The Disney Company’s relationship with Japan is unique. Compared to other countries outside of America, Japan didn’t get to experience Walt Disney’s work until his first film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was released on September 26th, 1950 as 白雪姫 (lit. White Snow Princess). As it had been all over the world, Snow White was a success and paved the way for other films to be translated and dubbed into Japanese. Some releases even saw greater success in Japan than they did in other countries. Lady and the Tramp (わんわん物語), for example, was such a hit that it received a radio drama that broadcast every Tuesday for two months in 1956. By the time Sleeping Beauty (眠れる森の美女) was released in America (1959), Japan had caught up, and fans were waiting only a year between the American and Japanese releases. Today, the majority of Disney films are released in theaters just two weeks after their American premiere date, if not the same day.
In 1983, Japan celebrated while wearing Mickey Mouse ears with pride as Tokyo Disneyland opened its gates to the public. At the time, Tokyo Disneyland was a near carbon copy of the Magic Kingdom in Florida, and still is to this day, minus a few select attractions such as Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, Cinderella’s Fairy Tale Hall, and Monster’s Inc. Ride & Go Seek. Apparently, pin trading became so competitive that fistfights broke out in the parks over collectibles and resulted in Tokyo Disneyland ceasing production and distribution of them (minus a few generic ones of the princesses or the park logo). About eighteen months before opening, Masatomo Takahashi, president of The Oriental Company which is in charge of most Disney property in Japan, said the following to his employees:
Everything is always being created and evolving, with new challenges for growth daily. Likewise, we must not just repeat what we receive from Disney. I am convinced that we must contribute to the cultural exchange between Japan and U.S.A.
While he was talking about the development of Tokyo Disneyland, and the park has since seen its own evolution over 35 years with a new expansion opening in 2020, it would seem that Takahashi has gotten his wish in other regards too. Co-produced between the Disney Company and Aniplex is a new adventure mobile game centered around beloved Disney villains reimagined as colorful anime characters in a college life simulator. Enter, Twisted Wonderland.
This is a story drawn by the villain’s true form.
The game features a protagonist who is summoned by a magic mirror into a new world, home the Night Raven College magic school. Here, the player will encounter a multitude of characters that bare a striking resemblance to Disney’s famous villains. With the aid of the college’s headmaster (an original character for the game) and a mischievous looking companion named Grim, players will try to find their way back home and uncover dark secrets along the way.
So far, Twisted Wonderland is set to feature seven dormitories. Six are inspired by the classic Disney films Alice in Wonderland, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Snow White, Hercules, and The Lion King. The final dormitory emblem is left blank for the moment. With plenty of content already announced, it is unclear how long the game’s story will be. However, knowing how previous games like this have worked in the past, such as Kingdom Hearts Union χ, then new dormitories could be possible as the game’s production continues after launch. Each dorm hall will feature their respective villains such as the Queen of Hearts with the card soldiers, Jafar with Iago, Ursula (pictured below) with Flotsam and Jetsam, Hades, Scar, and so on. However, every character, including those inspired by originally female designs, are imagined as men. Character profiles display concept art, brief personality information, what year of college they are in, voice actor and recording samples, and different names used for the character.
All character designs are by manga artist, Yana Toboso (Black Butler).
Beyond the students, Night Raven College’s professors include characters inspired by villains who’s franchise doesn’t currently appear as a dormitory. Cruella de Vil’s character serves as the college’s science and medicine expert, with a keen eye for high fashion.
Lady Tremaine’s character is in charge of literature and magic history, with the assistance of their cat, Lucifer/Lucius.
Gaston, to no surprise, is head of physical education, but also flight techniques.
Last, but not least, Dr. Facilier operates his own mystery shop which has a reputation of having anything a student desires.
As with the dorm hall list, whether or not this is the full cast is uncertain.
With each new update, Twisted Wonderland’s website changes. Clicking the logo on the homepage will cause the magic mirror to show a little teaser and a date for new announcements. This has been done to tease new dorm halls, as well as new staff characters. Even after launch, Twisted Wonderland will most likely follow this same pattern, encouraging fans to check back every few weeks in anticipation. Currently, the magic mirror shows a bush of thorns with an announcement date of August 8th. No doubt the final dormitory or a new staff character will be related to Sleeping Beauty. Afterwards, the mirror’s hint will be for something new.
Currently, only a teaser video has been released and a set of LINE stickers. The launch date is unknown.
Sadly, there has been no announcement of an English localization… yet. Should an English version be planned, one can only hope that Gilbert Gottfried will reprise the role of Iago. For more updates, fans can follow the official Twitter account.