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Sunday, April 21
The Indiana Daily Student

Goodbye to the Wildcats

How ‘High School Musical’ has changed pop culture

Ihave had so many great school memories, but unfortunately it’s time to say goodbye.

No, I’m not graduating from IU – rather, it’s a farewell to my East High Wildcat friends, as “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” hits theaters tomorrow.

You probably view the “High School Musical” series as the cheesy movies your 9-year-old cousin loves. I won’t waste time defending its awesomeness, but there’s no denying its impact on the entertainment industry.

Debuting on the Disney Channel in January 2006, the first installment was an instant hit with 7.7 million viewers, with its soundtrack becoming the top-selling album of the year. The sequel shattered those numbers, pulling in 17.2 million viewers on its first airing.

For those who have never seen the movies, Zac Efron stars as uber high school jock Troy Bolton, who joins his school’s musical theater department. His teammates get mad for abandoning them for musicals (although they have no problem expressing this anger through song and dance themselves) and the theater crowd feels invaded. Like any other kids’ movie, they all learn to follow their dreams and be friends.

Aside from its financial achievements, the series should have a lasting impact on the viewing habits of its young, impressionable and obsessive fans. Despite the recent success of “Hairspray” and “Mamma Mia,” the musical genre has been a longtime hard box-office sell.

Will youngsters raised on “High School Musical” continue to embrace the genre as they grow up or abandon it like most of us raised on “Aladdin” and “The Little Mermaid” did to those movies?

This will be especially interesting among the strong young male fan base for whom liking the musical genre is often considered social suicide. Will they follow their newfound interest to drama club or ditch it for “masculine” sports teams?

The series has also greatly shaped young audiences’ choice in music. Disney frequently dominates the music charts, as it’s able to filter content through its various outlets, such as Miley Cyrus on “Hannah Montana,” or the Jonas Brothers in “Camp Rock.” Sadly this force-feeding may hinder youngsters from developing their own taste of music.

Sure, as a fourth grader constantly watching MTV back in 1997 I was brainwashed by their selected “hip” videos, but for every Hanson and Will Smith video there was some Fiona Apple and U2. Hopefully when audiences graduate from Disney they will know how to find other music they can relate to.

As the first installment to hit movie theaters, “High School Musical 3” has a $30 million budget, a major increase from the $7 million the second one cost. Superstar Efron will make $3 million alone on this one. Of course, the increased budget allows for a much more flashy spectacle. Hopefully, among all the new razzle dazzle, the film won’t lose its sincerity and heart. It definitely won’t shed the wholesome, G-rated values.

Thinking about this new film’s possible success, consider this: If only the 17 million viewers from the sequel show up this weekend, its box office pull would be more than $100 million, assuming the normal $7-$10 ticket prices.

That probably won’t be quite the case. Parents now actually have to drive kids to the theater, rather than just sitting them in front of a TV, which could be reason the original was so popular. It will be interesting to see whether the parents do take their kids or just wait for the DVD.

As today’s leading teen heartthrob, Efron is the most likely to graduate from Disney. Justin Timberlake, Lindsay Lohan and many before him have tried to make the jump to adult careers. April’s “Seventeen Again” will be his first real outing to determine whether he follows in the path of Leonardo DiCaprio or the two Coreys.

Ashley Tisdale, Vanessa Hudgens, Corbin Bleu, and Lukas Grabeel don’t seem as eager to bolt from the mouse.

Regardless of how their careers turn out, hopefully they agree to “High School Musical Reunion” 10 years from now.

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