A crowd of enthusiastic Disney-goers gathered in a modest corner of the Ticket and Transportation Center, avoiding a bit of mid-day drizzle from the overcast skies. These might have been any ordinary guests at the Magic Kingdom—the boiling excitement certainly seemed on-par—but a series of long leather trenches, giant zippers, key-shaped props, and over-the-top hair styles certainly seemed to indicate something more.
The day? September 26, 2014. The occasion? PROJECT: Magic Kingdom Hearts.
Founded in late 2012, PROJECT: Magic Kingdom Hearts began a movement to get Disney’s official recognition of the Kingdom Hearts series and encourage them to incorporate it into their parks. Current franchise recognition is limited to a single Mickey-themed pin of the iconic mouse donning Kingdom Hearts garb, and a Kingdom Hearts soundtrack sometimes heard playing at the Wreck-It Ralph meet-and-greet in Hollywood Studios. In the past, Disney went so far as to carry Kingdom Hearts figurines and even had official Sora, Goofy, and Donald actors based on the game. These were added to the park during the game’s inception… and removed shortly afterward because of the franchise’s then un-tested and unknown popularity.
Waving Keyblades in the air, enthusiastic Kingdom Hearts cosplayers chanted, “We love Kingdom Hearts and we want it in the parks!” an opt-lauded anthem of the Magic Kingdom Hearts movement. And with its second, successful year as an event, Disney has begun to take notice. Cosplayers found either wide-eyed support, or piqued curiosity, from a slew of event-day guests and Disney cast members alike.
“What you’re doing means a lot to us,” said one Disney cast member, echoing the words of a thousands of Kingdom Hearts fans who follow and support the project world-wide. Some traveled as far as Oregon and Ohio in order to attend.
Among those attendees was the project founder, Cutsceneaddict, who exchanged her recognized Riku trench for a more formal look; Roxas, the new head of management since 2014 and founder of Kingdom Hearts Memes; and a whole host of project cast and crew members, some of whom flew in from out-of-state.
Though intermittent rain forced the project to cancel its Mark of Mastery Exam—a park-wide go-and-fetch event—other activities progressed without a hitch. Cosplayers gathered at the Tomorrowland Terrance for a competitive game of Kingdom Hearts trivia, with the winner “taking home” a pre-order copy of Kingdom Hearts 2.5. An excited raffle winner, wearing his favorite Kingdom Hearts-themed shirt, snatched up a rare, much-sought-after Kingdom Hearts 1.5 launch event poster. Other shiny goodies found new homes throughout the evening, and a number of attendees took part in the project’s biggest event—a park-wide, photo scavenger hunt.
Kingdom Hearts cosplayers left the park on the satisfying stroke of midnight, but the excitement for the event hasn’t died down. The project’s Facebook page and social networks are thriving with event-day photos and delighted testimonials, along with cries for another event in 2015—a proposition that the project cast has already taken to heart. In the project’s own words:
“We want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for making RE: Magic Kingdom Hearts a success! Even if you couldn’t make it, you were with us in spirit! 9/26/14 was a momentous day for us Kingdoms Hearts fans. We spread through the park like a wildfire, and many noticed us. Overall, tons of memories were made (never to be forgotten, of course!), friendships came to life, and most importantly, we let Disney World know just how much we love Kingdom Hearts. So, with that said… Who is already looking forward to next year?”
And the good times don’t stop there. Today marks a momentous break-through for the movement, as it’s the first annual gathering for its sister project in Disneyland, California—a project aptly named Disneyland of Departure. For Kingdom Hearts fans on the west coast, the excitement is only just beginning.