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Kenny Ortega on High School Musical 2

Published July 24, 2007 in Television
By Fred Topel | Image property of Disney.
High School Musical High School Musical

The phenomenon of High School Musical made a sequel a given. You’d think Disney would lavish a grand budget on High School Musical 2, but director Kenny Ortega did not have much more to work with.

Kenny Ortega Singin' High School Musical 2

“The scale wasn’t grand,” he said. “What’s grand about this is this cast and the energy that they have and the enthusiasm that every single person behind the scenes, in front of the scenes, is about on this project. It was modest in terms of its size growth but enormous in terms of the energy and spirit growth. Everybody was thrilled to come back and to do the second one. That in itself was like a celebration that we never got over. Day one seemed to have this sort of spirit that thrust us through the entire filmmaking experience.”

For all of the film’s choreographed dance numbers, the cast and crew had only a fraction of the time normally spent on a Hollywood production. “Less than three weeks of rehearsal for 10 production numbers. That’s only achievable when you have this [cast]. You can only design for what you have. We didn’t design because of how many days we had to shoot. I designed these numbers knowing who I had doing them. This cast is indescribable in terms of their passion, their commitment, their capability. They are extraordinary and they raised the bar on this project and on me and everybody that worked on it. And that we were able to accomplish what we accomplished in less than 30 days with less than three weeks of rehearsal, no one has done that.”

For television, this is normal, but Ortega rose to the challenge of making the best High School Musical 2 he could. “We could have made a different musical. What we were given, we could have done it in many different ways. I had a vision. We had strong producing but it was what we had to work with. That’s what was available. I think we are all excited about what might be available to us if we do this again, and I certainly, as a director and choreographer, look forward to the day where I can design for a greater schedule and the rehearsal.”

Some scenes were more complicated to film than others. “It really varies depending on what that dance number or musical production number entails in terms of storytelling. In all our musical numbers, we arrive at them out of an event. The number itself takes the characters and the story forward and arrives us at a new place. And depending on what we hope to accomplish in terms of storytelling and character growth and within the context of that musical number, can determine how many angles you might need. Then you have to take the schedule in mind.”

Even within those limitations, the cast was game to try harder and harder. “They’ll let me do as many [takes] as I need. Sometimes I actually have to really look deeply into their eyes to make sure that they really can do one more. We strive. Often if I’m willing to walk away from something, I’ll have a tug on my back and it will be one of them going, ‘Please, one more.’ We strive for what we have within the time limits that we have to work with. Five, ten, two.”

High School Musical 2 airs August 17 on Disney Channel.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Disney.

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