JOHANNESBURG - It was a night of fanfare and Disney magic as hundreds of exuberant children and their parents filled Montecasino’s Il Grande Cinema earlier this week for the première of the Disney original Descendants 2 movie, earlier this week.
The scene was set as any glamorous movie premier would have it – with a red carpet, flashing cameras and plenty screaming fans.
Descendants 2 stars Dove Cameron, Cameron Boyce and Thomas Doherty flew into South Africa at the beginning of the week, making it the first time Disney has come to South Africa to promote one of its movies.
Sitting down with the cast on Tuesday, Cameron, Boyce and Doherty expressed their amazement at what South Africa had to offer, with the wildlife sparking a particular attraction for all three.
Speaking about their experience filming Descendants 2, the sequel to Descendants, lead actress Cameron, who plays Mal, daughter of the villainess Maleficent, finds herself at school in Auradon.
This idyllic world is filled with all the ‘goodies’ that you read about in storybooks, with Ben, son of Bell and the Beast, as king, and Fairy Godmother as the school principal.
Mal and three of her friends, Carlos, played by Cameron Boyce, Evie and Jay, are now living in Auradon thanks to King Ben who invited them from their run-down homes on the Isle of the Lost – where most ‘baddies’ and their children live.
Descendants 2 sees Mal trying to balance her dark roots and new life with boyfriend, King Ben. Without letting too much slip, Mal throws in the towel but it’s not long before she is placed in a position where she has to save Ben from the new villain kid, or ‘VK’, Uma, daughter of Ursula.
Cameron said that while her character initially buckles under the pressure of being someone she’s not, this was important to note.
“Today, we’re encouraged to orient how we present ourselves all the time,” she said. “It’s always about being something for other people and I think it’s very important to instil into kids from a young age that their natural state is good.”
Carlos, the son of Cruella, said that while all their evil personas were different and encapsulated different amounts of evilness, it was still “fun to run around and be bad”.
New addition to the movie was Doherty who plays Harry, the son of Hook. Harry is not only a pirate, but Uma’s right-hand man and is always ready to hook someone or make them walk the plank.
On playing an innately evil character, Doherty said: “I think every human does have the propensity to be bad because people are that way, so it was quite fun to tap into that in a controlled environment.”
Like all Disney movies, Descendants 2 is a musical with catchy tunes, but the movie is a little edgier with rap making an appearance in one of the movies most climactic scenes.
Doherty and Boyce said a lot more work and training went into the movie than viewers see in the final product.
“We had sword fighting training, which was amazing, but it was new to all of us and we had never done it before,” Doherty said. “At the start, we were all pretty inadequate,” he laughed, “but we had a sword master and obviously choreography for all the dance numbers and intense weeks of rehearsals practicing scenes and doing character work.”
The cast also said a lot of time was spent in the studio recording the movie’s soundtracks between Vancouver in Canada and Los Angeles in the United States.
Doherty recently completed his studies in musical theatre in Edinburgh and when asked how far he planned on taking his musical career, he joked that “Kanye West and Eminem were quite intimidated” by him, however acting is where his focus lies.
Cameron, Boyce and Doherty said one of the biggest pleasures while filming was working with director Kenny Ortega.
“Ortega is so trustworthy of us all,” Doherty said. “And so if we ever came to him and said ‘I think you should maybe do it like this or what about this, or that’, then he’d always be so welcoming to it.”
“Kenny does say that he doesn’t hire actors, he hires partners,” Boyce said, “That really sets the tone at the beginning of the project and gives you free reign to just say what’s on your mind.”
Descendants 2 will make its debut on South African television screens at 4.30pm on Friday on The Disney Channel, channel 303 on DStv.
By Rianté Naidoo