In January 2006, a friend suggested my kids might like High School Musical, a made-for-TV Disney movie about a group of squeaky-clean teenagers who break out of their school's cliques by taking part in a drama production. I was skeptical; at ages 8 and 5, my son and daughter were on the young end of the film's demographic, and the whole premise seemed underwhelming. But one Friday night our family found ourselves without plans and it just so happened that HSM was being re-aired. It came, we saw, it conquered … and now our extensive collection of DVDs, T-shirts, posters, soundtracks, and chapter books evidences our children's deep and abiding affection for the HSM Franchise.
Of course, Disney, knowing it had a bona-fide hit, re-aired HSM many times in that first year, pulling in a total of 200 million viewers around the world. When HSM 2 debuted in August 2007, the initial showing garnered 17.2 million viewers, the highest number of watchers ever for a cable TV show. The series has spawned two wildly successful soundtracks, an in-demand stage production (held in countless school theater programs), a concert tour, an ice show, and, now, a big screen sequel.
Wisely, Disney has kept intact the team that made the first two films, including all the lead actors, screenwriter Peter Barsocchini, and, most importantly, choreographer/director Kenny Ortega. With a bigger budget ($30 million, compared to HSM2's $7 million and HSM's $4.5 million), and an exponential increase in pressure, the filmmakers must've been tempted to somehow reinvent the wheel to justify the transition to a theatrical release. Early rumors suggested the movie had a Halloween theme and a working title of "Haunted High School Musical"; thankfully, those plans ...1