Brandy previously famously portrayed the fairytale princess in a TV film adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” musical, which was watched by 60 million viewers when it first aired on ABC in 1997. The film’s inclusive and diverse casting — which included Brandy as the first Black woman to play Cinderella, Whitney Houston and Whoopi Goldberg as the Fairy Godmother and the Queen, and Paolo Montalbán as a Filipino Prince Charming — was widely regarded as groundbreaking, and the film has since become considered a classic. This August, Brandy reunited with the cast of the film for an ABC special to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The new “Descendants” film, currently under the working title “The Pocketwatch,” will be the first time in the role since the 1997 film.
In addition to Brandy’s casting, Disney also announced that Rita Ora, best known for her work in pop music, has joined the cast as the Queen of Hearts, from Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s book “Alice in Wonderland.” Other cast members announced include Morgan Dudley and Ruby Rose Turner, who will play the younger version of Cinderella and the Queen of Hearts, Malia Baker as Cinderella’s daughter Chloe, Melanie Paxson reprising her role from the “Descendants” films as the Fairy Godmother, and Joshua Colley as Hook, a rich kid bully.
The new cast members join the previously announced China Anne McClain, Kylie Cantrall, and Dara Reneé, playing the daughter of Ursula, the daughter of the Queen of Hearts, and the younger sister of Ursula, respectively. The story will revolve around Chloe and Red, the Queen of Hearts’ daughter, as they travel back in time to prevent a coup by using a magic pocketwatch from the son of the Mad Hatter.
Created by Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott, the “Descendants” franchise is a teen musical spin on the classic Disney animated film canon, set in the kingdom of Auradon, where lead characters from films like “Beauty and the Beast” reside. Each film chronicles the conflict between the children of Disney heroes and the children of Disney villains, raised on the Isle of the Lost, as they butt heads but also attempt to find common ground past the feuds of their parents. The first three films, directed by “High School Musical” creator Kenny Ortega, premiered from 2015 to 2019 on the Disney Channel, and were ratings successes, in addition to spawning film soundtracks that hit the top 10 of the Billboard 200.
“The Pocketwatch” will be directed by Jennifer Phang, whose previous films include 2015’s “Advantageous” and 2008’s “Half-Life.” The script was penned by Dan Frey and Russell Sommer. Suzanne Todd and Gary Marsh executive produce the film for Disney+.