Watching Every Disney Channel Original Movie, Part 1: The Descendants Franchise

I grew up watching Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs, for those of us in the know), but as I got older, I stopped keeping up with the new content Disney was producing. Enter Disney Now, with its beautiful and free (if you sign up with your cable provider) catalog of 21 DCOMs. As soon as I stumbled onto the site, I knew exactly what I had to do: watch every single Disney Channel Original Movie available to me.

Since it would be insane to try to cram every cinematic masterpiece into one article, I’m breaking down my journey into multiple parts. This week, I watched all three films in the Descendants franchise.

  1. 1. Descendants

    Plot: In some unclear timeline, Belle and the Beast unite all of the kingdoms and create the United States of Auradon. All of the Disney princes and princesses live there, and their kids attend the elite Auradon Prep, while the villains and their children are trapped on the Isle of the Lost (no magic, no WiFi, no way out). Belle and the Beast’s son, Ben, who will soon be crowned king, has decided that four villain kids will get to attend AP this year: Mal (daughter of Maleficent), Evie (daughter of the Evil Queen), Carlos (son of Cruella De Vil), and Jay (son of Jafar), or as they come to be known, the VKs. While in Auradon, Maleficent wants the kids to steal the Fairy Godmother’s wand so that the villains can escape the Isle. They agree, but the kids soon realize it is actually nice at AP: the people want to be with you, and playing sports on a team is really fun. Mal, after using a love potion on Ben, going on a date with Ben, and using a de-love potion on Ben, realizes she has feelings for him and refuses to do her mother’s bidding. 

    Is there a kiss?: No one kisses, despite multiple “I love you’s” being thrown around and about six fakeouts.

    Questions I have: How do the succession lines in this kingdom work? Beast/Ben’s dad is still TOTALLY ALIVE and capable of serving, yet his 16-year-old son — who is still in school, by the way — is taking over? Also, were all of the other kingdoms just super chill with giving up their titles? Who are the other parents of the villain kids? Why do Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Jafar, and Cruella De Vil all live together? Why were the King and Queen OK with their son randomly switching girlfriends days before the biggest ceremony in the kingdom? How did every Disney character have kids at the exact same time?

    High points: Kristen Chenowith killing it (as usual), how stunningly beautiful the actress playing Evie (Sofia Carson) is, and Disney’s commitment to having a diverse cast (mostly background, but still).

    Best/worst numbers: The acapella rendition of “Be Our Guest” made me physically curl up into myself due to its awkwardness. If I had to choose, my favorite would be “If Only,” Mal’s big solo song, but none of them really stood out.

  2. 2. Descendants 2

    Plot: Guys, it’s really hard not being wicked. Mal, with her seemingly perfect life, is struggling under the pressure of being the King of Auradon’s girlfriend. After Ben finds out that she is using her spell book to stay afloat, they argue and she runs away to Isle. Meanwhile, Uma (daughter of Ursula), is plotting to break out of the Isle and steal Fairy Godmother’s wand. When Ben and the other VKs venture to the Isle to get Mal back, Uma kidnaps him, leading to a battle between Uma’s pirates and the VKs. Our heroes prevail, and they all go to celebrate at the big cotillion party on a boat. There, Uma shows up with a love-spelled Ben, and after Mal breaks it with “true love’s kiss,” the two girls have an epic battle, with Mal as a dragon and Uma in her true sea witch form. After Uma is sent back to the Isle, everyone celebrates and the ugliest stained glass window ever is presented as a gift.

    Is there a kiss?: YES! TWO! On the cotillion boat, Ben and Mal FINALLY kiss and it breaks the spell Uma has over him, and they kiss again after all the drama blows over. Apparently, there was supposed to be a kiss between two of Uma’s lackies that was cut because it was between two men. Get it together, Disney.

    Questions I have: Why isn’t Kristen Chenowith in this movie? After being love-spelled the first time, wouldn’t the monarchy put some kind of protection on Ben? Why did they give Hook’s son an accent, which I can barely understand? Why did they make Ben’s stained glass portrait look like that?

    High points: The near-comical homoeroticism between Mal and Evie, Lonnie (Mulan’s daughter) becoming captain of the fencing team, and China Anne McClain being there. She wasn’t super great, but she was there.

    Best/worst numbers:  “Chillin’ like a Villain,” which finally gives Evie her chance to shine, is hella catchy. “Space Between” is plain boring, though.

  3. 3. Descendants 3

    Plot: Mal and the VKs get to pick the next class of Isle kids to come over and attend Auradon Prep. At the celebration, Ben proposes to Mal, who accepts. Audrey, daughter of Sleeping Beauty and Ben’s former girlfriend, decides that Mal has stolen her happy ever after and goes dark. She spells Auradon first to sleep and then into stone, forcing Mal to turn to Hades (remember a few paragraphs ago where I wondered who the VKs’ parents were? Yeah, it turns out Hades is Mal’s dad. One question answered). Audrey is eventually subdued by a battle, and after she wakes up, she faces exactly zero consequences. Mal and Ben realize that putting a bunch of evil people on an island is actually a great way to create dangerous tension and permanently bring down the barrier between the Isle of the Lost and Auradon. Happily ever after.

    Is there a kiss?: Yes. Both Mal and Ben and Evie and Doug have multiple kisses.

    Questions I have: Really, why did they give Hook’s son an accent so thick I didn’t know what he was saying half the time? Who looked at the choreography for “Night Falls” and went, “Yup! I want to put this out into the world!”? How did I just find out that the actor playing Jay is named Booboo Stewart? If Hades exists in this universe, what repercussions does this have for the religions of the Disney movies?

    High points: Gil (Gaston’s son) and Jay having so much chemistry.

    Best/worst numbers: This one was tough. The caliber of these songs were much better than any of the other movies. “Queen of Mean” is maybe the best song from the Descendants franchise, period. I didn’t really care for “Break this Down,” but I’ve yet to find a really good finale song.

Stay tuned for the next DCOMs on my watch list: Teen Beach Movie and Teen Beach 2.