I was invited as media to cover this press trip. All opinions are mine alone.
What do Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Jafar, and Cruella De Vil have in common? Their evil offspring have been exiled to the Isle of the Lost by King Beast, along with their villain parents. After 10 years of being exiled, the handsome Prince of Beast and Belle want to give the kids a fair shot at freedom. And so the story begins!
Q&A with Director Kenny Ortega
Kenny opened with thanking us for taking time out of our day to chat with him. We certainly felt the same way about him. He’s been in the business since the 80’s, choreographing hits like Dirty Dancing and the High School Musical series, as well as directing Michael Jackson’s “This is it” concerts and a world tour!
Kenny shared that Gene Kelly was his mentor growing up and always used to say to him, “there needs to be a reason at the center of your ideas that motivates all of your work” mentioning that he shared that with Michael Jackson and other amazing people that he worked with. He added, “and so when music and dance become part of the storytelling it’s fairly simple for me when you can turn a page and there’s a reason for it to exist.”
Q: You said out of all the musicals this one had very special memories for you. Why?
He explained that he had waited to team up with Gary Marsh again after their success with High School Musical. Sharing that reading the script with Disney characters that he grew up with and now had a chance to “play with these iconic heritage characters and their offspring” was thrilling.
Q : Did you find any challenges with the kids that didn’t have dance experience or did they catch on fairly easy?
He described the Descendants set as a “kind of factory” with an amazing group of assistants that worked closely with his associate choreographer to mentor the actors. Adding, “you watched kids learn really ten times as fast as they might in an ordinary situation.”
We asked Kenny what his favorite was and he explained “Rotten to the Core“…as an actor at 13 years old, I was lucky enough to be in the original London touring production of Oliver and when I first read the script and started to imagine the world I thought of the Island of Loss, a bit of Dickens and kind of old London town under the bridge.”
Kenny mentioned that the original story was written as an action adventure comedy, however Gary suggested that Kenny take some time to craft how music and dance could strengthen the story, and they liked it. He also mentioned that the actors only had 3 weeks to learn the entire movie’s choreography. Amazing!
Kristen Chenoweth plays Maleficient in the movie, and Kenny loved working with her previously and her performance in the broadway show “Wicked” so he was thrilled that she signed on for the part. Describing her as, “such fun, a team player, and delight.”
We asked Kenny who he would like to work with that he hasn’t yet and he immediately thought of Meryl Streep, Janet Jackson, Bruno Mars and George Clooney. Next, I asked if there would be a sequel to the Disney movie and Kenny expressed, “I would love there to be one. I think I can speak for everyone from Kristen, to Dove, all of us. We hope that there’s an opportunity for us to continue this, but the fans will have to be the deciding factor.”
Disney Descendants Cast includes:
Dove Cameron (Liv and Maddie)
Booboo Stewart (The Twilight Saga)
Cameron Boyce (Grown Ups, Disney’s Jessie)
Dove and Cameron offered quotes about the film as well:
“Filming “Descendants” was some of the most fun that I’ve had in my entire life. It was the most incredible and magical cast and crew. Kenny Ortega is a genius. All of my costars are absolutely talented and magnificent, and everybody was handpicked so specifically. They’re all myheroes, and I really hope that we get to work more together.” -Dove Cameron – Mal, Disney’s “Descendants“
“The experience was amazing. We worked with Kenny Ortega, and Vancouver, Canada is beautiful. We had a really great time, the cast was really close. We spent a lot of time together just hanging out, and we were a really tight knit group.” -Cameron Boyce – Carlos, Disney’s”Descendants”
Descendants premieres July 31st at 8pm on Disney Channel!
pictures courtesy of Disney Channel