. Still, after I finished screaming about his Smash Bros. announcement, I quietly told myself that it would be the last time I cared about Kingdom Hearts.

Then voice actress Erika Harlacher read me for filth with a wholesome musical puppet show.

Harlacher, whose voice I’ve heard for well over 100 hours thanks to my love of Persona 5 (she’s Ann), recently posed the question, “What if Kingdom Hearts was a musical… with puppets?” The answer? It would be the most endearing reminder as to why, no matter how many times I say “I’m done,” I always end up going back to this series whenever new content is released for it. With animation and editing by Luke Stone and the piano accompaniment by Greg Chun (Gi-hun’s dub voice actor in Squid Game), Harlacher created a performance that really showcases how this really did start as an adventure between a boy, a dog, and a duck.

And I absolutely love it.

This isn’t exactly what I expected to find

This phrase is sung throughout the production as our characters think about how things aren’t exactly what they expected them to be. In a way, that’s how I feel about Kingdom Hearts as a whole. When I originally played the game back in 2002 (is this franchise really about to be 20 years old???) I picked it up on a whim because once upon a time Blockbuster existed and you could rent video games there.

I was in awe of there being Disney in my Final Fantasy (or Final Fantasy in my Disney, whichever order you prefer) and kinda assumed that it would be a one-shot game that wouldn’t become an entire decades’ long saga. Still, I was so invested in the story that I beat the game in two days, determined to stay up as late as possible to get to the end (and cuz, you know, I had to return the game to Blockbuster).

Everything felt larger than life with Kingdom Hearts. The game tosses you in and you have to make decisions right off the bat, and you have no idea how they’re going to affect your game. Sora is extremely easy to like along with the “is there something more out there” narrative that compliments his naivety. Sora leaving his home to explore new worlds that were familiar (because Disney) but not (because Kingdom Hearts) made for a fun, whimsical adventure, but a daunting one since he’d never been away from home before.

I think I kinda forgot about those early days until I saw puppet Sora bouncing around the adorable set pieces that Harlacher created.

Remember when Donald and Goofy (mostly Donald) were using Sora?

“The Trio Song” goes into the beginning of Sora, Donald, and Goofy’s relationship, and boy has it come a long way. While the three are the best of friends by the time Kingdom Hearts III rolls around, in the very beginning Donald was basically using Sora because he had the keyblade and King Mickey told them to follow the key.

In the song, Goofy comments on how that “seems mean,” and he’s right, but Donald reminds him of their mission. In fact, in the game, Donald and Goofy were so stuck on being close to the keyblade wielder that they, at one point, abandon Sora! It’s around this point that I realized that I was very invested in the game because my heart was so hurt when Donald and Goofy left me with that wooden sword.

Eventually, the two come around and help Sora, but I never thought I’d care so much about these three being friends.

The wholesomeness of it all

To me, the musical number has this children’s stageplay vibe going, and it’s perfect for Sora during the early days of Kingdom Hearts. He was very much the wide-eyed protagonist who couldn’t wait to share his discoveries with his closest friends. Everything was so new to him – and us, really – and that infectious charm is what has made fans stick with the franchise for so long.

I dunno, watching Donald’s sourpuss demeanor slowly warm up to Sora via puppets was a bright spot in my day. There really is no denying how loveable that boy is.

All and all, if you’re looking for a reminder as to why you played Kingdom Hearts in the first place, this musical is a great start. On the flip side, if you’re curious about how an entire generation of gamers got so attached to this series, the puppet show nails it.

It really was as simple as watching a friendship between Sora and two well-known Disney characters… even if one of them didn’t always heal Sora in time.

(Image: Erika Harlacher/YouTube screencap)

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Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)