I have been telling people for ages that a movie starring the children of the villains from Disney movies was being made. I saw it on Tumblr ages ago and I loved the concept. Evil banished parents and their kids get a second chance to go to school with all the ‘good' kids. So when I found out I was going to get to see it when I was in LA, I was super stoked. And yes I still use that word. And then we found out that the director is Kenny Ortega who also directed High School Musical. Not only that but we were going to get to do an exclusive, personal interview. He's worked as a Choreographer on films like Xanadu, Dirty Dancing, and Michael Jackson's 2009 documentary This Is It. So wow. I LOVE High School Musical. Love it.
We asked him what needed to happen for each song. Like what his inspiration was for choosing a particular song or dance for that particular scene.
Kenny Ortega – Years and years and years ago, I had the opportunity to work with Gene Kelly. Xanadu was what brought us together. Gene Kelly was someone who I grew up so wanting to be like, you know. Singing, dancing, acting, directing, choreographing; I loved all of it. And, we became friends. He became my mentor. He used to say to me “There needs to be a reason at the center of your ideas that motivates all of your work.”
Then, I’m always looking when I’m read a script, or when I’m pitched an idea for those things that live in the center of the big picture, that move me, that motivate me, that excite me and they give me purpose and reason to get up and go to work every day and to have ideas. And so when music and dance become part of the storytelling, it’s fairly simple for me when, you know, when you can turn a page and there’s a reason for it to exist. Part of my work is already accomplished, that the writer has the characters go from here to here and this is what happens in between. Now you wanna develop a musical number that helps you achieve that, and that not only goes for the lyrics but the feel of the music, the style of the music, and how the staging or choreography would be designed.
I have to say that he did an amazing job with DESCENDANTS! We got to watch it before our interview and we all though it was so amazing. You can read some of the other interviews by searching the hashtag #DescendantsEvent on Twitter or Facebook. One of the things that struck all of us was the fact that there was no kissing. There were several scenes where you expect that to happen and it doesnt. I like that because I have younger children who do watch movies with their big brother and I don't want to explain why so and so is kissing that person and then later in the movie kissing another person.
Kenny Ortega – Yeah, leave something, you know? There’s too much pressure put on that aspect of relationships. Get to know somebody, really know somebody. That was a conscience decision, I just think that we all have hopes that perhaps this might grow. You don’t know. You can’t predict, but it allows these children to mature into young adults and to blossom in ways that they’re not there yet.
You can watch the first 6 minutes of DESCENDANTS now on Youtube or by clicking the video below. I know you are going to LOVE IT! It airs on Disney Channel at 8 pm on 7/31! So set your calendars now because it is going to be something you don't want to miss.
I think all the little songs in the movie are great. And the dancing choreography is amazing. We asked Kenny Ortega what his favorite song/dance in the movie was and he said Rotten to the Core. That's my favorite as well. It really sets the stage for the rest of the movie and lets you know what kind of life there was for the kids on the Isle.
Kenny Ortega – I think Rotten to the Core is my favorite and I’ll tell you why. I started as an actor at 13-years-old and I was lucky enough to be in the original London touring production of ‘Oliver’ and when I first read the script and started to imagine the world, I thought of the Island of Loss, a bit of Dickensian and a little kind of old London town under the bridge, that darker underworld, and I loved the idea of being able to take Rotten to the Core, use it as character introduction and also to introduce us a bit to the island, what this place is.
And we found, in a few of our screenings for young people, that when we asked them after ‘If you would prefer to visit the Isle of Lost or if you would prefer to visit Auradon, where would you like to visit?’ and the first kid raised his hand and said ‘Would we be able to leave when we wanted to?’ And I said, ‘Of course,’ and he said ‘The Isle of the Lost.’ So we made it, I think, a kind of fascinating and interesting world and that particular number was just lots and lots of fun to create as a choreographer and to imagine as a designer.”
Kenny Ortega took a group picture with us and then he was kind enough to take individual photos with each of us. He was so nice. He even talked about each of the cast members and where they had gotten the idea for their character. He said that BooBoo Stewart had came back in to audition EIGHT times for the role of Jay. And he didnt even think that BooBoo Stewart would do it because he had done some really big movies like X-Men and Twilight. I am glad that he did though because he did amazing in his role. He was most excited about Kristen Chenoweth though.
Kenny Ortega – I worked with Kristen Chenoweth, I directed her before and I’m in love with her. I saw her four times on Broadway in “Wicked.” I did get to see her opening night of “On the 20th Century,” and I’m going back for her closing night and party. I’m going to be part of the introduction of her getting her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, I’m a huge fan. I blush. I blush. She sends me videos and I drop the phone. But anyway, we were getting ready to cast our movie before the movie Maleficent came out.And suddenly we kind of realized that Angelina [Jolie] was sort of taking up a lot of territory with her interpretation of Maleficent. Gary Marsh called me and said, ‘What do you think of Kristen Chenoweth to play Maleficent?' It was not only a ‘What, yes I wanna work with her in any capacity, but what she’d do with this.' She’s so brilliant. She’s so versatile, so capable. You know, she’s such fun, a real team player, and so it was a delight. I was like, ‘Yes, let’s go after her.' It wasn’t easy. She was a busy lady. When we finally got her to commit, it was a joyous day and no one was more excited than Dove Cameron who grew up idealizing her, and when Dove found out that Kristen was playing her mother in the movie, I mean fireworks went off.