“Descendants 2”:  Inside Disney’s Deluxe Six-Network Simulcast

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Cover image for  article: “Descendants 2”:  Inside Disney’s Deluxe Six-Network Simulcast

In a scheduling move that illustrates corporate synergy at its most dynamic, Descendants 2, the highly anticipated sequel to the Disney Channel original movie Descendants, will premiere on an unprecedented six viewing platforms this Friday -- ABC, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Freeform, Lifetime and Lifetime Movies – as well as multiple branded apps. Further, ABC will telecast a half-hour after-show following the movie.

Following its 2015 premiere, the original Descendants became the fifth-most-watched movie in cable TV history, reaching over 12.2 million total viewers.  Descendants introduced viewers to the spawn of some of Disney’s most beloved characters, both good and evil.  The sequel picks up six months after the events of first film, and in broad strokes Descendants 2 tackles the ever-relevant teenage theme of trying to be perfect and fit in.

When it came to the sequel, trying to top the first film was the last thing director, choreographer and executive producer Kenny Ortega was thinking about.  “We really didn’t set out to make it bigger or better,” he recently told me.  “What motivated us was the fans both here and internationally who really embraced us and are very vocal on social media.  They let us know what they loved and what they wanted more of.”  (Pictured below, left to right: Descendants 2 stars Dylan Playfair, China Anne McClain, Dove Cameron and Sofia Carson, director/choreographer/executive producer Ortega, and stars Booboo Stewart, Mitchell Hope and Melanie Paxson.)

According to Ortega, while fans didn’t actually write this sequel it was the power of those social media voices that certainly informed it.  “They really did help set us in the right direction and what we wanted to do was fulfill their expectations and go beyond,” he said.  “I really hope we have.”

As the movie’s director and choreographer, Ortega says he feels “lucky and humbled” to be a part of the hugely successful franchise.  And while it’s easy to assume Descendants 2 could be his brainchild, full credit is something he’s reluctant to take.  “I really can’t say that it’s all mine,” he humbly admitted.  “We have an incredible team of people that have been working on this production for well over a year.  The fans have been so patient and haven’t left us, so come July 21 it’ll be the biggest movie we’ve ever done.  We’re really excited about it.”

Huge productions are nothing new to Ortega.  In addition to his directorial efforts he has choreographed shows for some of the music industry’s biggest stars, from Cher, Madonna and Miley Cyrus, to the late Michael Jackson.  He told me it’s the challenge of creating something huge, while working within budgets that enticed him with Descendants.  “That is the challenge,” he shared.  “Trying to make something with quality and a depth of imagination that also excites, inspires and entertains in a small amount of time.  That takes a team.”

Ortega says the greatest assets of his “team” are the extremely talented young actors that portray the characters referred to in the title.  “My cast are not only triple threat actors, singers and dancers, they are partners,” he explained.  “Every day they’d come prepared and passionate and excited and really helped me raise the bar.

“I think it’s kind of all-connected with these people,” he continued.  “They really are all of those things.  When the moment calls for music, it’s there.  When the moment calls for drama, it’s there.  They have all really grown as artists and everyone that has seen the movie says it’s the strongest cast the Disney Channel has had.”

Since the enormous success of the first Descendants, Ortega admits he has noticed changes in his young cast, all whom experienced a new level of fame following the first film.  Thankfully, elevated egos are not among those changes. “I’ve seen a change with regard to their dedication,” he noted.  “Their eyes are always on the horizon.  These kids care about their fan base and doing quality work.

“They don't get lost in the silliness of being a celebrity and come every single day to turn out good work that’s important to them,” he added.  “They want to look at the work and at the end of the day feel proud of it, and I think they do.”

Descendants 2 will be telecast Friday, July 21 at 8 p.m. simultaneously across six networks including: ABC, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Freeform, Lifetime, Lifetime Movies and assorted branded apps.

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