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Monday MouseWatch: Disney tries to make the most of "High School Musical"

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Monday MouseWatch: Disney tries to make the most of "High School Musical"

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Has it really been just eight months since "High School Musical" was first presented on the Disney Channel?


Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

Back in January of this year, Disney Channel execs obviously had very high hopes for this Kenny Ortega film. Otherwise, why would they have spent all of that time & money hyping "High School Musical"? During December and the earlier part of January, the Disney Channel regularly ran clips of musical numbers from this new TV musical. The "HSM" cast also made an appearance on the DC's New Year's Eve special. They even made the film's anthem -- "Breaking Free" -- available for free download just before this TV movie's January 20th premiere.


Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

Given all the extra effort that they'd put in, Disney Channel executives had hoped that "High School Musical" would at least draw some decent ratings. They certainly weren't prepared for the premiere of this new TV musical to draw 7.7 million viewers in 5 million households, which was then a record for the cable channel.


Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

From that point foward, "High School Musical" became an absolute phenomenon. To date, more that 40 million people have viewed this Disney Channel original. Since January, 3.9 million copies of the "High School Musical" soundtrack have been sold, making this Disney recording the biggest selling album of the year.


Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

In May, the DVD version of "High School Musical" debuted and quickly became the year's fastest selling television-related disc. With over 2.4 million units being sold to date.


Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

To support the release of the DVD, Disney Records released a new 2-disc special edition of the soundtrack. Which included karaoke versions of the hit songs from this TV musical. This version of the "High School Musical" soundtrack has also sold ridiculously well


Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

It seemed like virtualy anything associated with this new TV musical would then go on to become an enormous success. Take -- for example -- the junior novelization of "High School Musical." Though it hit bookstore shelves on June 1st of this year (Almost five months after this Kenny Ortega film was first presented on the Disney Channel), this paperback still went on to become a New York Times best seller.


Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

Of course, there were a few "High School Musical" -related projects that didn't go quite as Disney executives had hoped. Take -- for example -- the company's plan to send the HSM cast on the road during the Summer of 2006 to do a series of concerts. That plan fell apart in June when Zac Efron landed a part in the movie version of the Broadway musical, "Hairspray." Given the amount of rehearsal time that Zac would need in order to get ready to play Link Larkin (I.E. That film's romantic lead) ... Well, Efron's appearance in this Adam Shankman film pretty much torpedoed Disney's plans for a "High School Musical" tour.


Copyright 2005 Disney Enterprises


Well, if Efron was unavailable, the Mouse would just turn its attention to Vanessa Anne Hudgens, "High School Musical" 's female lead. The same month that Zac agreed to do "Hairspray," Disney -- through its Hollywood Records arm -- signed Vanessa to do her very own album. FYI: That recording, "V," hits store shelves tomorrow.


Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

Which -- I know -- sounds kind of fast. But virtually everything that the Walt Disney Company has done in order to cash in on the "High School Musical" phenomenon has moved at warp speed.

Take -- for example -- the stage musical version of this TV movie. The world premiere of this production was presented just last month at Stagedoor Manor, a summer theatre camp in Sheldrake, NY. And even though MTI won't actually have all of the productions materials (I.E. libretto, sides, score, etc.) for the official stage version of "High School Musical" ready for shipping 'til October 1st, 1,260 amateur productions are already scheduled to be performed in the 2006 - 2007 season.

Which is (admittedly) a huge number of shows. But not when you consider that -- on the very first day that the rights to produce "High School Musical" at actual high schools & community theaters became available -- Music Theater, International (I.E. The company that handles these productions for Disney Theatrical) recieved over 15,000 inquiries!


Copyright 2006 MTI

And the "High School Musical" gravy train doesn't stop there. HSM-related merchandise has started popping up in the Limited Too and Kohl's, not to mention Amazon.com.

Plus -- for all those would-be Troys & Gabriellas out there -- Hal Leonard has released some vocal selections from this TV movie ...


Copyright 2006 Hal Leonard

... in addition to an Easy Piano version of "High School Musical" 's score ...


Copyright 2006 Hal Leonard

... Even a play-along CD for all your cellists out there.


Copyright 2006 Hal Leonard

As for the Walt Disney Company, they're obviously anxious to keep the "High School Musical" phenomenon going. To date, the Mouse has exported this TV movie to over 100 countries. Just this past Friday night, this Disney Channel original made its official U.K. television debut.

And to increase the reach of what Disney Company officials hope will eventually become the "High School Musical" franchise, Mickey's taking the very unusual step of remaking this TV movie. Not once, but twice.

The first redo of "High School Musical" will be produced next year for Indian audiences using local talent, with the film's musical numbers now being done Bollywood style. As for the second remake of this new TV musical ... Borrowing a page from those Latin American versions of "Desperate Housewives" that Disney's international television arm began producing this past spring, this Kenny Ortega film will soon be adapted for South American audiences.

And let's not forget about the "High School Musical" sequel that's now slated to begin shooting in January. This new TV musical will supposedly be set after East High has officially ended classes for the year. Troy, Gabriella and the gang have now all taken summer jobs at the local country club. Which is owned by Sharpay's grandfather.

This time around, the musical's story won't deal so much with high school cliques as it will with class distinctions. Pitting the haves against the have-nots, so to speak. Kenny Ortega has reportedly already been signed to helm this "High School Musical" sequel. Which is tentatively slated to air next August.

Disney hopes that this second film in the HSM series (Yes, there are allegedly already plans for a "High School Musical 3." The third & final TV movie in this trilogy. Which will supposedly deal with what happens when Troy takes Gabriella to her very first prom) will -- to borrow a phrase from Sharpay & Ryan's theme song ...


Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

Bop, bop, bop
Straight to the top
Going for the glory
We’ll keep stepping up
And we just won’t stop
‘Til we reach the top
Bop to the top

So what do you folks think? Are you impressed at how quickly the Walt Disney Company has been able to cash on the "High School Musical" phenomenon? Taking the Disney Channel's initial $4.2 million investment and turning it into a franchise that -- in eight months time --  has already reportedly earned over 100 times that amount. Or does all this merchandising & synergizing of this new TV musical (Let's not forget about the "High School Musical" pep rallies that will debut at the Disney theme parks next month!) just strike you as overkill?

Your thoughts?

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  • If only "Cars" had been just a fraction as successful...
  • You forgot to mention the High School Musical Pep Rally, coming soon to DCA...
  • "So what do you folks think? Are you impressed at how quickly the Walt Disney Company has been able to cash on the 'High School Musical' phenomenon?"
    ----
    Am I "impressed" by psychotic delusions?....Um, noooo.  :)

    Someone's still forgotten to tell Disney's boardroom that it got the highest ratings for a CABLE movie, which means that a large section of the real-world audience has not only never heard of it in their life, but can ask "Should I have?"
    This isn't going to end until Disney gets so full of its own publicity, they risk it all some really big and ill-advised mainstream stunt--we're talking "Teacher's Pet" and Warner's "Powerpuff Girls Movie", here--and get a big fat reminder of just where Cult-Cable ranks on the cultural food chain.
    Until then, they're just building their own castles in the sandbox.
  • Masecaa, Jim mentioned the Pep Rallies in the last sentence!
    I, for one, love "High School Musical", and, yes, if only "Cars" had been a fraction as successful, you're right, curmedgeon...that movie deserved it.  But, as far as HSM, it's some good, wholesome family entertainment...and it's bringing back the live-action movie musical.  "Newsies" is my favorite non-animated film, and Kenny Ortega directed it, and he did a great job, though not as good, I think, with HSM.  While watching it, I have noticed some tiny things, like a second of weird-looking lipsynching.  I think that making HSM available for schools to perform is such a great idea.  If only I were in high school again (not like I'd get a good part, but I could be one of the cafeteria kids!)...I'd go and watch it, though!  I wonder if Disney has thought about putting HSM on the big screen.  I mean, it's not like HSM started as a TV show...so I'm not sure if it'd work.  The music and choreography are excellent, IMO, and the story is a good story, too, which plenty of people can relate to.  I say, Good job, Disney!  The only thing I find overkill is rereleasing the soundtrack and DVD.  It *just* came out this year.  It may be good for those who didn't buy the CD or DVD when they first came out, but for those of us who went right out when they became available, unless you're totally obsessed, it's not worth double dipping.
  • The Disney Videos release calendar (http://disneyvideos.disney.go.com/calendar/2006-date.html) states the "High School Musical Remix Edition" (2 disc set, http://disneyvideos.disney.go.com/moviefinder/products/5327303.html) will be released on 12/5/06.

    Oddly, the 11/08/06 release of "Cars" doesn't make the list.
  • My eleven-year-old sister is among the ranks of preteens who simply can't get enough of "High School Musical." You'd think by now that I would've seen the movie in full, considering that I get to listen to the soundtrack through my wall at least once a day. Truth be told, I've been avoiding "High School Musical" like the plague...because it's not just the preteens who are lapping it up, but also girls my age who have never seen a genuine musical in their life, so I severely worry about their judgement. I'm aware, though, that this is supposed to be focused at preteens, and that this is supposed to be merely a fun, optimistic look at high school, the kind of High School that ignores the exclusion and horrific drama, but rather how great it is to finally drive, to kick it back with your posse, to dye your hair repeatedly, etc., etc. The things that preteens long for and the things that Hillary Duff sings about ("My blonde hair is everywhere...").

    I think this is just one way that the Disney Company is killing a great fraction of its audience. This is just one more way of encouraging kids to grow up faster, to count down the days when they can become genuine teenagers. A lot of kids these days are under the impression that they are teenagers, especially the young girls. A lot of these kids don't want to be caught having anything to do with Disney unless if it's the Disney Channel, which has totally transformed over the years to only produce formulaic sitcoms and picturesque *** stars who can be marketted to produce a CD at the drop of a hat. I'm not accussing Kenny Ortega of anything, because he really does seem to care about the project, but man, the Company is just irking me with this because they continue to lead these preteens around with what sells, not with what tells a story or a message.

    Again, not passing judgement on Kenny Ortega or on the movie itself, but I do question the morality of the Company for blowing this project up. In my opinion Disney marketting is full of a lot of amateurs. Have they learned NOTHING from Stitch? If you take something successful and you throw sequels and a glut of merchandise at us before the film has even dried, then everyone is going to get very, very sick of it. When you're merchandising for something like this, it's best to teremember that for the most part, movies, characters, and phenomenons are like wine: they grow better with age.

    If you wait a few months and then dangle say, three items like a CD, a DVD, and a music book, then you have people readily rushing out to get every single item, because it'll feel like they haven't spent their money on the franchise in a while, that they've been building up to this purchase for a long time. And then will they want more. However, if you throw all of these items into the stores all at once, or over the short course of eight months, then you've given the fans more of a choice, and more of a chance that they'll decline the bulk of the merchandise just so they can at least purchase a few of their favorite items.

    I think the "HSM" phenomenon has gone overboard, and that yes, DerekJ is right: it is, after all, a high ranked CABLE movie.
  • blackcauldron85, I think Curmudgeon was goading Jim (aka he was being sarcastic).  I could be wrong, but that's the sense I got :)
  • You mentioned that music books are available, but I wanted to let you know that people can also buy and download each of the songs individually.  You can do so at the URL listed.
  • >>If you wait a few months and then dangle say, three items like a CD, a DVD, and a music book, then you have people readily rushing out to get every single item, because it'll feel like they haven't spent their money on the franchise in a while, that they've been building up to this purchase for a long time.<<

    If you do that to a *** fad like HSM, then you have a dead fad and a 90% return rate on your three items.  Understand the difference . . . HSM is not Stitch, it's Big Mouth Billy Bass.  They have to strike fast, or it's all over.  No legs on something like this, regardless of release schedule.

    If anything, I think they're planning too far in advance.  HSM 3?  Those 13 year olds will be at the ripe old age of 15 by then.  HSM will be about as cool as New Kids on the Block.
  • The moderation bleeps teen (short for teenager)?  Oh, now, come on.  How are we even supposed to discuss this?
  • The movie was not bad, but seemed very very typical and uninspiring.  And don't forget it also spawned a Virtual Magic Kingdom quest at the parks and online.

    I'd like Disney to take some of that money and invest it in a new channel.  So that besides The Disney Channel and Toon Disney we could have Disney Classic, which would show the old black and white shows (Swamp Fox, Mickey Mouse Club, etc.), classic cartoons, and, on Sunday nights, The Wonderful World of Color.  This channel might not make as much money, but let the teenyboppers subsidize the channel for us oldyboppers.
  • I dunno, I thought it was cute. It would be very easy to dismiss the movie as formulaic (because it is), but it's very well done, and the intended audience responds nicely to formula anyway. Solid performances, good message. blackcauldron's reference to the show being "good, wholesome family entertainment" shouldn't be passed over. There's a shortage and a lot of people are looking for stuff like this.

    Also, I think we're past considering this just a cable movie. I don't have cable, and my kids, 6 and 3 mind you, wanted to rent it as soon as it was on video. That rental was good for about 4-5 performances at our house before we had to tear it away from them and return it. I think they noticed it from it's promo every 3 minutes in the Disney Store.

    I would add one other noticable franchising of the picture: cross-marketing with Dancing with the Stars. Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, and Corbin Bleu showed up on the show last week in support of their HSM alumus and DWTS contestant, Monique Coleman (DWTS will be returning the favor this week by having three of their dance professionals appearing on Zack & Cody).

    The significance of this is in that Monique's ONLY qualification for being referred to as a "star" is her supporting-role appearance in HSM, and success on DWTS is largely dependant on popularity (although she's doing well so far in terms of quality, too). It will be interesting to see how well HSM fan base comes through for her.
  • blackcauldron85 said:
    "I wonder if Disney has thought about putting HSM on the big screen."
    ----
    "Thought about it"?...Ohh, yeah, they've "thought about it"--
    As part of the marketing campaign, even started one of those cunningly disguised "whisper" campaigns on the Internet, recruiting fans to post, "Do you want to petition Disney to show HSM on the big screen?"
    The result, so far, from those mainstreamers who have bothered to respond, has either been "Huh? Isn't it on disk?" or a resounding "....NO!!!!"

    And that's what we're talking about here, and the article even touched on:
    Disney has created its own little isolated-world success, with its own t-shirts, its own sequels, its own DVD's, its own stage adaptations...Is anything missing?  Oh, yeah--THE AUDIENCE!!  Y'know, the breakout non-fan audience that doesn't watch Disney Channel anyway?
    The cold shock of the Real World should have happened by now, but as the article pointed out, it keeps getting postponed--The "movie deal" didn't go over before it started, the tours were cancelled...Fate has kept stepping in to protect Disney from making a costly public fool of itself.
    (Think of "The Emperor's New Clothes":  We've got Disney all set to show off their new "success", and we've got the little kid in the crowd ready to shout out "But you're just a stupid -cable- movie, who's ever heard of you?"...It's just that the darn PARADE keeps getting rained out!)  :)

    The last public mainstream test is whether the park "Pep Rally" fails to go over with baffled parents, and for the crowning irony, whaddya wanna bet the DCA -park- will get the blame for that one, and not the source material?  -_-
  • Elera said:
    "because it's not just the preteens who are lapping it up, but also girls my age who have never seen a genuine musical in their life, so I severely worry about their judgement. I'm aware, though, that this is supposed to be focused at preteens, and that this is supposed to be merely a fun, optimistic look at high school, the kind of High School that ignores the exclusion and horrific drama, but rather how great it is to finally drive, to kick it back with your posse, to dye your hair repeatedly, etc., etc. The things that preteens long for)."
    ---
    Bingo, Elera--Why didn't I think of that?  :)
    Think 90% of the "success" we are talking about is teens getting a taste of "old-school" [NPI] musicals for the first time, and thinking Disney invented them...

    A few years before all this, someone pointed out that the old '78 John Travolta "Grease" was becoming a huge cult hit again on video-rental every generation or so with sleepover teens who A) had never seen a good old-style musical with stage-dancing moves (Rydell's prom dance can beat up Eastside's prom!), and B) wanted a squeaky-clean Fantasy High School straight out of the Archies, where everything was fun instead of angsty.
    If they haven't seen it yet, try it back to back with your own HSM fan, and see which one has the more professional polish...Could be that Disney's "success" is fueled by an audience that, well, just doesn't know any better.
    (And not like us adults are innocent either:  Remember a while back, how many were raving about the attention-deficited monstrosity "Moulin Rouge" being "a return to classic musicals", and then "Chicago" came along the next year to show us how it was -really- done?)  :)
  • Excuse me, but it's not just the PRE-teens that like HSM!! I'm 14 and most of my friends and I love it! Sure its cheesy, but its still good and can appeal to everyone if they gave it a chance.

    I live in the UK and so haven't seen the extent of their advertising campaign. But it seems to me like its worked! My sisters (7 and 9) were very exited about the prospect becauseof the non stop adverts on TV leading up to the UK premiere.

    I'm looking forward to a sequel to HSM although I do hope that like you said, they don't go much firther with this movie.
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