After a blaze of publicity, Walt Disney Co. on Friday launched the sequel to its surprise, blockbuster TV musical "High School Musical," aiming to retain its spell over the preteen set.
Disney was unprepared for the worldwide success of the first, Emmy-winning movie that was made for just $4.2 million as one of about 10 original movies to air in 2006 on its Disney Channel cable network.
The musical, described as a modern day "Grease," was watched by more than 200 million viewers in 100 countries and its soundtrack became the best-selling album of 2006 as Disney scrambled to build a merchandising program.
But this time every division at Disney is geared up for "High School Musical 2" ahead of its TV debut on Friday, with expectations running high for the movie and its franchise.
"What's different for the second one is that demand is soaring," Rich Ross, president of Disney Channel Worldwide, said in an interview. "Every division at Disney has figured out how it makes sense for their products to roll out."
Disney is leaving no merchandising stone unturned this time, aware of the rising value of the "High School Musical" franchise -- and also the fickle nature of teenage audiences.
A North American stage show adapted from the franchise opened on August 1, and an ice-skating show launches next month while Disney expects to have 100 licensed products in stores by year's end, ranging from shoes to backpacks.
Its video game publishing arm is releasing games on various consoles while Disney Studios released cell phone ring tones.
Disney estimates the "High School Musical" franchise will contribute an estimated $100 million in operating income in 2006 and 2007 and has forecast it will grow to $650 million in global retail sales in fiscal 2008.