High School Musical

High School Musical

Have you heard of “High
School Musical?” If you have a teenage
daughter, chances are you know all too well the phenomenon (or curse if you
have to watch and listen to it multiple times) of this Disney mega hit. This sugar coated made for TV movie (only shown
on the Disney channel) is a true blockbuster for Disney – the DVD and cd sales alone
have netted the company over 100 million dollars. Knowing a winner when they have one, Disney
has developed all the add-ons including the “High School Musical” tour, the
board game, a number of books, clothing, and not one, but two sequels in the
making. Last week a story about the hit
even graced the cover of the Sunday New York Times Arts and Leisure section.


One night I arrived home from
a business trip and my wife and one of her girl friends were getting ready to
watch it, and I thought, “what the heck, I’ve been away; I’ll watch it with
them.” Within the first five minutes I
was saying, “This is embarrassingly contrived.” And it is, but that doesn’t matter – in fact it may be the whole
point. Not only is the story line
contrived, but the lead character is not believable.  He is supposed to be the star of the high
school basketball team and he looks like he wouldn’t even make the freshman
team at most high schools.  In addition
to it’s lack of believability and it’s being contrived it’s preachy. The sermon – kids should be able to cross the
sectors of their school they are most comfortable in and do things outside of
their stereotype – is classic Disney humanism, but somehow this time around it has
resonated with such power that it has become the kind of blockbuster Pollyanna could
only dream of.


The question is “why?” Why has this movie become such a mega
hit? The New York Times article suggests
that the folks at Disney aren’t even sure of the answer. In addressing the sequel the Times says, “For
everyone involved in “High School Musical” the effort to beg lightening to
strike twice would probably be easier if they knew for certain why the first
movie had become such a phenomenon.” Here’s my take.


While the lead character may
not be believable, and the plot thin and contrived, the chemistry between the
lead male and female is powerful. It jumps off the screen. I found myself not caring so much what these two
did – or if it was believable – but wanting to watch whatever they did. When they were on the screen it was a great
movie and when they weren’t it was a bore. The attraction was in watching them interact and seeing the chemistry
between them; all the way to the tune of 100 million dollars.


Connection, chemistry,
charisma – things that aren’t very tangible, but you know them when you see
them – can take an otherwise mediocre product and make it a phenomenon. Likewise, without it a great product will fall
on its face. There is an important principle
here. The quality of a product is
essential but (and this is particularly true in non-commoditized industries) without
the added degree of chemistry between the sales person and the buyer the
product will languish.


There is another reason this
movie is so popular. As one mother of
young teens told me, “Disney has gone back to being Disney.” For twenty years Disney tried to leverage its
brand into a major expansion, often drifting far beyond what had originally
made the brand successful. Some of that
has been successful (ESPN, Animal Kingdom) and some not (The Disney Store). “High School Musical” is Disney returning to
its core values, and it is a grand slam. It is a quintessential example of “Know Who You Are And Be It!”

About the author / bobperkins

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