Descendants (2015 film)


Promotional poster
Written by
Directed by Kenny Ortega
Narrated by Dove Cameron
Composer(s) David Lawrence
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
  • Tracey Jeffrey (line producer)
  • Judy Taylor (executive producer)
Cinematography Thomas Burstyn
Editor(s) Don Brochu
Running time 112 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor Disney–ABC Domestic Television
Original network Disney Channel
Original release July 31, 2015 (2015-07-31)[1]
Preceded by Descendants: School of Secrets
Followed by Descendants: Wicked World

Descendants is a 2015 American musical fantasy television film directed and choreographed by Kenny Ortega. The film stars Dove Cameron, Sofia Carson, Booboo Stewart and Cameron Boyce as the teenage daughters and sons of Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Jafar and Cruella De Vil, respectively. The plot follows these teenagers adjusting to life outside their island prison, while on a mission to steal the Fairy Godmother's wand and free their parents from captivity.

The film also stars Mitchell Hope, Melanie Paxson, Brenna D'Amico, Sarah Jeffery, Zachary Gibson, Jedidiah Goodacre, Dianne Doan, Dan Payne, Keegan Connor Tracy, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Maz Jobrani, Kathy Najimy, and Kristin Chenoweth. The film debuted on July 31, 2015 as a Disney Channel Original Movie, to positive reviews and 6.6 million viewers.

The film was followed by a CGI animated short-form series titled Descendants: Wicked World, and a sequel is currently planned for 2017.[2]


After the wedding of Belle and the Beast, they establish the United States of Auradon from the surrounding kingdoms, creating a prosperous new nation, and are elected King and Queen. The kingdom's villains are imprisoned on the Isle of the Lost, a slum where magic is suspended and surrounded by a barrier. Twenty years later, Prince Ben is to ascend the Auradon throne and informs his parents that his first proclamation is give the Isle of the Lost's children the chance to live in Auradon, away from the influence of their villainous parents. The first four children he has chosen are Carlos, son of Cruella de Vil; Jay, son of Jafar; Evie, daughter of the Evil Queen; and Mal, daughter of Maleficent. On the island, Maleficent instructs the four chosen children to use the opportunity and steal the Fairy Godmother's magic wand to release the villains.

Traveling to Auradon Prep, the four meet Ben and his self-proclaimed girlfriend Audrey, daughter of Princess Aurora. They also meet the Fairy Godmother who is the school's headmistress. Evie uses her mother's pocket-sized magic mirror to locate the wand that's in a nearby museum, and Mal uses her mother's spinning wheel (an artifact in the museum) to put the guard to sleep, but they fail to steal it. Learning the Fairy Godmother will use the wand at Ben's coronation, the four wait it out by attending classes but start to fit in with the students. Jay is recruited into the school's "tourney" team (a hockey-like sport), while Carlos surpasses his cynophobia by befriending the school's mutt Dude. Evie, though intelligent, acts vain to impress Chad, son of Cinderella, but ends up doing his homework for him. Dopey's son Doug encourages her to not pander to others and be herself.

Mal becomes popular, using Maleficent's spell book to improve the looks of Jane, daughter of Fairy Godmother, and Lonnie, daughter of Mulan. Learning also Ben's girlfriend will be seated close to the wand during the coronation, Mal bakes a cookie laced with a love potion and gives it to Ben, who falls madly in love with her, much to the shock of his friends. On a date with Ben, Mal becomes conflicted with her inner goodness and desire to please her mother, unsure how to react to Ben's feelings towards her. During the school's family day, the villains' children are ostracized after an encounter with Audrey's grandmother Queen Leah. Though Ben, Lonnie and Doug remain friendly towards them, they are forced to distance themselves from the quartet.

On the day of the coronation, Mal gives Ben a brownie containing the love spell's antidote, believing it is unnecessary to keep Ben under the spell, but he reveals he was already freed of the spell since their date when he went swimming in the Enchanted Lake and believing that Mal only did it because she really liked him. During Ben's crowning, a disillusioned Jane grabs the wand from her mother, accidentally destroying the Isle's barrier. Mal takes the wand from Jane, but torn over what to do, is encouraged by Ben to make her own choice rather than follow Maleficent's path. Mal recognizes that she and her friends found happiness in Auradon, and they decide to be good.

Maleficent crashes the ceremony, freezing everyone in time except herself and the four children. When they defy her, Maleficent transforms into a dragon. Together with Mal use a counter spell turning Maleficent into a tiny lizard based on the amount of love in her heart. Mal returns the Fairy Godmother her wand and tells her not to be hard on Jane. The Fairy Godmother then unfreezes everyone. While the villains watch the celebration from afar, Auradon Prep's students party through the night, with Mal and her friends finding happiness.





Other characters


On December 12, 2013, Disney Channel announced the production of the film and released the plot outline. The script was written by the Emmy Award-nominated Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott. Filming began in the spring of 2014. Kenny Ortega, the Emmy Award-winning director who has previously worked with Disney Channel on the High School Musical trilogy, was announced to be directing the film.[3] Filming took place in Victoria, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The costumes were designed by Kara Saun.


Descendants made its debut on Family Channel in Canada on July 31, 2015, at the same time as the United States. It was also the last Disney Channel Original Movie to air in Canada on Family after moving all Disney Content to Disney Channel[4] The film premiered on August 1, 2015 on Disney Channel in Australia and New Zealand and on September 25, 2015 on Disney Channel in the United Kingdom and Ireland.[5][6] In the Middle East and Africa, the film premiered on September 18, 2015 on the English feed of Disney Channel.[7][8] It premiered in Turkey on October 17, 2015 on Disney Channel.


Descendants was released on DVD on July 31, 2015.




Before the film made its TV debut, it was viewed more than one million times on the Watch Disney Channel app.[9] It was viewed by 6.6 million people on its premiere night[10] and 10.5 million viewers in Early DVR Playback.[11] Shortly after the premier air date, ratings showed the film was the fifth most watched original movie in cable history.[12]

In Australia, the film attracted 151,000 viewers, making it the sixth highest-rated broadcast on pay television on its premiere day.[13] The British premiere was watched by 827,000 viewers, making it the most-watched broadcast on Disney Channel of that week and month.[14][15] The viewers rose to 1.45 million in 28 days, making it the highest viewership ever on the network.

Critical reception

Descendants received positive reviews from critics. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 63 out of 100, based on 5 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[16]

Isabella Biedenharn of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B" grade, saying "... plot isn't really the point. The fun is in the roll call... It's no High School Musical, but the songs are catchy, and the junior villains are worth rooting for."[17] Tisha Mae Eaton of stated, "It's a movie that definitely had the feel of a Disney classic with a modern twist and I highly recommend it."[18] Alex Reif of gave it a score of 4.5 out of 5 saying, "... I highly recommend this to any Disney fan, if for no other reason than to see what they've done with the characters, the Hocus Pocus references, and Kristin Chenoweth's Maleficent which is closer to the animated character than Angelina Jolie's portrayal."[19] Brian Lowry of Variety called it "... a playful and tuneful TV movie, exhibiting much higher ambitions than, say, the Teen Beach franchise."[20] By contrast, Amy Amatangelo of The Hollywood Reporter gave it a mixed review, calling it "High School Musical meets Once Upon a Time. It smartly ushers little girls who have grown up watching Disney movies into the tween audience and is an idea so ripe for merchandising that the Disney Store is already chock-full of Descendants costumes, dolls and T-shirts." She called the story "flimsy", but singled out the performances of Chenoweth, Najimy, Robinson and Jobrani.[21]


Main article: Descendants 2

During the 2015 D23 Expo, Disney announced that a sequel to Descendants has been ordered.[22] The news was made official on the Disney Channel Facebook page on October 15, 2015.[2] Deadline reported that Parriott and McGibbon will reprise their duties as screenwriters and executive producers and that all of the cast from the first film is expected to return.[23] On June 10, 2016, it was announced that China Anne McClain, who was already voicing Freddie, the descendant of Dr. Facilier, in Wicked World, would join the sequel as Ursula's descendant, Uma.[24]

Prequel spinoff

Before the film's premiere air date, Disney Channel announced a live action mini series leading up to the event. Every day leading up to the release of the film, a new episode of Descendants: School of Secrets[25] would be released revealing more secrets about the students at Auradon Prep. Each episode of the series is under 5 minutes long, with 23 episodes in total.[26]

Animated spinoff

Right after the film finished airing on Disney Channel, it was announced that a CGI-animated short spinoff entitled Descendants: Wicked World would be released in September 18, 2015.[27] Furthermore, former Phineas and Ferb storyboard artist Aliki Theofilopoulos Grafft announced on Twitter that she was directing the series, with Jenni Cook as producer, and that the original cast would be reprising their roles. Each episode of the series is going to be under five minutes long, and in January 2016 a DVD entitled "Descendants: Wicked World & More" was released and has every short from season one, along with the Rotten To The Choreography and the Set It Off Specials.[28] The episodes are about two minutes long.


The Isle of the Lost

A prequel novel called The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz, has the villains' descendants banding together to retrieve the Dragon's Eye. The book has spent over 14 weeks as a Children's Middle Grade New York Times Best Seller.[29]

Besides detailing about the children of Maleficent, Jafar, Cruella De Vil, and the Evil Queen, it also talks about some of the known locations of the Isle of the Lost like Dragon Hall (the only school on the Isle of the Lost), Goblin Wharf (which is operated by goblins who would like amnesty for their involvement with Maleficent), Bargain Castle (which sells enchanted robes and bargain hats while the top floor is where Maleficent lives), Jafar's Junk Shop (which is owned by Jafar as mentioned in the film), Castle Far Away (where the Evil Queen lives), Hell Hall (where Cruella de Vil lives), and the Isle of the Doomed (which is hidden next to the Isle of the Lost). The sorcerer Yen Sid from Fantasia is positioned here by King Beast to work at Dragon Hall to help the students with formerly magical parents adapt to more modern methods since the Isle of the Lost's barrier negates all magic.

Other villains mentioned or hinted to be on the Isle of the Lost are Captain Hook from Peter Pan (who is mentioned to own "Hook's Inlet and Shack" and is the father of Harriet, CJ and Harry Hook), Ursula from The Little Mermaid (who owns "Ursula's Fish and Chips" while the Strait of Ursula that's named after her is what separates the Isle of the Lost from Charmington and the mother of Uma), Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog (who was the founder of Dragon Hall and the father of Freddie Facilier), Mother Gothel from Tangled (who is mentioned to be a teacher at Dragon Hall teaching "Selfishness 101" and is the mother of Ginny Gothel), Lady Tremaine and her two daughters Drizella and Anastasia from Cinderella (Lady Tremaine is the grandmother of Anthony Tremaine and a teacher at Dragon Hall teaching "Evil Schemes and Nasty Plots" while her cat Lucifer is the school mascot), Clayton from Tarzan (who is the father of Clay Clayton), Madame Mim from The Sword in the Stone (who has Mad Maddy as one of her granddaughters), Governor John Ratcliffe from Pocahontas, Gaston from Beauty and the Beast (who is the father of Gaston Jr, Gaston III and Gil as well as the owner of "Gaston Duels Without Rules"), Shan Yu from Mulan, Shere Khan from The Jungle Book (who owns "Shere Khan Pawns"), Scar and his hyena cronies from The Lion King, the Horned King from The Black Cauldron (who is mentioned to own "Cauldron Repair"), Professor Padraic Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective, Yzma from The Emperor's New Groove (who is the mother of Yzla and Zevon), and Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (who is mentioned to own "Frollo's Creperie" and is the father of Claudine Frollo).

Return to the Isle of the Lost

Another Descendants novel titled Return to the Isle of the Lost was released on May 24, 2016.[30] While Ben is running Auradon while his parents are on a cruise, Mal, Jay, Carlos, and Evie receive threatening messages to return to the Isle of the Lost at the time when it ends up in worse shape ever since Maleficent's defeat and the fact that Cruella de Vil, the Evil Queen, and Jafar have gone missing.

During this time, it was confirmed that the Crocodile from Peter Pan (who has various children swimming around "Hook's Inlet"), Edgar Balthazar from The Aristocats (who is mentioned to have a son named Eddie), Hades from Hercules (who is mentioned to have a son named Hadie), and the Ringmaster from Dumbo (who is mentioned to have a daughter named Hermie Bing) are also imprisoned on the Isle of the Lost. The Isle of the Lost also has an original character who was the former Royal Astronomer of Agrabah and an ally of Jafar who is the father of Reza. It also introduces Hercules's son Herkie, Pinocchio's son on Pin, Grumpy's son Gordon, Tiger Lily's daughter Tiger Peony, and King Arthur's son Artie in the book. Madam Mim from The Sword in the Stone also has a granddaughter named Maddie.

It is also revealed that apart from Jay and Audrey, the villain kids and hero kids introduced in the film that shared couple dances are dating. Mal is still with Ben, Evie is confirmed to be Doug's girlfriend, and Carlos and Jane turned out to be a perfect match for each other.

Also as Freddie, Jordan, and Ally appear in the book, the story takes place during Descendants: Wicked World.

Junior novelization

A junior novelization of the film Descendants adapted by Rico Green, was published on July 14, 2015.[29][31]

Other books

Other books have been released, including Mal's Diary, Mal's Spellbook, a poster book, and a Guide to Auradon Prep.


Year Award Category Recipients and nominees Result Ref.
2015 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie TV Song Shawn Mendes - Believe Nominated [32]
2016 Writers Guild of America Award Children's Longform Program Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott Won [33]
2016 Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Children's Program Kenny Ortega Won
2016 Golden Reel Awards Sound Editing In Television - Musical: Long Form Amber Funk Nominated [34]
2016 68th Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Music Composition For A Limited Series, Movie Or Special (Original Dramatic Score) David Lawrence Nominated [35]


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  16. Descendants at Metacritic
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  26. Day 1: Welcome | School of Secrets | Disney Descendants on YouTube
  27. Teaser | Descendants: Wicked World on YouTube
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  33. "2016 Writers Guild Awards". Writers Guild of America. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  34. "2016 Writers Guild Awards: Nominations Announced For Television, New Media, News, Radio and Promotional Writing". 3 December 2015. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
  35. "68th EMMY® AWARDS NOMINATIONS" (PDF). July 14, 2016. Retrieved July 14, 2016.
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