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The Iconic Kingdom Hearts Characters You Likely Didn't Realize Hayden Panettiere Voiced

It is not uncommon for voice actors to perform double duty on their projects. In live action productions, whether TV or film, it's difficult to disguise an actor to use them for a secondary role, though on the rare occasion this is attempted, audiences take notice. On the other hand, if animation or CGI is the primary medium, then all an actor has to do is change their voice, something many performers are phenomenally skilled at doing.

With this in mind, let's take a look at "Kingdom Hearts," the unique Disney and Square Enix video game collaboration. "Kingdom Hearts" mostly follows Sora, a Keyblade Wielder (it's a sword and a key combined) on his quest to save Kingdom Hearts with his friends Donald and Goofy, who for the purposes of this franchise, are a powerful mage and a dutiful knight, respectively. Along the road, Sora and company travel through dozens of worlds, each themed after a Disney, Pixar, or Square property.

The concept is ridiculous and, honestly, incredible, but it's a massive undertaking. Since each level features a different cast, the number of voice actors attached to "Kingdom Hearts" is staggering. Perhaps to offset this, the series features a number of characters who share the same voice actor. This could also be due to how most of the Square Enix characters are iterations of each other (think magic soap opera clones). Here are both of the characters that Hayden Panettiere played across the various games.

Hayden Panettiere voiced both Kairi and Xion

In "Kingdom Hearts" and "Kingdom Hearts II" — and briefly in "Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep" — Hayden Panettiere voiced Kairi (via her IMDb page), Sora's dear friend (and possible love interest? It's unclear). Kairi is always a driving force for Sora's actions, whether he's searching for her or simply trying to protect her, Kairi is always at the heart of the series. Unfortunately for Panettiere, she was replaced as the primary voice actor for Kairi by Alyson Stoner.

For "Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep" and "Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance," Panettiere also voiced Xion (via her IMDB page), who is a little bit harder to explain. In short, Xion is a clone of Sora's Nobody (think friendly, technically alive zombie) that happens to look and sound like Kairi because, at one point, Kairi's heart (read: soul) was inside of Sora. Listen, every single non-Disney character in this series is sitting atop a pile of shadow variants and friendly clones and amnesiac doppelgangers. Stoner replaced Panettiere as Xion for further installations in the franchise, as well.

Although no concrete reason has ever been provided as to why Panettiere was replaced, speculation suggests the following theories. First, it's possible that her status as a high profile performer removed her from the running, as her price tag was potentially exorbitant. The second prevalent theory is that Panettiere's work was considered lackluster. Neither actress has spoken at length about the topic, other than for Panettiere to say (via a depressingly short tweet) that she wasn't asked to return.