The Internet is constantly trying to reinvent Disney characters for the modern world, imagining what they would be like in every situation, to the point where it’s getting pretty exhausting. But it’s not just people online who are doing it. Disney itself is getting in on the action too. Casting is underway for a live-action TV movie called Descendants (no relation to George Clooney) following the offspring of some of Disney’s most famous villains, to air on the Disney Channel in 2015. The movie will be directed by High School Musical director and choreographer Kenny Ortega. My millennial heart loves the idea of revisiting and reinterpreting the stories I grew up on, but my head makes me wary. More wary than Ariel about to sign Ursula’s contract. Except unlike Ariel, I might not actually sign.
According to D23, the movie’s plot goes like this. In a contemporary kingdom, the teenage son of Beast and Belle — who are now King and Queen — allows the descendants of Cruella De Vil, Maleficent, the Evil Queen and Jafar to attend prep school away from the island where they’ve been imprisoned with other villains. That prep school is also attended by the descendants of nicer Disney characters like the Fairy Godmother and Mulan. Obviously the villains’ kids have to choose between being loyal to their families or becoming good.
While I’m pretty excited by the idea of discovering what those famous baddies’ babies are up to, I don’t have a whole lot of faith that this will be any good. I love a lot of what Disney has been doing on the big screen lately – Frozen was awesome – but their TV fare hasn’t won me over. I find Disney Channel shows and movies to be incredibly annoying. On top of that, the ABC series Once Upon a Time, which took a similar approach to reinventing classic characters, lost all its charm for me by season two when it became more about Disney (who owns ABC) marketing their brand than telling good stories.
Do I think Descendants could just become an obnoxious Disney Channel original that spawns an obnoxious TV series? Yes. Could it also become a way for Disney to shove their brand down our throats a la OUAT? Yes also. Do I still hope this project will pleasantly surprise me? Super yes.