Disney Writers Spark Conversation via 'Descendants'

Sofia Carson, Cameron Boyce, Dove Cameron, and Booboo Stewart star in the Disney Channel’s Descendants. Photo: Disney Channel/Jack Rowand.

Of course, we all love our kids. However, those awkward, drama-filled teenage years can be brutal. Now, just imagine having to parent one of Disney’s Descendants!

Believe it or not, there are some very familiar themes in the upcoming Disney Channel original—as well as some familiar faces and a whole lot of new music. If it sounds a little like the fairy-tale version of High School Musical, that’s no coincidence; the live-action movie was helmed by Kenny Ortega, who serves as director, choreographer, and executive producer.

Set in the idyllic kingdom of Auradon, the film starts off with Ben (Mitchell Hope), the teenage son of the Beast and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Just as he’s about to take the throne, Ben offers a shot at redemption to the spawn of Disney’s most infamous villains. Mal (Dove Cameron) is the daughter of Maleficent (Kristin Chenoweth), Evie (Sofia Carson) is the daughter of The Evil Queen (Kathy Najimy) from Snow White, Carlos (Cameron Boyce) is the son of Cruella de Vil (Wendy Raquel Robinson) from 101 Dalmatians, and Jay (Booboo Stewart) is the son of Jafar (Maz Jobrani) from Aladdin. After being banished to the Isle of the Lost for 20 years, the four are invited to attend prep school alongside the teenage progeny of the Fairy Godmother, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Mulan. Will the teens follow in the wicked footsteps of their parents?

Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott are writers/co-producers for the Disney Channel’s Descendants. Photo: Disney Channel/Image Group LA.

Not if writers Sara Parriott and Josann McGibbon have anything to say about it. Okay—maybe I should have included a spoilers tag. However, this is a Disney movie, people.

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And that’s pretty obvious, if you’re paying attention. In fact, families should try to spot all of the Disney references throughout the film. Sara and Josann, who are currently celebrating 30 years as writing partners, have pointed out a few favorites, including the use of “hi ho” as a greeting and the spinning wheel from Sleeping Beauty. There are also a whole bunch of nods in the Fairy Godmother’s “Goodness” class, which the kids have to take when entering Auradon Prep.

There’s plenty to talk about after the film as well. Besides encouraging your kids to watch some pretty cool Disney classics, Descendants weaves the topics of self-confidence, finding the beauty within, freedom of choice, personal responsibility, teamwork, justice, and empathy into the film’s 112 minutes. To help fuel a little post-movie chatter, Sara and Josann gave GeekMom six topics to spark conversation between families and kids watching Descendants.

Sara says:

  1. “You have to choose to be good. Circumstances or background may influence you, but in the end, one needs to choose to be good.”
  2. “Do not let people label you, nor should you label others. It’s very easy to buy into a label—Evie thinks her label is ‘beautiful,’ but she learns she is so much more. Carlos thinks dogs are ‘vicious pack animals’ until he encounters Dude.”
  3. “You can change. Things can get better. It takes reflection, strength, and support, but you can overcome circumstances to become the person you want to be.”

Josann says:

  1. “Listen to that voice inside you that is telling you right from wrong. More often, this is going to apply to peer pressure or other personal impulses. Remember you have a choice to do the right thing.”
  2. “There is true pride in accomplishment, especially from hard work.”
  3. “Face your fears. Some fears make sense and are smart to have. But some fears really cut off your options and make life less fun. When Carlos finally meets a dog, he realizes how wrong he’s been to be afraid all his life. Maybe there’s something you can learn more about that will make you less afraid.”
Dove Cameron and Kristin Chenoweth star as mother/daughter team Mal and Maleficent. Photo: Disney Channel/Jack Rowand.

Descendants airs Friday, July 31 at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT) on Disney Channel. The Descendants DVD will be released the same day.

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