Singer-songwriter Brandy is officially reprising the role of Cinderella — but this time, she is also joining Disney’s Descendants universe. And that means that Cinderella (1997), the Disney TV movie version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, is officially canon in Descendants. And we couldn’t be happier about it.
The 1997 movie is a gorgeous, hilarious, and moving version of the popular fairytale. With an all-star cast including Whitney Houston, Bernadette Peters, and Jason Alexander, Cinderella (1997) breaths magic into a story that has a million retellings. It was also groundbreaking for featuring a Black actress as Cinderella, with a Filipino Prince Charming. The movie has a strong legacy, and earlier this year, a cast reunion special aired on ABC. The fact that Brandy’s version of the Disney princess is being included into the Descendants movies basically codifies her as the official Cinderella in that world’s canon.
For those uninitiated with the most popular Disney Channel Original Movie franchise since High School Musical, the Descendants movies follow the, well, descendants of popular Disney heroes and villains. All the villains have been banished for being evil, but Ben, Belle and the Beast’s son, extends an invitation to some of their children to attend a prestigious academy.
The first three movies mostly followed Mal (Dove Cameron), the daughter of Maleficent, but also introduced the children of Cruella de Vil, Captain Hook, Ursula, Mulan, Dopey the Dwarf (sure), and Aurora and Prince Phillip, just to name a few. In addition to three movies, the Descendants franchise has also spun off into a few TV shows, a book series, and a handful of short films.
The new movie is tentatively titled The Pocketwatch and will pivot away from Mal and Ben. It will focus on Red (Kylie Cantrall), the rebellious daughter of the Queen of Hearts, and Chloe (Malia Baker), the plucky but privileged daughter of Cinderella and Prince Charming. In addition to Brandy playing Cinderella, Rita Ora will play the Queen of Hearts.
Now, technically, one of Cinderella’s children already appeared in the Descendants world: Chad, as played by Jedidiah Goodacre. He’s one of the antagonists of the first movie, and as a white blonde man, looks more in line with the animated version of Cinderella than the 1997 movie. But then again, the 1997 movie was delightfully race blind, with Whoopi Goldberg and Victor Garber playing the parents of Paolo Montalbán, so bring on a new generation of implausible mixed-race families.
If you want to get technical about it, Cinderella and Charming did already have a blink-and-you’ll miss it appearances in the earlier movies. But they never played big roles, so recasting them is no big deal.
The new movie will be a Disney Plus exclusive, though the release date is yet to be announced. Word’s out on whether or not Montalbán will join the cast as Prince Charming. But hey, as Whitney Houston sings in Cinderella (1997), “Keep building up impossible hopes!”
The Descendants movies and Cinderella (1997) are available to stream on Disney Plus.