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Monday Mouse Watch : Will a second set of nude photographs cause Disney to flunk Vanessa Hudgens out of its "High School Musical" franchise?

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Monday Mouse Watch : Will a second set of nude photographs cause Disney to flunk Vanessa Hudgens out of its "High School Musical" franchise?

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By late Friday night, the headlines read "Disney Stands by High School Musical Star." Which meant that -- in spite of what a Mouse House spokesperson called " ... obviously a lapse in judgment" -- the Walt Disney Company wasn't going to distance itself from Vanessa Hudgens. Punish this tween favorite just because a single naked picture of her had popped up on the Web.

Of course, that was before reports of other nude photos began surfacing. According to "People" magazine, long before she played Gabriella Montez in the "High School Musical" films, Ms. Hudgens may have sent some racy pictures to "Drake and Josh" star Drake Bell.

Which is why -- as of Sunday evening -- the word coming out of Burbank wasn't quite so hopeful anymore. Given that Disney now seemed to be dealing with a pattern of behavior when it came to Vanessa & nude photographs, studio execs began wondering if it might be wiser for the company to cut this once-thought-to-be squeaky-clean 18-year-old loose.

As one unnamed official that I spoke with last night put it:

"One error in judgement, one youthful indiscretion, the company might be willing to overlook. But if we're now talking about two different sets of nude photos ... Well, that then suggest a pattern of behavior. And the suits aren't going to like the idea of tying the future of their new multi-million franchise to one flaky teenager. Ms. Hudgens better hope that that second set of photographs doesn't ever surface. Otherwise she's going to be out of a job."

Mind you, this photo (as well as these rumors of a second set of nude photographs) couldn't have come at a worse time. Vanessa and her "High School Musical 2" co-star, Zac Efron, are currently touring the globe as part of the worldwide roll-out of this new Disney Channel TV movie. Where Ms. Hudgens -- jsut as she was initially denying reports that the National Enquirer had somehow acquired nude photographs of her -- was quoted in an interview as saying:

"I'm a good kid. I've been brought up with very good morals, and I'm not going to go out and do something I don't want other kids to do ... I love being a role model because, in Hollywood, there aren't a lot of role models to look up to ... The fact that there's a whole bunch of good kids coming out who are now stepping into the limelight, I'm very proud of that."

Mind you, at this point in the "HSM2" press tour, Vanessa has canned all of the "role model" talk. After issuing a statement that said ...

“I want to apologize to my fans, whose support and trust means the world to me. I am embarrassed over this situation and regret having ever taken these photos. I am thankful for the support of my family and friends.”

... Ms. Hudgens then let her publicist, Jill Fritzo, do the talking for her. Fritzo told members of the press on Friday that ...

"This was a photo which was taken privately ... It is a personal matter and it is unfortunate that this has become public."

Which then led Disney officials to release their own statement. Which read:

"Vanessa has apologized for what was obviously a lapse in judgment. We hope she's learned a valuable lesson."

Which Mouse House executives had hoped would be the end of this matter. That this embarassing episode would then play itself out over the weekend. That -- by Monday morning -- the press would have moved on to some other story involving a celebrity that had done something stupid. And as for Vanessa's nude photo ... Well, when it came time to negotiate Ms. Hudgens' contract for "High School Musical 3," studio officials that I've spoken with suggested that the company would have probably used this incident as an excuse to keep Vanessa's fee down for the next film in the series.

But now that rumors of a second set of nude photographs have begun circulating (More to the point, now that the Walt Disney Company -- based on those record-breaking ratings that "High School Musical 2" received last month -- is reportedly toying with the idea of producing two additional sequels to this Disney Channel Original, rather that just the previously announced "High School Musical 3") ... Mickey may have no choice but to drop Vanessa.

As that unnamed source at the studio told me last night:

"Look, it's not as if we're talking about the Paris Hilton sex tape here. If it's just the one nude photo, we can then spin this incident as a single stupid mistake that a naive young performer made. But if this is the first of a series of naked pictures that are going to start turning up on the Web, we're going to have no choice. We're going to have to cut Vanessa loose then. The 'High School Musical' franchise is just too important to the company right now to let one performer's behavior ruin its appeal."

But what do you folks think? Is it alright for the Walt Disney Company to basically overlook Ms. Hudgens' first nude photograph, but then lower the boom if should any additional naked pictures of Vanessa pop up on the Web?

Your thoughts?

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  • To me the answer to this type of situation seems simple. IGNORE IT! Unless I am niave (there is a chance) surely the majority of the public realizes that the Disney Co. is not responsible for some star's actions past or present. The pics weren't really worth the Mouse getting stressed over anyway, they were nudity not porn. Majority of the public are a lot mre forgiving and forgetful of much bigger scandals than this.  

  • Gosh Jim, you put links to everything in your story except the photos themselves.  How can we fully assess the scandal without seeing what it's all about?

  • i agree Disney should just ignore it.  It is nothing new for a star to take pictures of themselves naked.  Besides they are nude pictures is not like they ar in some kind of pornography act.

    If Harry Potter could do a whole stage show in the nude and still be able to carry a major franchise then this actress should be ok to carry a franchise like High School Musical.  If Disney ognores it eventually writers like the one above might just brush the story and stop giving it so much publicity

  • I think Vanessa is too valuable to High School Musical for Disney to just drop her.  She made a stupid mistake in taking the photos, she learned a big lesson, and everybody should move on.  From what I understand, those pics were taken a few years ago, before she was even signed on to HSM.  As for Vanessa herself, I don't think her talk of being a role model is fake.  I really do think she is a good girl that is unfortunately being judged from a decision she made a few years ago.  I am confident that this will pass over in a few days and everything will work out between Vanessa and Disney.

  • Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if there's more nude photos. I wonder why they were leaked on to the internet.

  • High School Musical: Gone Wild


  • Micky> I think the Equus parallel is a little off. Radcliffe is an actor and simply played a different part- much like the elders on the Potter sets have done.

    I don't think Disney will drop Vanessa but they probably will use these leaks as leverage if she seeks any sizeable pay increase for the sequels.

  • She is just opening the door to other career options after HSM3. She is really a hot, bad girl you know...please...Hollywood games are so ridiculous. ALL of this is calculated and planned.

  • I don't think that Disney will drop her- as boblive77 said.  Gabriella is the favorite character of so many little girls, and they'd be heartbroken if the real Gabriella didn't come back for HSM3.  I hadn't heard anything about a 4th HSM being made, though...that'd be cool...

    Who leaked the initial picture(s)?  If Drake did indeed get other photos, hopefully no one else has them, and, if he still has them, I'm sure he has enough class to withhold them from the public.

  • I too think that Vanessa Hudgens is too important to HSM for Diseny to let her go. Writing her out would upset the vast majority of plans and replacing her would upset them more, not to mention they'd hate the new Gabriella. And the official stance of Josh Bell is that he never received the pictures in question.

  • She should be allowed to be in the next sequel provided she agrees to clean things up downstairs.

  • Class and Hollywood never really go well together. However, Ms. Hudgens has learned that no matter how private one thinks something is, once you enter the limelight that is Hollywood, nothing is private anymore. If Julie can bare hers in S.O.B. and still be Queen Clarisse in The Princess Diaries, and Anne Hathaway showed hers in both Havoc and Brokeback Mountain and Disney has no problem playing both installments of The Princess Diaries on TDC, not to mention Hathaway's turn in Ella Enchanted, which was programmed last month, then Vanessa's "myspace-style" shot shouldn't prevent her from being in future HSM installments. What it will do is prevent her from being a hold-out because leverage has just been given to Disney in the contract negotiation with this situation.

  • Not sure these new photos will be showing up on the web--if she's 18 now, and took them before the original HSM, that would make them illegal--posting them would be begging for a visit from the FBI and Dateline NBC.  That may end up saving her career--without the public ever actually seeing the other photos, they may end up being dismissed as nothing more than urban legend.

  •     As far as this photo goes, it is a simple tasteful nude.  As a Disney fan, I was not offended by it, nor did I see anything wrong with it.  The really bad person is the one who  posted this photo on the internet without Vanessa's permission.    If Disney allows this photo to remove Vanessa from the High School Musical franchise, they are only adding to the misery of a young actress who has already been victimized by the poster.  In my view Vanessa has done nothing wrong, and I continue to support her.

        Regarding any other nude photos that may exist, they would have to be judged by Disney, based on the nature of the photo.  Again, if they turn out to be simple, tasteful, nudes, I see no problem.

  • I don't see any inconsistency with the idea that if it was just the one time she could be forgiven, but that if it's the beginning of a pattern of behavior that Disney has to do what's necessary to protect it's franchise.  It is in the end a business decision.

    Disney should tread carefully, however.  I know nothing about this franchise or the star herself, but everything I've read suggests that both are extremely popular.  Are the fans likely to be offended by whatever it is that has Disney so worried?  And if not, how do you think they'll react if she's punished by Disney for it?

    I think the much, much, MUCH bigger question has to do with how old she was when the photos were taken, and who was involved in helping her do it.  As I understand it, this young lady is just 18.  I have heard nothing about when the one photo already public was taken, but Jim you allude to other pictures taken "long before" she took on her current HSM role.  The implication is that she was underage at the time, which as jason71 pointed out would make such photos illegal.  Which is another reason for Disney to walk on eggshells -- they may very well be poised to publicly punish this girl (or "child", as I can easily imagine her publicity and legal teams to start referring to her) for being a victim of one of the most heinous crimes recognized by society.  Ouch.

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