When the original Descendants movie came out in 2015, kids and grown-ups alike were blown away by the vibrant visuals, amazing choreography, and mesmerizing music.
The movie follows the children of classic Disney villains and their lives on the Isle of the Lost, where the villains have been banished by Queen Belle and King Adam (aka the Beast), the rulers of the peaceful Auradon.
That is, until Prince Ben invites some villain kids to attend his school.
Even though the key demographic that Disney was marketing to was children, the key message of the story— that nobody is inherently good or bad and that it’s our own choices that count— has made the series popular with older audiences as well.
Now that Descendants 3 has been announced for 2019, it’s time to brush up on some Descendants trivia before the third instalment comes to the small screen.
The list includes some fun facts from the first two movies, but not any of the confirmed info for Descendants 3, so if you want to remain 100% spoiler free in anticipation to the premiere, you’re in totally safe hands. If you haven’t seen the second movie, though, definitely go take a look before venturing farther.
Here are the 20 Crazy Facts Only True Fans Know About Descendants.
Descendants has some of the catchiest bops in Disney history, so it might come as a surprise that it wasn’t originally conceived as a musical.
In fact, it was originally an action, adventure, and comedy rolled into one.
However, with industry legend Kenny Ortega tied to the project, the team decided it was kinda silly not to make it a musical. After all, Ortega rose to fame with his work on cinematic monuments like Newsies, Dirty Dancing and High School Musical.
On top of that, he’s also known for his collaborations with pop culture icons such as Cher, Michael Jackson, and Gloria freaking Estefan. Even if you don’t recognize his name, you are more than likely to recognize his choreography.
So it seemed like a pretty big waste not to do a movie musical with this choreography king at the helm.
It's also a good thing that they changed it— the openings to both movies are beyond catchy and fun. “Rotten to the Core”? “Ways to Be Wicked”? Sure, the villain kids decide to be good at the end of the first movie, but they sure make the villain aesthetic look good.
Plus, they had a soulful duet between two girls, highlighting female friendship instead of pitting two girls against each other over a boy.
The youngest of the cast, Cameron Boyce, was born in 1999 and was only fifteen years old when they started principal photography on the first Descendants in 2014.
Because he was a minor, he was legally obligated to leave set early due to labor laws.
Having one of the four main actors absent means that the production team needed to hire a body double to fill in for him so they could finish filming on time.
Body doubles obviously aren’t uncommon in the film industry-- they allow the production team to utilize lead actors’ time more efficiently by shooting later on in the process, as well as protect their safety if they’re not trained as stunt performers.
However, it turns out the team had to hire way more than one stunt double.
Boyce has revealed that they ended up having to hire around five body doubles for him. Not only did he have a stunt double, but he also had a dance double and not one, but two picture doubles.
If you think about it, it’s a pretty amazing feat to find so many people who could reasonably pass as Boyce. Also, although none of their faces are shown on screen, apparently they all had Boyce’s trademark freckles.
German-born designer Kara Saun was the first runner-up on the first season of the popular fashion design reality show, Project Runway.
She came second after Jay McCarroll, but she has gone on to design outfits for some pretty big names, including Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, and Project Runway host Heidi Klum.
She started out in the fashion industry based in New York City, but she’s also branched out into costume design as well.
Her long list of impressive credits includes America’s Best Dance Crew, several Comedy Central Roasts, and, of course, Descendants and Descendants 2.
In an interview, Saun revealed that two pages into the script, she knew that she just had to work on Descendants, emphasizing how alluring it was to have the opportunity to work with such iconic Disney villains and heroes like Maleficent and Cruella de Vil.
In her designs for the villain kids, she draws heavy inspiration from their parents. For example, she incorporates green and dragon designs for Mal, since Maleficent turns into a dragon who breaths green fire in Sleeping Beauty.
With her success in both the fashion industry and the entertainment industry, Saun has become a role model for people of all ages.
Cameron Boyce and Dove Cameron were both already part of the Disney Channel when they were cast.
Booboo Stewart was part of the Twilight franchise. Sofia Carson, however, was a virtual newcomer who burst into the spotlight when she landed the role of Evie in Descendants, her first movie ever-- and boy, what an amazing first project.
She got to share the screen with Broadway legend Kristin Chenoweth of Wicked fame.
She learned choreography and received direction from Kenny Ortega, who was at the helm of the High School Musical series, and had choreographing movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Dirty Dancing, working with music giants like Cher and Michael Jackson.
To say Descendants changed her life is truly an understatement. One year after the release of Descendants, she performed at the 2016 Radio Disney Music Awards— and so did Ariana Grande and Gwen Stefani, who are both veritable icons.
Also, the thing is that even among all these established names, Carson definitely holds her own in this behemoth of a movie, bringing life to Evie’s arc.
To top it all off, she’s using her newly found fame for good: she doesn’t shy away from her Colombian roots, inspiring a new generation of little girls just like her.
Everyone in the movies is super glammed up, with character designs that reflect the larger-than-life setting of both Auradon and the Isle of the Lost.
The female characters are especially made up, so much so that it took Sofia Carson two and a half hours to prep for the role each day.
On top of that, a huge part of her character, Evie, is her fashion sense, so her costumes in both of the movies so far have been absolutely mind-blowing and intricately detailed.
Carson’s various bright blue wig would take an hour to put on properly.
With all the intense hair-whipping in Kenny Ortega’s choreography, it would have been crucial to not only make sure that the wigs looked good, but also ensure that they stayed on firmly.
Having to reset a massive musical number with countless extras and other moving parts because of a rogue wig flying off of someone’s head creates a huge delay.
Despite how long the whole wig, makeup, and costume process took, Carson loved seeing herself transform into Evie because of her fascination with makeup.
Plus, she used the time to relax, go over her scenes, and otherwise prepare for the day ahead-- so it was not altogether a bad way to spend time.
While Dove Cameron and Sofia Carson took forever to put on those wildly vibrant colored wigs, Cameron Boyce actually bleached his natural dark brown hair a shade of platinum blonde in order to play the troublemaker Carlos, the dog-fearing son of Cruella de Vil.
Even though he didn’t have to sit in a makeup chair for hours before every shoot, it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for him either. He says that the bleaching process took six hours in a salon chair, and surely the upkeep had to be a major pain in the butt too, since platinum blonde is a notoriously difficult hair color to maintain if you’re not born with it.
On top of that, intense bleaching also does a number on your hair and scalp health, so that’s some serious dedication right there.
For the sequel, however, it looks like Boyce ended up using a wig after all, keeping his naturally dark brown hair gelled back under a wig cap.
For “Ways to be Wicked”, he reveals that they used the same fluffy wig used in Descendants 2, but they slicked the hair back with hair gel in order to achieve a more Descendants 1 kind of look.
After the first Descendants movie, costume designer Kara Saun immediately decided that if there was to be a sequel, she was going to push the boundaries way further-- and she did,
Since the franchise is set in an alternate fairy tale universe, all the characters’ outfits are pretty spectacular, from Uma’s badass pirate queen look (part of what Saun has dubbed ‘Scallywag Swag’) to Evie’s various sartorial sensations.
However, with such a large cast and several grand, sprawling scenes with numerous extras, the wardrobe crew ended up getting more than 1500 costumes custom made, which were often created from scratch and by hand. Oh, and a lot of the stuff is detachable to ensure maximum functionality, accommodating everything from sharp swashbuckling to dizzying dances.
One dress in particular took more than 100 yards of fabric to make— the Statue of Liberty stands at 101.7 yards and Big Ben is around 105 yards.
While there doesn’t seem to be official confirmation of which exact dress took that much fabric, but we do know that it’s one of Mal’s dresses, which are part of a whole collection that Kara has named ‘The Princess Punk Collection."
Given how many gorgeous layers are in Mal’s cotillion dress, we’re willing to bet that one’s the 100-yard dress, or at least close to it.
It’s particularly apt that Sofia Carson was the one to reveal that the actresses of Descendants 2 wear the same shoe size— she plays savvy fashion designer Evie in the movie series.
There were around 1,500 costume pieces, but maybe things were a little easier on the wardrobe crew to have all the main actresses wearing same sized shoes.
Sure, it’s not like they would have been actually wearing one another’s costume shoes during filming, but if you’ve never worked on a production, a costume piece originally intended for one character can end up working better for someone else.
Although they obviously weren’t swapping costume shoes in every other scene, Carson says that they borrowed one another’s shoes.
It’s clear that the cast of Descendants have gotten close over the years, and surely being able to have a wider selection of shoes at their disposal has only added to their relationships. After all, who doesn’t like a good old dress-up session with their closest friends, trying on one another’s clothing?
Since Evie’s passion in life is fashion design, there’s little doubt that it’ll be explored in Descendants 3, but here’s hoping that the characters also get to bond over borrowing clothes, or even engaging in a little subterfuge pretending to be one another.
Apparently, the change to make Descendants a musical movie happened quite late in the game. Sofia Carson auditioned under the impression that it was a non-musical movie (save for one song called “Bad to the Bone”, the precursor to “Rotten to the Core”).
Infact, she didn’t even know it had been updated to an actual, full-on musical until her agent called her two weeks before principal photography began.
It’s a good thing that she grew up singing and dancing. She wasn’t that thrown off by the last-minute news, though, saying that she was actually excited for the chance to sing and dance as well as act.
Weirdly enough, Booboo Stewart implied in the same interview that he knew at least a month in advance, because he started taking singing and dancing lessons a month prior to shooting as a refresher in order to refine his performance skills.
The wonky timeline brings into question how they managed to squeeze in time for recording sessions and rehearsals for all the big dance numbers, especially since Carson looks completely in her element through the entire movie.
However, hey, the end result looks great, even if Carson was thrown into such a large musical production at the last minute, so we’re not complaining.
Mitchell Hope is great as the endearingly awkward yet perfectly charming Prince Ben, heir to the throne of Auradon and son of Queen Belle and King Adam. However, did you know that Booboo Stewart initially went in to read for the role as well?
It’s not unheard of for actors to get called in for a certain role and then get called back for an entirely different character.
Auditioning in person definitely brings out a side to actors that casting directors don’t get to see via self-tape or any other virtual casting method, so in-person vibes can totally change the production team’s minds.
However, it does make us wonder what Descendants would look like had Stewart been cast as the primary love interest instead.
Perhaps he’d get his hair pulled back into a royal bun, instead of flowing freely as he wreaks havoc on the Isle of the Lost as Jafar’s son, Jay.
However, alas, the creative team didn’t want a dancer for the role of Ben in order to bring out a more vulnerable element to the character. Stewart does get to tap into a gentler side as Jay’s character arc progresses, though.
Besides, we would’ve missed out on Mitchell boogieing in “Did I Mention”.
Despite the complicated process of casting such a large movie, the end result of the casting process was more than perfect.
The process still wasn’t without its challenges, though. Sofia Carson, Booboo Stewart, and Cameron Boyce all say that Kenny Ortega kept changing the choreography of “Rotten to the Core”, the opening number of the first Descendants movie.
Apparently, the cast would learn the choreography in the morning, only to come back later and be told that it needed to be changed again and again, going back and forth between different types of the punching movement in the dance break.
That wasn’t the only tricky moment for the cast, though. Stewart added that “Set It Off”, the finale of Descendants, was particularly hard for him to shoot.
Even though they’d all learned the dance in the same direction during rehearsals, some of the cast had to incorporate a last-minute change, doing movements the opposite way, as the moves were flipped left to right.
It’s of course not unheard of for changes to happen on the spot for both movie musicals and stage musicals, but having to internalize so much information but stay flexible isn’t an easy task.
That said, maybe they might release footage of the different variations as a little bonus in the future— it’d be an interesting look into the creative process.
Sofia Carson originally went in to audition for the role of Audrey, Prince Ben’s girlfriend and daughter of Princess Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty) and Prince Phillip.
She says that the whole audition process took around three to four months, and while it sucked that she initially didn’t get the role of Audrey, after the months-long process, she finally landed the role of Evie instead.
Sarah Jeffery was absolutely perfect as Audrey, but it's interesting to imagine what Carson’s portrayal would have been like.
Sure, Evie comes off as a little ditzy at the beginning of Descendants, but that’s because she’s listening to her mother's, the Evil Queen, instructions to just bag a royal marriage. Later on, she shows a lot more assertiveness and can be seen as just a teensy bit snobbish when she dismisses Mal’s concerns and discomfort at the start of Descendants 2.
So it’s not hard to picture Carson channelling that side of Evie and amplifying that for her hypothetical portrayal of Audrey.
Plus, Carson gets to show off Evie’s leadership skills when she leads the villain kids (plus Ben) back to the Isle of the Lost when Mal runs off. Carson could totally handle the queen bee aspect of Audrey’s character, too,
However, all in all, the right actors were cast for the right roles, bringing to life a brightly colored magical universe.
Another difficult musical number to shoot was “Chillin’ Like a Villain”, although this wasn't because of any of choices made by the humans on set.
No, the scene was hard to finish because they filmed it during an actual typhoon. (For those of you who don’t really know what a typhoon is, it’s essentially the same as a hurricane or tropical cyclone, just by a different term because of regional differences.)
It was the last day on location for the cast and crew, so it was absolutely critical that they finished shooting on time, regardless of the weather. The number was shot in an operating factory in Vancouver.
Contending with the weather didn’t just mean working against background noise, though, as it also posed a potential risk to safety, which in turn meant that the crew had to try their best to keep everybody calm.
After all, they were supposed to be “chillin’,” not “panickin’” like a villain.
You probably couldn’t tell that it was raining cats and dogs based on the final footage, though. The gang nailed that choreography as they taught Ben how to be less of a good guy in order to fit in on the Isle of the Lost.
The cast kept their cool, and so did their characters.
This ridiculously catchy and stunningly epic opening sequence to Descendants 2 was shot at an actual castle in Victoria, Canada.
According to the official website of Hatley Castle, it was originally a dorm and mess hall for cadets and officers of Royal Roads Military College.
After Toyal Roads Military College closed in 1995, the building is now being used as an admin building for Royal Roads University. It’s a National Historic Site with over a century of history, and it has more than forty rooms.
The wall— and just the wall— costed over $75,000 to build, and so did the Conservatory, which provided fresh flowers to the rooms.
Unfortunately, you can’t book a room in the castle itself to live out your Auradon Prep dreams. (Also, seriously, given how extravagant the whole estate is, it would probably cost your first born and your kingdom to stay a night anyway.)
However, based on the footage we get to see in the two Descendants movies so far and some photos provided by Hatley Castle, the interior seems to be as breathtaking as the exterior.
The castle has also proved to be a popular shooting location over the years, with productions like Smallville, X-Men 2, and Deadpool having filmed there.
Since movie musical genius Kenny Ortega was the director and in charge of choreography, it should come as no surprise then that Descendants 2 was inspired by classic musical theatre like West Side Story.
If you think about it, the villain kids’ rivalry with Uma’s pirate crew definitely gives off Sharks vs Jets vibes.
Steven Vincent, Disney Channel’s vice president of music and soundtrack, specifically cites “It’s Goin’ Down” as an example of the various musicals from which the team drew inspiration.
The songwriting team Rock Mafia, which wrote the song, says that the scene was originally written with straight dialogue. However, Ortega and Vincent decided to transform the dialogue into a big musical moment, using elements from West Side Story and Hamilton.
That’s right, the team also drew from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s modern musical behemoth, and honestly, why wouldn’t they?
Thus the rap battle between Uma and Mal was born, in the vein of the various cabinet battles in Hamilton.
By drawing inspiration from such a wide range of musicals, the creative team appeals to an even wider audience than the first movie.
Vincent stated that a key part of developing Descendants 2 was building on the most popular elements of the original, and keeping up with all the newest trend as well as trying to predict pop music trends for the next year.
Even though there were no plans for a sequel, the creative team already knew that if a sequel were to happen, Ursula would be featured in it because of her popularity-- and of course they'd choose her.
Besides being an iconic antagonist, Ursula has also sparked a lot of scholarly discourse around femininity, feminism, and villains in pop culture.
However, it turns out that the sea witch doesn’t have as much screen time as the other villainous parents did in the first Descendants movie. Instead, the focus is on her daughter Uma, who is played by China Ann McClain.
Sure, Uma doesn’t have actual tentacles like her mother (which does make you wonder how parentage works in this universe), but her beautiful sea green braids and fringe-heavy outfits give the impression of tentacles writhing as she dances, sings and raps and fights, giving off strong Ursula vibes nonetheless.
Ursula does make a brief appearance in the movie after “What’s My Name”, and is voiced by Whoopi Goldberg.
After being defeated in The Little Mermaid, Ursula now owns a fish and chip shop where Uma helps out. The shop also boasts a huge sign that says “You’ll take it how I make it!” in true diva fashion.
China Anne McClain is no stranger to show business. She started acting in 2005 with an appearance in the feature movie The Gospel when she was just seven years old.
Most notably, she had a main role in Tyler Perry’s House of Payne before establishing herself in the Disney Channel circle with her lead role in A.N.T. Farm.
With all that technique being cultivated by years of experience, of course McClain did some hard-core research and watched The Little Mermaid twenty times in order to get inspiration for the role of Uma, Ursula’s daughter.
She studied the way Ursula moved and talked in the animated movie, soaking in the details of her mannerisms to inform her own choices with this original character.
Even though Ursula yells aggressively at Uma in her only scene in the movie, McClain certainly doesn’t share the same resentment towards the villain as Uma. She says that Ursula is one of her all-time favorite cinematic villains, citing her sass and attitude as the reason why.
Also, you can certainly see a similar no-nonsense assertiveness in McClain’s Uma. Just as Ursula wants the trident and will get it, Uma wants the wand and will get it. Like mother, like daughter.
In the movie, there’s no doubt that Uma is the one in charge of the villainous pirate crew that will do anything to take over the Isle of the Lost. Everyone heeds her every word, bowing down to the new queen of the sea as she leads them on their journey to replace Mal’s crew on the Isle.
However, the good news is that in real life, the pirates aren’t scared of Uma-- they’re actually best mates.
On her social media accounts, China Anne McClain revealed that the actors and dancers who played the pirates got matching tattoos in real life once they wrapped up filming on Descendants 2.
Some of the dancers joined her at a tattoo shop, and so did Thomas Doherty and Dylan Playfair, who played Harry Hook and Gil, two of Uma’s sidekicks.
McClain chronicles the tattoo process on her Snapchat, and it turns out they all got anchor tattoos because they’re pirates. She got one on her wrist, while some of the other pirates decided to get them on their calves.
Getting matching tattoos with anyone is always a huge commitment not only to the tattoo itself but also to the relationship, so it’s adorable to see that their onscreen chemistry helped to create their strong relationship in real life.
Playing Evie in the Descendants movies propelled Sofia Carson into the spotlight and jumpstarted her career.
The role has led her to develop her own music as well as perform at major awards shows. However, did you know that she also had a hand in the Descendants book series?
That’s right: she narrated the audiobook versions.
The series is set to be a quartet, with the final book slated for publication in 2019, just like the third movie.
Melissa de la Cruz is the author of all four books. De la Cruz is a New York Times best-selling novelist, and is perhaps best known for the young adult Blue Bloods series.
The first Descendants book is a prequel to the first movie, and follows Mal as she plans to capture the Dragon’s eye, which Maleficent reveals is the key to evil. In order to execute her plan, she teams up with the villain kids crew we know and love from the movies.
It’s a chance to learn more about not only the Isle of the Lost, but it also strengthens the relationships between the core four and influences how they come to be.
You’d think that coordinating with such a large franchise would restrict De la Cruz’s creativity, but she explained that she had free rein to pitch her ideas and incorporate them into the books.
Mal and her mother Maleficent may not have the sweetest, most loving relationship on screen, but that certainly doesn’t apply in real life.
Dove Cameron has idolized her screen mom Kristin Chenoweth since she was less than seven years old. However, let’s be real, who wouldn’t?
As a seasoned theatre and screen veteran, Chenoweth has appeared in many hits on Broadway, including You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Promises, Promises. She’s perhaps best known for originating the role of Galinda the Good in Wicked. She can also be seen as Olive in Pushing Daisies and April in Glee.
On top of all that, she’s a fierce supporter of gay rights, even when it alienates her more conservative fanbase, so it’s hardly surprising that Cameron would look up to Chenoweth, going so far as to shape her own career after the petite powerhouse soprano.
Also, as it turns out, Cameron’s affection isn’t one-sided. She appeared on ABC News wearing a necklace that Chenoweth gave to her.
It’s a relief to know that their real-life relationship isn’t anywhere as toxic as the one between Mal and Maleficent. That they could so convincingly portray a strained mother-daughter relationship despite their sweet rapport off-screen is simply further testament to both of their skills as actors.
Do you have any others secrets about Disney's Descendants? Share them with us in the comments!