It has all the elements of a Disney movie: a teen-targeted romantic comedy set in a high school with "High School Musical"-franchise star Zac Efron as its lead.
But "17 Again" was produced by New Line, and like a lot of studios around town, the company is looking to capitalize on the young stars who got their big breaks courtesy of the Mouse House.
Other studios are landing everyone from Efron and his "High School Musical" co-stars to the Jonas Brothers, courting them with the chance to star in high-profile pics.
As a result, Disney is losing its grip over the talent it groomed through the Disney Channel or Hollywood Records, putting it in an unusual position of watching potential moneymakers move off the lot.
• Efron is attached to a "Footloose" redo at Paramount, and is in the running to star in Warner Bros.' adaptation of the popular animated TV series "Jonny Quest";
• The Jonas Brothers are set to make their bigscreeen acting bows in Fox's adaptation of "Walter the Farting Dog," based on the series of kids books, that Peter and Bobby Farrelly may helm, despite having a new series, "J.O.N.A.S." premiering on Disney Channel in May;
• Fox 2000 has cast Selena Gomez, a star of Disney Channel's "Wizards of Waverly Place" and Joey King ("The Suite Life of Zack and Cody") in its adaptation of "Beezus and Ramona," another kidlit series that Walden Media is co-producing;
• Walden also cast "High School Musical" alum Vanessa Hudgens in "Bandslam," a battle-of-the-bands comedy that Summit Entertainment is releasing this summer. Thesp landed a role in Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch," an anti-Disney version of "Alice in Wonderland" with machine guns.
Dealmakers say the attraction is mainly money.
Disney doesn't have the reputation for shelling out a lot of coin for talent, and got into the business of launching the careers of young stars from its cable channel or record label in order to keep costs low and enable it to eke out more profits per project.
As one producer puts it, "Disney is good at getting stars on the way up and on the way down."
At the same time, Disney is often averse to participating in bidding wars on projects.
But that frugal strategy is driving talent away.
"It's almost a matter of it being a free market system," says a producer of "17 Again." "They go where the money is."
On paper, the Mouse House would appear to have been the perfect fit for "17 Again."
Disney based multi-hyphenate Adam Shankman was on board to produce the comedy through his Offspring shingle and Efron was attached to star when Jason Filardi's pitch hit the open market in February 2007.
But it wasn't Efron's ballooning pricetag, driven up by the "High School Musical" franchise, that muscled the cost-conscious studio out of contention — the star's salary wasn't negotiated until long after New Line bought the project.
Instead, New Line outbid other studios, including Disney, plunking down $750,000 against $1.5 million, for Filardi's pitch. The pic was produced before "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" bowed last year, but was held for an April 17 release to cash in on that film's appeal.