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Will "Senior Year" re-energize Disney's "High School Musical" franchise ?

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Will "Senior Year" re-energize Disney's "High School Musical" franchise ?

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For "High School Musical" fans, tomorrow's the big day.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Starting on Friday, September 26th, advance tickets to "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" will be available for purchase over at this Walt Disney Pictures release's official website.

Copyright 2008 ABC. All Rights Reserved

And you can bet that Mouse House executives will be closely monitoring how well these tickets sell. In the wake of "High School Musical: Get in the Picture" 's dismal ratings last month and the disappointing sales for Vanessa Hudgens' most recent CD, there are those in Burbank who are growing concerned that the HSM franchise may be losing some steam.

Copyright 2008 Hollywood Records. All Rights Reserved

And what with their $30 million "High School Musical" theatrical film hitting theaters on October 24th, that stage version of "High School Musical 2" which debuts in Atlanta on November 6th in addition to "High School Musical 4" already being in development -- the concept that the HSM phenomenon may be fading is just not something that the Mouse is willing to embrace at this time.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Which is why Disney has really cranked up its HSM PR machine over the past few months. Staging high profile events like that Ultimate Pep Rally which was held at the El Capitan back in August. Where the cast of HSM3 was cheered by a thousand hardcore HSM fans, who were then treated to screenings of the sing-along versions of "High School Musical" & "High School Musical 2" as well as getting a sneak peek at "High School Musical 3: Senior Year."

The cast of "High School Musical 3" waves from the
stage of the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, CA.
Photo by Eric Charbonneau

Meanwhile over at the Disney Channelmusic videos featuring footage from "HSM3" have been appearing since July. While over at Radio Disney, singles from the soundtrack of this Walt Disney Pictures' release have been bowing there on a monthly basis. With the very next tune -- "A Night to Remember" -- due to debut tomorrow at 4 p.m. PST / 7 p.m. EST.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

With the hope that a new HSM DVD might also help get the word out about HSM3, this past Tuesday Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released a deluxe dance edition of "High School Musical 2." With a free ticket to "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" included as part of this 2-disc set.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Disney also made use of its promotional partners on this picture, convincing the folks at Sara Lee to come sponsor a sweepstakes wherein someone would win a lunchtime screening of "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" hosted by Corbin Bleu.

Copyright 2008 Disney / Sara Lee Food & Beverage. All Rights Reserved

Speaking of giveaways, those who purchase their HSM3 tickets in advance through the film's official website will also get a free iTunes download. Which is yet another song from "Senior Year" 's soundtrack, "Can I Have This Dance."

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

All this ... Plus Amazon.com's "High School Musical 3 Private Movie Screening Sweepstakes. Which (provided that you win, of course) would then allow you treat a hundred of your closest friends to a private screening of this Kenny Ortega film.

Copyright 2008 Disney / Amazon.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved

As to why Disney is working this hard to help keep the "High School Musical" phenomenon alive ... Well, it's not just because this is a billion dollar franchise for the Walt Disney Company. The real reason that the Mouse is putting this much effort into promoting HSM3 is that the Studio already has what it thinks is a great idea for HSM4. One that actually picks on a loose story thread from "Senior Year." Where -- toward the end of that film (SPOILERS AHEAD !!) -- Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed) suddenly announces that she's going on sabbatical for the next school year and then names Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) as her temporary successor.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

And given that Ms. Evans will have already bumped heads with Tiara (Jemma McKenzie-Brown), a new transfer student to East High who'll be introduced in "High School Musical 3." This beautiful Brit will -- at first, anyway -- appear to be nice. But Tiara eventually reveals herself to be just as big a schemer as Sharpay is.

And that's pretty much the set-up for "High School Musical 4." East High now has dueling Divas. With Sharpay (Who's putting off college for a while) calling the shots in the school's drama department while Tiara (Who's determined to come out on top) does everything she can to try & get back into her former mentor's good graces.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

As to whether anyone else from "High School Musical 1, 2 & 3"  would be willing to return for a fourth installment of this series ... Given that Zac Efron reportedly got $3 million to reprise his role as Troy Bolton in HSM3 (With Ms. Hudgens only allegedly receiving $2 million to play Gabriella again), Disney would have to write some awfully big checks in order to get these two to revisit the halls of East High.

Which isn't very likely. Particularly given that -- when it comes to sharing that truly impressive amount of dough that the HSM franchise regularly generates for the Walt Disney Company -- Mickey seems to have trouble getting into that old "We're All in This Together" team spirit.

So what about you folks? Will you be buying your HSM3 tickets in advance (as Walt Disney Pictures executives hope & pray you will)? Or have you already had your fill of Troy, Gabriella and the gang?

Your thoughts?

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  • I hope Disney management isn't as stupid and clueless as Hill paints them to be.  There is no way they can be surprised by this pattern.  Lizzie McGuire, anyone?

    They've milked the cow dry, and now it's time to shoot it.  

  • It seems to me that it's not so much a matter of how much money it'll earn as how much Disney's willing to pony up to make it and how much is too risky. That's where the original leads' salaries come in, especially if 4 is a tv original. I thought that was the whole point of adding new kids in this one. Sounds like there's some nervousness about 4 not having the original cast- hence the high school student-to-teacher turnover with Sharpay and this mumbling about bringing back Troyella. I don't think the other 3 will be as tough to get back in there, since they're in the Sarah Lee tie-in ads. Um yeah. Sarah Lee seems to be the big promo partner on this one.

  • I don't know how many of you actually work with children on a daily basis, but I don't see the HSM train slowing down much. Granted, it's having to share the stage with Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers, but HSM still seems to be all the rage with the midwestern children I work with everyday...

  • Is everyone overlooking a key plot point for HSM 4?  A recent high school grad teaching without even going to college?  East High sounds like the worst school in the world.

  • Schlock. The "cow" should have been put out to pasture halfway through the first film.  

    Bring back Merlin Jones.  Now, THERE was a high school idol that everyone could appreciate!   ;)

  • With a 5th grader and 3rd grader, I'll tell you, at least here in Michigan, the HSM franchise has not slowed down a bit. All acivity stops with the kids when one of the new songs comes on the Disney channel, throughout the school the kids know the songs.

    I'm going to be in line for the opening weekend, so I'm guessing this thing will keep going. Get some of the HSM4 cast brought in here, and the kids will relate. As for $3 million for a lead, that's cheap by Hollywood standards.

  • Really, HSM is still going that strong?

    We've been swamped with Hannah Montana stuff down here (Texas), and while we still see some HSM, I was thinking they were letting that one take a breather while they burn out Hannah Montana, then they'd gear up HSM again this fall.

    We're soooooo over both of them.  Can't wait 'til they both go into hibernation and the hoopla moves on!

    Sue in Texas

    ...with 2 daughters at home...

  • Sue - you said "hoopla."  HOOP-LA!  (Sad to say the Hoopla will be moving on after this coming weekend.  Kungaloosh!)

  • It varies from place to place. I remember being the only kid in grade school openly into the Ninja Turtles but movies and concerts were coming out at the same time. In terms of HSM, my little sister seems to waver between liking it and kind of making fun of it. Does want to see it opening day (which would have to be my bday of course) and she does have me on the look-out for its sillier merchandise.

    As I said earlier, it's a question of production costs. A big part of HSM's appeal to execs is its low production cost. So bringing back the actors who can negotiate higher paydays is an issue. As is the possibility of the audience losing interest if the main characters don't come back. So the Sharpay in HSM4 sounds like a compromise, having one of the "Big 3" (look at the dolls- Troyella and Sharpay are the only ones being produced en masse) come back but will it be enough? Could just be another "Beauty School Dropout in Grease 2". And that's the real question. Is HSM Grease or Power Rangers? HSM will lose its bargain production value if it's Grease, but the loss of its two stars might kill it. Even though there's no reason for more than a cameo. One student, particularly the most superficial of the lot, not going to college I get... More than that among the leads... What's Troy going to do? Coach? Janitor? Lunchgentleman?

  • I don't know a lot of tweens, so I can't confirm whether HSM is still hot or not. But honestly, considering how many different ways Disney's been cross promoting HSM, is it any wonder that the kids aren't as ga-ga over the franchise as they used to be? No matter how hot the property, there's still gonna be a point where people start getting sick of the hype; maybe Disney's crossed that line.  

  • My 3 DDs and I will definitely see HSM3.

    Anything after that, though, I'm pretty dubious about.  It was a fun trilogy and I think they should leave it at that.  But they always seem to go one too far, kind of a Peter Principle thing.  Rather than go out on top, they don't quit until people have stayed away from the latest offering.

  • ugh. Can't wait for all this HSM stuff to just blow off and die.

  • Well.  That was great.  Now let's talk about some REAL Disney movie news.  The following was recently posted at aintitcoolnews:

    "So just got back from attending the Walt Disney Showcase that the company throws for partnering agencies and media and had some big news to reveal.

    1st a recap.

    Dick Cook the President of the Motion Picture Division spent the day teasing upcoming films for 2009 thru 2011, and with it came a barrage of celebs who he welcomed to the stage to further make the announcement sweeter, here are some examples;

    RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN - Dwayne Johnson appeared, talked about the film.

    WILD HOGS 2: Bachelor Ride - Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H Macy all reunited as they pulled on stage on Harleys.

    HANNAH MONTANA: THE MOVIE - Bily Ray and Miley showed up and Miley performed a new song from the soundtrack of this film.

    NATIONAL TREASURE 3, SORCERER'S APPRENTICE, G-FORCE - Jerry Bruckheimer and Nic Cage sat with Cook and announced they were going ahead w/ these film, we even saw a trailer for G-Force.

    CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC - Isla Fisher made an appearance.

    THE PROPOSAL - Sandra Bullock (leaving Dick Cook quite star-struck) came by.

    DISNEY'S A CHRISTMAS CAROL - Robert Zemeckis & Jim Carrey talked about making the film.

    HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3 - Kenny Ortega & the Cast came on stage and showed a teaser montage for the movie.

    BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA - George Lopez and Papi the Chihuahua chatted it up w/ Dick

    They showed the TRON 2 trailer (and everyone went nuts), the same that was shown at Comic Con and Dick said it was for sure a go.

    A great SURROGATES trailer & a montage to music of PRINCE OF PERSIA recent dailies wowed the audience, but no appearance by Bruce Willis or Jake Gylenhal.

    A teaser of art/concept drawings were shown of Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland", and Dick officially announced Johnny Depp was playing the Mad Hatter!!!

    The entire KODAK theater was treated to a 90% finished full version of the movie BOLT (in 3-D) which was BE-AWESOME!!!

    And in the end as Dick Cook was wrapping up, the USC Marching Band comes out and starts playing the Lone Ranger theme and a graphic for the film comes on screen.

    Suddenly the curtain raises and a White horse w/ a Lone Ranger character is galloping on stage during the music. When it's over, Dick says he hasnt cast a Lone Ranger yet, but he had an idea for a Tonto.

    Just then Johnny Depp comes from off stage dressed to the nines as Jack Sparrow with a Lone Ranger mask on a stick over his eyes, banters w/ Dick Cook and makes Dick wear the mask and hold the gun he was carrying.

    And then Dick Cook says, "Well what do you think? Johnny Depp as Tonto???"

    The crowd goes mad-wild and he says "OK, done."

    Then goes onto ask if he thinks we should have Johnny back for another Pirates film? T he crowd goes mad, Dick Cook says "OK, done. "The theatre erupts. Johnny mumbles some things in character and then darts off. Maybe was on stage a total of a minute and barely said anything. It was such a fun day!

    Johnny came out as Sparrow had a big white indian feather stuck in his head sticking up...

    John Lasseter was there talking about CARS 2. He debuted CARS TOONS, a new mini-on-line series starring Mater which will start showing soon leading up eventually to the CARS 2 film...which is about Mater and Lightning McQueen travelling internationally. This 1st CARS TOONS was about Mater imagining he was a Fire Rescue truck and a Medical Doctor. Cute,

    There's one coming up where he thinks he's a Daredevil and another where he fights Bull-Dozers called El MATER'DOR

    And when they teased Princess & the Frog, Randy Newman performed a song from the film LIVE...tons of fun!!!

    Disney knows how to impress and get the word of mouth out!

    Just thought I'd share with you the news and the officiality of it coming right from the Mouse's mouth!

    Electric Dreams"

    Sounds great right?  I mean nothing surprising but wait, SORCERER'S APPRENTICE?!!!  What on earth is Disney doing making a movie with THAT title?

  • Tuckenie-

    The Sorcerer's Apprentice was a story long before Fantasia...

    And Skipperwest-

    Merlin Jones is indeed one of the coolest high school kids ever.

  • Still...  No way that's not a loaded title to be making..

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