Talking Disney’s Descendants with Kenny Ortega


They’re some of the most notorious (and entertaining!) characters in the Disney lexicon.

Kenny Ortega on set with cast members from Descendants

But have you ever wondered what happened to our favorite Villains after the “happily ever after”? The latest summer sensation from Disney Channel, the live-action musical adventure Disney’s Descendants, aims to answer that very question…

In the idyllic kingdom of Auradon, teenage prince Ben’s (Mitchell Hope) first proclamation gets him into totally hot water: he offers a chance at redemption to Mal (Dove Cameron, Liv and Maddie), Evie (Sofia Carson, Austin & Ally), Carlos (Cameron Boyce, Shake It Up) and Jay (Booboo Stewart, Twilight)—the trouble-making offspring of Maleficent (Kristin Chenoweth, Broadway’s Wicked), the Evil Queen (Kathy Najimy, Hocus Pocus), Cruella de Vil (Wendy Raquel Robinson) and Jafar (Maz Jobrani). They’ve all been sequestered on the forbidden Isle of the Lost for decades, but now the kids are allowed to attend Auradon’s prep school alongside the teenage children of the likes of Cinderella, Mulan, and the Fairy Godmother. Will these “evil” teens choose to follow in the footsteps of their wicked parents?

D23 recently sat down with the film’s director, choreographer, and executive producer, Kenny Ortega (High School Musical, Newsies), for an exclusive inside look at this fresh new fairy tale!

On Bringing Disney’s Descendants to Life:
Kenny Ortega: I’ve always been a big fan of the Disney animated films and their heritage… I fell in love with the characters. What was thrilling for me was suddenly to find myself in a position to be able to be a part of the development and creation of brand-new Disney characters and—at the same time—get to play with refreshing classic characters, both the good and the evil characters of the Disney stories. There was also a lot of responsibility, being a part of the creation and development of a brand-new generation of Disney characters…

On Facing Challenges:
Kenny: Well, it was a challenge just to make sure we’re telling a really good story that will engage and entertain… I was being given the golden opportunity to play with characters that had been established and that were considered classic, “heritage” Disney characters like Maleficent, the Evil Queen, and Jafar and Cruella de Vil—and Beauty and the Beast, and the Fairy Godmother. These are characters that are legendary, that are iconic! The responsibility became a challenge—how can I now, after (at least) 20 years of “happily ever after” [for these characters], bring something fresh and new and fun but also maintain their integrity? And the challenge of developing these new characters with these wonderful young actors that I had the opportunity to work with… bringing it all to the screen for a new generation.

On Finding the Perfect Cast:
Kenny: That special day when we realized that we had our cast—that Dove and Cameron and Sofia and Booboo and Kristin Chenoweth and Kathy Najimy were going to be in this movie… I mean, that was an extraordinary day, because we’d been looking for five months and had interviewed and auditioned and seen tapes of thousands of actors… We have an extraordinary group of kids that joined us on this adventure, and every bit of it was pleasurable—to be in their company and to work in their company.

These young people did a lot of work in preparing and took the roles very seriously, and came to work every day bringing something to the party. They just turned on these characters and brought them to life, making these animated characters three-dimensional… it was pretty fun!

On What Audiences Can Expect:
Kenny: This movie is just loaded with optimism and hopefulness and positivity about making great choices in life, and how those choices determine your destiny. It’s beautifully layered into a story that I think it is full of great adventure, action, music, dance, romance, fun, and humor… and I hope that audiences walk away from it feeling satisfied.

We took a lot of care, and there was a lot of heart put into it—and a lot of hard work. I’m very pleased, very satisfied, very happy, and I can’t wait to be able to share it on Disney Channel this Friday!

Disney’s Descendants premieres Friday, July 31, on Disney Channel!