The Innocence of 'High School Musical'

As "Senior Year" hits theaters, the stars and creators of the hit franchise talk about what makes the movies so successful.

Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens High School Musical 3

No one expected a Disney made-for-TV movie to become the worldwide juggernaut that is "High School Musical." Back from a whirlwind promotional tour that included stops in Stockholm, Paris, and London, the actors behind basketball hero Troy (Zac Efron), brainiac Gabrielle (Vanessa Hudgens), diva Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale), jock Chad (Corbin Bleu), future lawyer Taylor (Monique Coleman), and composer Kelsi (Olesya Rulin) stopped for a bit in Los Angeles to reflect on the early days before they became household names.

"Obviously, we did not know it was going to be this huge phenomenon," said Tisdale. "There was this feeling around the room that we felt we were doing something really great. Just something like, 'I think this is going to be something really good for kids, they're going to love this movie.'"

That was in the days when "HSM" was merely a TV movie on the Disney Channel. Now "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" is poised to hit the big screen worldwide on October 24. Eagerly awaited by tweens as well as older fans, tickets are already selling out in some theaters. The film follows the youngsters, now seniors, at East High, as they anticipate leaving high school and each other. They look forward to their graduation with a mixture of excitement and sadness, which they express through extravagant dance numbers that transition through space and time.

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The story takes place in a magical high school where the drama teacher presides from a golden throne, where a romantic garden blooms on the roof, and where the biggest worry is how to ask a girl to the prom. Diva Sharpay and her twin Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) scheme to win a scholarship to the art college Julliard, a step toward fame and fortune. Chad looks forward to playing basketball at University of Arizona while Taylor knows she's headed for big things at Yale. Sweethearts Troy and Gabriella both look forward to college, but not to separation. The issue is put to the test when Gabriella is offered the chance to leave early for Stanford, a choice which would force her to miss both the prom and opening night of the musical.

If you're looking for a gritty coming-of-age story, you won't find it here. The movie shares DNA with the musical galas of the past and not with today's angst-driven teen dramas. This is by design. "Everyone is all about making edgy films," says Hudgens, "No one really takes the time to make a movie that people of all ages can watch and enjoy. You watch it and you're taken to this world where it's happy and you have fun. I'm extremely proud to be a part of this project."

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We Want to Know...
Who is your favorite "High School Musical" character?
Troy Bolton (Zac Efron)
Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Anne Hudgens)
Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale)
Chad Danforth (Corbin Bleu)
Taylor McKessie (Monique Coleman)
Other (Discuss your favorite here)
I can't choose! I love them all!
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