Kenny Ortega On 'High School Musical's 10 Year Anniversary: 'I Had A Feeling It Was Going To Be Huge'
Who else is counting down the minutes until we get to relive the magic of High School Musical all over again? Yep, us too.
Director Kenny Ortega spoke to EW just ahead of the big anniversary and reflected on the past 10 years and the moment that he knew the movie, and it’s stars — Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu and Monique Coleman — were going to be huge. Check it:
On the cast: “We knew before we started day one of rehearsal that we had an incredible rat pack. We knew that these kids had the potential to really create some thunder. There was no doubt because I had put them through what was more like a Broadway audition. We narrowed down hundreds and hundreds of actors to, I think, 18 on our final day of casting. We were mixing them up and they were improvising, playing with basketballs, singing, singing in pairs, and they were doing dance combinations and scene work. They were in and out and in and out, and they’re agents were going crazy. They couldn’t figure out what the heck I was doing, but all of us — Disney and my producers, all knowing what my vision, which was ambitious, was for this little TV movie — realized that it was important that I had it in these kids.
“So by the time we stepped out of auditions and we had selected Zac and Vanessa, who had incredible chemistry together, and Ashley and Lucas, who were riots, Monique, Corbin, and everyone, we all knew that they had firepower. It was a joy waking up knowing that I was going to work with them everyday for all these movies. We had such a good time working together. They were inspired, real players. They came to work everyday with ideas. Ashley and Lucas always had the set in hysterics. They were all participants, real partners. Zac, I think, was 16 turning 17 on the first movie, and Vanessa 15 turning 16, so these were their sweet years, but they were bright and they were above average, all of them. They made it possible to aspire and to work at the capacity that I did.”
On his hopes of an actual reunion with all the Wildcats: “I’m hoping that we’re going to spend some quality time with each other. We’re all group texting in the hopes that we’re going to have a movie night, a dinner, or an appearance somewhere. I’m hoping that I will be able to look into all of my Wildcats faces and smile and wish them a happy anniversary. Also, to the fans of High School Musical, they haven’t quit us. They want a fourth [movie] so desperately. They’ve never left! They’ve grown up. I’ve met them in life all over the world. They’re bankers, lawyers, and doctors, these people that have become working members of our society that grew up on High School Musical. It’s a little crazy to believe. If you watched High School Musical at 15, you’re 25 today and you’re out there in the workplace and you have a life, so I’m grateful to all of them who keep Instagramming me, saying ‘Please, another one!’”
On the moment he knew it was going to be huge: “After we did a huge master of ‘We’re All In This Together,’ I walked over to the cast and we huddled into a circle. It was our last day, and I said, ‘If all the Disney folks put the same kind of effort into their work, I have a feeling that there are going to be some lives changed from what we’ve accomplished in these weeks together,’ and I thanked everybody. I said, ‘I feel something here and I have a feeling that we’re going to be back.’ Monique loves to remember that story. She said she remembers looking in my eyes and having a glimpse of the future before we really stepped away and finished, and I did too. I felt like we had delivered. We did everything we set out to do [and], as you always do, you have to place the work into the capable hands of others in hopes that they get the word out and know how to manage it, market it, and present it, and we were fortunate enough to have those partners.”
High School Musical airs TONIGHT, Wednesday, January 20th @ 8PM ET/PT on Disney Channel.