The entertainment website otocoto have published a column by strategist Shuji Utsumi, who wrote about his involvement in the Kingdom Hearts project and how it came to be approved by Disney.
Utsumi joined Disney in 2000 and became the Asia-Pacific representative at Disney Interactive. At the time, he was surprised to learn that Kingdom Hearts was more of an experimental project that hadn't received an official approval by Disney – something Squaresoft was not aware of as they eagerly worked on it.
Disney Japan did not have a license to work with a completely new world, and the act of incorporating multiple Disney titles into a single work was unprecedented at Disney. There existed no Mickey Mouse style guide for 3D modeling, and there was no one on the Japanese side who could judge this project, which seems to be the reason why even the head office did not have the authorization to work on it.
Some of Disney's veteran staff in Japan advised Utsumi to stop the project early, saying "no way that's gonna work". At the time, he never dreamed that he would present it to Eisner and obtain approval for its commercialization.
In the early 2000's, Eisner decided to come to Japan after a long time. Disney Japan representatives were to present a performance report to Eisner, and the Division Managing Director was to give the business report. Utsumi was also a member of the presentation.
On the day of the presentation, more than 100 people from both Japanese and American management attended, but everyone's attention was set on Eisner. Eisner sat in the front seat and asked each presenter one question after another.
Utsumi says that meetings at Disney without Eisner were completely different. He described Eisner as an "Ancient Chinese Emperor".
Utsumi's presentation on that day also included Kingdom Hearts, which he was concerned about. However, it was worth doing well, and the session went smoothly in the end, with Eisner's encouragement and official approval to continue the project. After the presentation, many Disney executives and staff smiled and even asked for Utsumi for a handshake.
Thanks to KH13 News Writer @Ryuji_Shiryu for his help translating the column!
For more details on the history of Kingdom Hearts, watch KH13's "The Road to Kingdom Hearts III", a 48-minute documentary-style film directed by @HaakonHawk in collaboration with SarahKey, KZXcellent, and other content creators from the fan community. Starting with the first game's inception, the film moves over to how the franchise director Tetsuya Nomura got involved, the famous elevator story, character licensing, voice actors, the announcement of Kingdom Hearts III at E3 2013, and much much more.
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