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Disney Lorcana’s First Chapter spans an impressive range in the Disney canon. It would’ve been understandable if Ravensburger stuck with the big names like Frozen and Beauty and the Beast, but instead it decided to include a few deeper cuts, like Robin Hood, The Emperor’s New Groove, and The Three Musketeers.

Even with this attitude to Disney’s catalogue, one card sticks out as an excellent sign of where the game’s going. It’s one of my favourite villains, from one of the most underrated Disney movies. Treasure Planet’s John Silver in the first set for Lorcana is a miracle, and it single-handedly makes me far more confident for the future.

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When Treasure Planet released in 2002, it was Disney’s biggest ever box office bomb. In retrospect, following up Lilo & Stitch earlier that year and trying to take on Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets almost doomed Treasure Planet to failure, resulting in an entire planned franchise for it collapsing almost overnight. Add to that the previous year’s flop, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and the smash hit success of Shrek from rival studio DreamWorks, and it was clear Disney was falling behind the competition and its trendier, 3D-animated ways.

John Silver, Alien Pirate art

Treasure Planet was an embarrassment for Disney, but it was by no means a bad film. A large part of the appeal comes in John Silver, whose character was one of the most multifaceted villains in all of Disney, largely in part thanks to being based on the already well-written Long John Silver from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. A cutthroat scallywag fuelled by greed and whose gruff, manipulative exterior is cracked by the naïve Jim Hawkins, he stands out as a baddie who wasn't moustache-twizzlingly evil, ending the movie on a high note with a real chance of rehabilitation.

John Silver 2

Bar a rubbish video game a few years later, Disney has pretty much swept Treasure Planet under the rug. Until now, where that stellar baddie is now immortalised as a card in Disney Lorcana. And not just a throwaway, either. John Silver’s card is excellent, forcing an opponent’s character to charge into a challenge it might not be prepared to win. It’s also one of only ten legendary rares in the entire set, an honour otherwise reserved for A-listers like Stitch and Elsa.

John Silver, Alien Pirate-1

Of course, there is the argument that John Silver fits many of the key character archetypes of the set. Pirates, Villains, and Aliens are all heavily represented in other characters, and John Silver can serve as the connective tissue tying them all together. His inclusion could be a purely mechanical one (fitting, for a cyborg), and we may not see much of Treasure Planet in the future.

The alternative is way more exciting, though. Across The First Chapter, we have a few curious one-off inclusions. John Silver, obviously, but Cinderella also only gets one card, despite being one of the original Disney Princesses. Robin Hood and Mulan are also outliers, with only two cards each. Perhaps these are signposts for future sets and new archetypes – ways of building up support for Mulan, Robin Hood, and Treasure Planet decks without needing to dedicate a large part of the set to it like Frozen and Hercules?

John Silver 3

John Silver’s inclusion means the bets are well and truly off with what Disney and Ravensburger are willing to include. He shows box office success and long-term Disney cultural cache aren’t the only deciding factors for whether something gets a card. If one of Disney’s biggest-ever flops is a big player in the game’s debut set, then we should fully expect to see everything from The Black Cauldron to Meet The Robinsons show up later on.

Lewis and Wilbur in Meet the Robinsons

I’m already pumped John Silver finally has time to shine, 21 years after his debut. He’s become the figurehead for how wide Lorcana can cast its net, and who knows? Maybe come the next set, we’ll be seeing Jim Hawkins, Milo Thatch, Chicken Little, and Kenai representing that hugely underrated post-Shrek Disney ‘dark age’.

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