The Walt Disney Company, otherwise known as Disney, is one of the largest entertainment companies today, owning more than just movie rights. Disney owns several theme parks and attractions across the world, along with cruises and resorts; in recent years, it has even bought out companies like ESPN, GoPro, Hulu and a number of others.
Disney has always tried to piggyback on what’s “in” as quickly as they could. To compete with other streaming platforms, it launched Disney+, continually adding shows and movies to its entertainment library. So now, with the rising popularity of anime, Disney has announced that they with be releasing Twisted Wonderland, originally a mobile game from Japan, as an anime on Disney+ — which will be the first anime released on the streaming platform.
The anime adaptation of Twisted Wonderland has received a lot of attention since Disney is the company releasing it (in partnership with Aniplex). Twisted Wonderland was created by Yana Toboso, creator of the popular anime and manga series “Black Butler.” The game features the same dark, Victorian art style that “Black Butler” has, giving fans of the anime much to look forward to in terms of aesthetics. The game features “sexy” male versions of Disney villains that the player can interact with as they attend a magic academy. Despite its popularity, the game has yet to receive an English version.
This will be Disney’s first anime series, but it will not be their first time getting involved with the genre. Disney’s first experience with anime occurred when it bought the rights to dub and distribute Studio Ghibli films. That said, Disney does not have access to all Studio Ghibli films; it all ultimately depends on whether or not the film was owned by Studio Ghibli’s parent company, Tokuma Shoten.
Disney may own dubbing and distributing rights to Studio Ghibli films, but Disney still has not officially made or licensed any anime as of today.
However, Disney did make and release the popular anime game Kingdom Hearts. Kingdom Hearts was released in 2002, and famously crossed anime with Disney characters. Now, almost two decades later, the story continues in Kingdom Hearts III, released in 2019, and its expansion, released in 2020. While the game does not have any films to go with the storyline, unaired storyboards have been posted in the past. The game was produced by Disney and Square Enix and features the main character Sora, who goes on an adventure alongside Donald Duck and Goofy to acquire more Keyblades and meet more Keyblade users.
Once again, Disney references appear in the Twisted Wonderland mobile game. Instead of the faces and mascots of Disney, however, it contains aesthetic motifs from popular Disney movies. In the academy adventure game, seven dormitories are used almost like the four houses of Hogwarts in “Harry Potter.” Each dormitory shares a theme with a famous Disney movie: “Alice in Wonderland,” “Aladdin,” “Snow White” and “Lion King” are among the few used. In addition, the villainous characters in the game are fellow students who will help the player navigate life in the academy.
With anime becoming so popular in the last several years, Disney was sure to hop on the bandwagon. The game features aspects of isekai, which has also become popular in recent years. Isekai is a genre in which a character is transported to another world and must navigate their new surroundings. The genre became popular in the mid-2000s through anime such as “Sword Art Online” and has seen a boom in the last few years through anime like “Overlord” and “No Game, No Life.” Isekai games also feature the popular ikemen (which translates to cool or good-looking men), creating fan service for players.
Considering that Disney Japan has worked on “Twisted Wonderland” with Aniplex, it is certainly odd that Disney Japan has not worked on projects in this field before. Up until now, Disney has not owned any companies seriously involved with anime. When Disney bought out Fox in 2019, they acquired 60% of Hulu; they then made connections with anime studios in partnership with Hulu.
“Twisted Wonderland” is not the only anime Disney will be releasing on Disney+. However, it is important to look at because of the amount of recognition it is getting online. TikTok user @akezura released a video on Oct. 14 talking about the announcement and the kind of attention the anime would receive. Since then, many other TikTok users have stitched @akezura’s video in response to their statement “I swear to god, when this comes out y’all better behave” — to which many have responded with a concise “No.”
Pairing up with Aniplex and creator Toboso is a smart move for Disney, as both already have a large fan base. Aniplex itself is an anime and music company owned by Sony Japan (and founded in 1995) and houses popular animes like “Demon Slayer,” “I Want To Eat Your Pancreas” and the aforementioned “Sword Art Online” and “Black Butler.”
As mentioned previously, Toboso is the designer of the Twisted Wonderland mobile game, which may be why the game has done so well and the anime is something to look forward to. The anime adaptation of “Black Butler” first aired in 2008 and has now received three seasons, nine OVAs and a film. Toboso also writes yaoi under the pen name Yanao Rock.
Some people have reservations about Disney’s distribution of Twisted Wonderland. As Toboso has dealt with yaoi projects, her art style in Twisted Wonderland begins to come off as a little too risque to some Disney fans who are worried about younger players. Twisted Wonderland’s mobile game appears to be an otome game or dating sim because of its many male characters, yet it uses the sole gender as a means to appeal to a specific audience. As @akezura sums up in his video, “…I can’t get over just how incredibly horny this is for Disney.”
The company has yet to release any other information on the anime adaption of Twisted Wonderland. A date has not been set nor have details such as voice actors or any other designers been confirmed. Other than announcing its release, Disney has yet to say anything else and everyone is waiting patiently to learn more about the project.