Anniversary Appreciation: High School Musical

Welcome to The Real World According To Sam! I'm doing something a bit different today. Something I really enjoy doing is watching some of my favorite movies on big milestone marker days. Everyone who knows me knows that I love Disney movies. I love the animated movies, the live action movies, and yes, even the Disney Channel Original movies. 

Before, I used to just watch the movies and leave it at that, but now, I kind of want to share my appreciation with everyone else. Who knows? Maybe you also appreciate these movies or maybe you'll see a movie you forgot about or never saw and want to watch! This is a new feature called...Anniversary Appreciation. I have selected some movies that have some pretty major anniversaries throughout the year. I'll bring up some random facts, maybe include some songs if there were any to note, and the post will conclude with a movie review. Today's movie and the very first Anniversary Appreciation is...

High School Musical

High School Musical Poster

Screenwriter: Peter Barsocchini
Director: Kenny Ortega
Year: 2006
Rating: TV-G
Cast: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Corbin Bleu, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel

This year, High School Musical turns 15 years old! Today is officially the 15th anniversary of the film's release. Hence why we have this post. First I will list out some fun tidbits I've managed to scrounge up on the internet, then some of the impact the movie has had or what developed as a result, and finally I will review the movie like I've reviewed every other movie on this blog. 

Fun Facts

  • At the end of 2006, the soundtrack for the film was #2 on the Billboard Year End Chart for Albums¹
  • The soundtrack was the best-selling album of 2006, selling 3.7 million copies.² 
  • Zac Efron did not sing in the first movie. His parts on the recordings were predominantly sung by Drew Seely. Zac Efron fully sang the soundtracks for the two sequels. 
  • High School Musical was the third full length movie that was directed by Kenny Ortega, the first two being Newsies (1992) and Halloweentown (1993). He later went on to direct the HSM sequels and the Disney Channel original movie Descendants (2015) and its sequels, which are all musicals as well. 
  • Kenny Ortega not only directed High School Musical, but also choreographed it and each of its sequels. He additionally choreographed Xanadu (1980) [with Jerry Trent], Dirty Dancing (1987), St. Elmo's Fire (1985), Pretty in Pink (1986), Newsies (1992), Halloweentown (1993), and Descendants (2015).
    [In Pretty in Pink, Kenny Ortega choreographed Ducky Dale's dance scene in the record shop, which Jon Cryer spoke about very briefly in a 2020 interview with Entertainment Weekly: Interview ]
  • High School Musical won numerous awards: 
    • Primetime Emmy for "Outstanding Choreography" (2006)
    • Primetime Emmy for "Outstanding Children's Program" (2006)
    • American Latino Media Arts (ALMA) award for "Outstanding Director - Television Series, Mini-Series, Television Movie" (2007)
    • Casting Society of America award for Best Children's Programming (2006)
    • Directors Guild of America award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children's Programs (2007)
    • Motion Picture Sound Editors award for Best Sound Editing in Music for Television (2007)
    • Teen Choice Award for TV-Choice Breakout Actor: Zac Efron (2006)
    • Teen Choice Award for TV-Choice Comedy/Musical Show (2006)
    • Teen Choice Award for TV-Choice Chemistry: Zac Efron & Vanessa Hudgens (2006)
    • Television Critics Assocation Award for Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming (2006)


  • At the time of writing this post, We're All in This Together has 66 million plays on Spotify and 21 million views on the DisneyMusicVevo YouTube channel (the video was posted in August 2019).
  • High School Musical is the first, and still the only, Disney Channel original movie to have a sequel released theatrically (High School Musical 3). HSM 3 was the number one film at the box office during its opening weekend, making $42 million.¹
  • According to the Recording Industry Association of America, the movie's soundtrack was certified quadruple platinum (4x platinum), on January 19, 2007. The album released on January 10, 2006. By February, it was certified Gold. Just over a week later, it went platinum. In April, it was 2x platinum, and it hit 3x platinum just four months later, in August of 2006.² This was only in the U.S. The album has sold 7 million copies worldwide and has other platinum certifications in different countries. It is 4x platinum in the UK, Ireland, and Argentina. There have also been recordings of the soundtrack in other languages. Some songs have been recorded as singles in even more languages than the licensed album recordings.
  • High School Musical had a live concert tour which was recorded and released on film (High School Musical: The Concert). Zac Efron was not a part of it. His parts on tour were sung by the same singer as the one who sang on the original movie soundtrack: Drew Seely.³  
  • A live stage production of the film was also adapted from the original movie, called High School Musical on Stage! This production can be licensed by schools for performance. 
  • There was an ice show developed based on the film, titled High School Musical: The Ice Tour. It opened in 2007 and toured until 2009. 
  • The Disney Parks around the world had different High School Musical based parades and shows. There was a parade at Disney's California Adventure. The parade was adapted into a stage show at Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios. It was known as the "High School Musical Pep Rally" or "High School Musical Party." Walt Disney Studios Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland all had versions of the show. 
  • A spin-off Disney + original series was made, titled High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. The series debuted in 2019. It tells the fictional story of a group of kids who attend the school where the movie was shot, as they work to put on a musical stage production of the film. The show has had Lucas Grabeel (who played Ryan in the original movie) make a guest appearance and sing a new, original song written for the show. The show features original music, as well as new recordings by the show cast of the original movie's hit songs.   

Official Soundtrack via Spotify

Movie Review


High School Musical in short, is a musical film about a bunch of teenagers in high school. It is basically a Romeo and Juliet adaptation, complete with a balcony scene, but instead of there being feuding households, there are feuding extracurricular activities. The general premise is that there is a social structure in high school that must be adhered to. If you're a jock, you're just a jock. If you're a smart activity person (mathlete, academic decathlon), you stick to those activities. If you do theater, everyone else stays away from theater. Until Gabriella Montez transfers to East High after doing karaoke with Troy Bolton at a New Year's Eve party at a ski resort. Now, Troy, the captain of the basketball team (and coach's son) is trying out for the school musical with Gabriella, which is upsetting the status quo of...everything. This is the same kind of coincidence that Grease pulls, where after a summer romance, Sandy ends up at the same school as Danny. Is this realistic? No, but it's all the rage in Hollywood and has been for DECADES. 

Is the premise over the top? Absolutely. Is it fun? Oh yeah. So do we care if this is realistic? Absolutely not. Why? The soundtrack and dance numbers are fire and the message is a feel-good positive one. This is a made-for-teens-made-for-TV-movie. Does it have the best production quality overall? No. Does it have the deepest script? No. Did it have a chance in the world of being nominated for any serious awards like the Oscars? Absolutely not. That doesn't matter to fans though, and it doesn't have to matter to you. This is the kind of movie kids love and future kids might love when their parents inevitably show it to them, because the songs are catchy, the setting is generally relatable, and the overall themes are typical. Fitting in? Always in style. Feeling like you can't be yourself? Still a thing. Arts vs sports? I'm not sure why this always has to be an ongoing debate, but I'm sure it's still a debate nonetheless.  

The story is simple, as we already discussed. The formula for it is tried and true at this point. If that is the case, then why even bother with this movie? Why was it such a cultural phenomenon to begin with? Look. Every generation has their musical Romeo & Juliet. Don't believe me? There was West Side Story, Grease, High School Musical, Teen Beach Movie, and even Descendants has a little bit of a Romeo & Juliet going on if you really think about it. The Greatest Showman also gets the star-crossed romance going a little with Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) and Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), but doesn't focus on this component as the main part of the story. Shakespeare knew it was a good idea in the 1600s, but I'm sure he didn't figure it would be such a good idea that it would be done again and again and again with different dressings to make it look somewhat new. The best thing about some of these newer versions of the story usually, is the happier, peppier vibes. It's nice to not end every star-crossed lover story with death. If you look at this movie as another Romeo & Juliet you can see that there is no question as to why I find enjoyment in it.

Let's talk about the characters. Sharpay is supposed to fit the standard mean girl trope. She is the popular girl who wants to get the attractive jock guy, but doesn't seem to compare to the nice, girl-next-door. Ironically enough, Sharpay isn't really all that mean though, comparative to cinema's other mean girls. She doesn't want Gabriella in the musical, but she never really bullies her. Instead, she tries to be sure that Gabriella fits in somewhere that isn't the theater. This is gatekeeping behavior for sure, but suggesting that a girl who is good at academics and who has done academic competitions join a scholastic decathlon team...that isn't really evil. That is actually kind of nice, since it connects her with people of almost like mind and similar intellect. She gives her a place to fit in. The only problem is that she does indeed gatekeep and insist people can't be multi-faceted. She tries to paint other people in a bad light to keep the musical to herself, so she lies, but really, she could've been worse. She's conceited, but isn't as mean as you would think she would be. The times Sharpay really is a major bully is during her interactions with Kelsie, the only girl with a bit of a clue on being true to yourself from the beginning. Some people would argue Sharpay is protecting her theater group from people who won't appreciate it, but if that were the case, then she would appreciate all of Kelsie's effort instead of being a jerk to her. Kelsie gives the most time of anyone else and is disregarded by everyone IN theater.

Ryan is Sharpay's brother and like his sister he is musically inclined. He isn't as mean, but he often comes across as being a bit ditzy. Chad is Troy's best friend, who is also on the basketball team. Kelsie is the pianist for the theater, but she loves to compose music and has a vision for the musical that Sharpay doesn't want to follow. Her main problem is she's mousey and doesn't stand up for herself. She does do what she loves though and is nice to others. A little self-confidence would take her a long way. 

Troy Bolton is, as mentioned previously, the captain of the basketball team. After singing with Gabriella he wants to sing a bit more. His team doesn't approve when they find out about his secret. Troy is a jock and the most popular guy in school, but he's really nice to everyone. His only problem is he abides by the "status quo" and lets his friends make him say stupid things,...while unknowingly being streamed. 

Gabriella is a new transfer. She is really quiet and generally wants to keep a low profile, but she can't help herself when she gets a chance to audition for the "winter musicale." She joins the scholastic decathlon team and drags Troy into the main conflict of the story. She's sweet and there isn't a whole lot to her, but she's nice and generally likable. Are any of the characters deep? Not really, but they all serve their purpose and somehow, they all manage to be memorable. 

Another point to make is that the musical within the movie, is not the main point at all. Do we ever get to see the actual musical that they are supposed to be in? No, not really, because the last big duet is during the callbacks. We really don't even know fully what it's about. We just know that Kelsie wrote the entire thing and composed the music for it, without really getting any of the credit. It doesn't make sense, it has a lot of props, and it isn't the point. The point of this movie is the musical outside the musical. Let's not even get into the big fix they pull off to get everyone to do everything despite scheduling conflicts. That's so unrealistic that only Disney could pull it off in a made-for-tv movie. Honestly, if anyone figured out what they did, the Wildcats most likely would have had to forfeit that entire championship game.

Let's talk about where this movie really shines. The music. The soundtrack is comprised of nine main songs within the movie. Each of the songs featured in the movie is a piece of pop genius when it comes to t(w)een soundtracks. You have: 
  • a cute romantic intro song
  • a peppy pump-up song
  • a catchy show tune at two tempos
  • an experimental song saying to stay in line while characters try to break out
  • an angsty break-up style song to tug the heartstrings
  • another upbeat song with a microscopic Latin flare that is just...there to be flashy and fun
  • a fast-paced couple duet 
  • a group anthem that will get stuck in your head
It is no wonder that so many copies of this were sold. Personally, I would say "Bop to the Top" is the weakest number in the listing, while "We're All in This Together" is probably the strongest. Each of these songs could have easily been thrown on repeat for parents of the early millennium to get annoyed with. While they are all pop songs and they're all pretty simple, they all sound different and hit different tones. None are overly weighty and even though one song is kind of sad, it gets juxtaposed with all kinds of happy. This is Disney positivity on steroids. I'm all here for it, because that is exactly the kind of thing I go for. I will admit without any shame that I love this soundtrack particularly because it is so happy, upbeat, and just kind of cheesy. These songs were put together to not just tell a story, but to get kids singing them and wanting to hear them all the time. Mission accomplished folks. 

Ultimately, this isn't the deepest movie in terms of story and many components about it have been done repeatedly throughout cinema and literary history. However, it is fun and the soundtrack is catchy. The characters aren't incredibly complex, but they're relatable and likable. This movie won't be for everyone, and we all have to remember that this movie was made predominantly with kids, tweens, and young teens in mind. They're the target demographic and it worked. I grew up around kids who loved this movie. I knew the songs even though --- confession: I didn't watch the movie until my freshman year of college...I didn't have cable growing up. I knew the songs because everyone would sing them and because they were included on the PlayStation 2 game Dance Dance Revolution: Disney Channel Edition. I wanted it, because ABC used to air Hannah Montana, That's So Raven, and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody on Saturday mornings and songs from them were also on there. I spent hours on that game and easily learned the music. So I have my own roundabout nostalgia with it, even if it isn't everyone else's predominant experience. I've watched it several times since that first time years ago and I enjoy it every time. For me, personally, High School Musical, gets a Lone Star rating of ✯✯✯✯. I know for a fact that it captured the imagination of its target demographic, the music holds up, the story is still being retold in new ways, and it maintains a long tradition of teen-focused musicals re-telling Romeo & Juliet that I think should continue.   

If you don't like cheesy, teen musicals, you aren't going to like this. If you don't like large piles of sappy Disney positivity, you are probably going to hate this. If you just don't even like musicals, this one won't change your mind. If you like all those things, then the odds are high that you've already seen this and love it. If you're a parent, show it to your kids, get new little wildcats out there singing and dancing. Also, let the kids have their cheesy, positive entertainments without shame, because these are the things that will help them when they get older and start having some tough times. They'll remember the times that were simpler, when they binge watched their favorite movie, had their first major celebrity crushes, and they'll randomly start singing the words from memory even though it may be many years since they last heard the song. There's no sense in not having fun, or in taking everything too seriously. This movie is still relevant and will continue being shared or retold in new ways because the world could use a bit more of those positive feelings and experiences right now...and also because it brings in money like a prized cash cow.

Hey, I said I like positivity and that the movie wasn't realistic. I never said I didn't perceive things realistically. So go ahead and stretch out, take some deep breaths, and sing and dance along to the movie today, if you want to, without guilt or reservation. Break that status quo (even if your status quo at this point is your age--as adults we can choose our entertainments and dance to whatever we want)! 

Happy 15th anniversary High School Musical! Go Wildcats!

*The poster image included in this review is used simply to identify the movie being critically reviewed and appreciated for its anniversary. The copyrights belong solely to the Walt Disney Company and Disney Channel. I own rights to none of the discussed materials above. 

**The music embedded via Spotify into this post does not belong to me. The soundtrack copyright belongs solely to the Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney Records.

Fun Facts