2002. It is my birthday. I am turning eight years old. It’s a Friday, so I’m spending much of the day in school (second grade, when I attended a small satellite school with around 30 kids per grade, so I knew everybody there). I am unaware that, half the world over, a video game is being released that would, in less than a year’s time, find its way into my PlayStation 2, and subsequently, my heart. Unaware that, as of today, I share a birthday with one of the most formative pieces of media I will ever encounter.
It’s summer now. We’re spending a week at my grandparents’ home in North Carolina. It’s a lengthy drive – around eight hours from our home in Jacksonville, Florida – so to keep me entertained, my parents have bought a portable VHS player for the backseat of the car. I love movies, already at eight years old, so this is particularly effective. I bring some favorites along with me – mostly Disney films of the Renaissance period – as well as a few new ones. Among these new VHS tapes is Mickey’s House of Villains, a Halloween themed collection of Disney short films with a loose frame story involving Mickey’s family-friendly nightclub being overtaken by classic Disney villains. It’s July; clearly the calendar holds no sway over my decisions.
I place the cassette into the portable player (the screen is roughly the size of a large smartphone screen; it feels like a theater screen). The pre-film advertisements begin to play (remember those?). Near the end of them, a thirty second ad plays. It enraptures me. Maybe it’s the soaring orchestral music, something I don’t hear often, but love whenever I do. Maybe it’s the brief glimpses of Aladdin, my favorite movie at the time. Or maybe it’s something else entirely, some strange alchemy of these disparate elements.
In any case, it is clear: I must play Kingdom Hearts as soon as I can.