Our wishes have been heard: Paolo Montalbán, who played Prince Charming in the 1997 Cinderella, will be reprising the role for a new Descendants movie. Montalbán joins singer-songwriter Brandy, who will reprise the role of Cinderella. According to the Disney press release, Charming (now King) is “as much in love with Cinderella as he ever was” — as he should be!
The official Disney Plus YouTube posted a short clip of Montalbán and Brandy in costume and on set. Despite being incredibly brief, it’s absolutely delightful (and should we say... charming?) Just look at Cinderella’s gorgeous blue hair! Charming’s little spiffy jacket! Ah! Time to rewatch the Brandy Cinderella to relive the magic.
Montalbán joining the cast isn’t the only news; between Brandy’s casting and their reunion, the film got a bit of a title makeover. Previously called The Pocketwatch, it’s now titled Descendants: The Rise of Red, referencing the Queen of Hearts. The movie will follow Chloe, Cinderella and Charming’s perfectionist daughter, and Red (Kylie Cantrall), the Queen of Hearts’ rebellious daughter. The unlikely duo pairs up to travel back in time and try and stop the Queen of Hearts (Rita Ora) from taking over the magical kingdom of Auradon in their present.
To put it another way: 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 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 also spun off into TV shows, a book series, and a handful of short films.
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.
The Descendants movies and Cinderella (1997) are available to stream on Disney Plus.
Update (March 21): After confirmation that Brandy would return to the role of Cinderella for The Pocketwatch, Disney announced that original cast member Paolo Montalbán would also return, and the movie would be titled Descendants: The Rise of Red. We’ve edited the article to reflect this.