"High School Musical 3" dances into movie theaters

Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:20pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Breezy, bouncy and bursting with enthusiasm, "High School Musical" makes its big-screen debut around the world this week in what could be the year's biggest family movie.

"High School Musical 3: Senior Year" is the third film in a record-breaking Disney series that has created a $1 billion-plus global franchise and a frenzied young fan base that has bought into its squeaky-clean vision of teenage school life.

Featuring clean-cut Zac Efron, 21, his on- and off-screen sweetheart Vanessa Hudgens, 19, and a diverse cast of Latino, African-American and white young actors, "High School Musical 3" portrays a sweetly romantic, drug- and violence-free teen scene that kids from Cairo to Canberra appear to yearn for.

Advance ticket sales in the United Kingdom -- where the film opens Wednesday (October 22), two days before its stateside bow -- have broken records set by "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" in 2005, and online ticket sales reports in the United States signal a bumper opening weekend box office.

But as the mostly preteen fans have grown up since the first-made-for-TV movie was shown on the Disney Channel in early 2006, so too have the singing, dancing kids who populate the hallways of fictional East High.

"They're high school seniors, so (I wanted to) give them the pressures that high school seniors have about proms, finals, graduation and going away," said director Kenny Ortega.

"There's a balance -- we're making musical comedy, but we really want to try and base it in some emotional reality," he said.

More complex dance numbers, 10 new songs, a handful of new characters and some flashy fantasy sequences mark the transition from TV to film as the main six characters wrestle with young love, family expectations and the world beyond school.   Continued...

<p>Cast member Vanessa Hudgens poses at the premiere of the movie "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" at Galen Center in Los Angeles October 16, 2008. The movie opens in the U.S. on October 24. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>