‘Descendants 3’ Unites Friends & Foes and ‘Brings Hope,’ Says Director Kenny Ortega

Disney Channel/David Bukach

Third time’s the magical charm for the song- and dance-filled movie franchise built around the good offspring of iconic Disney evildoers.

In Descendants 3, the story returns to its roots and “gives the promise of a brighter future and brings hope [to those less fortunate],” says director-choreographer Kenny Ortega.

To accomplish that, the main Villain Kids (or VKs) — Mal (Dove Cameron), daughter of Sleeping Beauty‘s Maleficent; Jay (Booboo Stewart), son of Aladdin‘s Jafar; Evie (Sofia Carson), daughter of Snow White‘s Wicked Queen; and Carlos (Cameron Boyce, who passed away July 6 due to a seizure), son of 101 Dalmatians‘ Cruella de Vil — return to their former home on the Isle of the Lost, a slum where villains and their children are banished sans powers, with a barrier keeping them from escaping.

“They want to give back to the kids left behind,” Carson says. To that end, Mal and King Ben of Auradon (Mitchell Hope) formalize the VK Program, where select VKs are chosen to go to the free nation of Auradon (just as Mal, Jay, Evie, and Carlos were in the first film) to prove they aren’t following in their parents’ evil footsteps.

Back in Auradon, longtime couple Mal and Ben get engaged — but before any wedding planning can begin, trouble boils over when Queen Belle’s crown and Maleficent’s powerful scepter are stolen. While seeking the perpetrator, the quartet encounters bad guys both returning (China Ann McClain’s devious Uma, daughter of The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula) and new (Cheyenne Jackson’s crafty Hades from Hercules), which leans into the film’s overarching theme.

“We do have to come together — friends and foes — despite our differences and tackle the greater, important thing,” says Ortega.

That vital message is layered into the splashy, complicated dance numbers that run like a well-oiled enchanted carriage, given that Ortega also helmed the first two films.

(Disney Channel/David Bukach)

“We created a space where we could do two or three rehearsals simultaneously,” he explains. “It enables us to accomplish a great deal in a short span of time.”

Case in point, “Good to Be Bad,” the intricate opening number, which quickly moves through multiple locations. “We’ve never had anything like it before,” marvels Carson.

Gotta love that Disney magic!

Descendants 3, Movie Premiere, Friday, August 2, 8/7c, Disney Channel