SALT LAKE CITY — School's out for summer. Out for good, actually. At least for Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Monique Coleman, Corbin Bleu and Lucas Grabeel — the six principal players in Disney's High School Musical
Shooting just wrapped for their big-screen grand finale, High School Musical 3: Senior Year
, due Oct. 24. While a fourth film is in the works, no one expects the primary players to return.
But for much of the spring and summer, the actors were together again at East High, where the original Disney Channel movie took off in 2006 and became a pop culture sensation, fueled by drama and dance numbers from Efron and Hudgens' sweethearts Troy and Gabriella; their pals Bleu and Coleman; and twin rivals played by Tisdale and Grabeel.
For the third time, set designers have transformed Salt Lake City's East High School into Disney's version of a freshly painted slice of academic Americana. Outside the main entrance, a red banner proclaiming "Congratulations Wildcats: Back to Back Champions!" has been hung.
Broadway-grade red curtains hang in the auditorium for the musical numbers. And in the gym, Troy's basketball jersey has been retired, displayed up high next to those of his father and best pal, Chad.
The first HSM
was shot for $4.2 million, the second, $7.8 million. Though there's more to work with for Senior Year
(no one will say how much), the sets are still kept in the simple style of actual high school musical productions. Even a fantasy sequence features palm trees and flames made of paper.
"We always try to keep a naiveté," explains Kenny Ortega, who has directed all three films. "There is more scale and detail in High School Musical 3
, but it's still our world — young people wishing and aspiring."
It has been a struggle to keep filming to its 45-day schedule, necessitating shoots that have lasted up to 18 hours. But the young actors aren't complaining. With summer temperatures on the rise, they have been hanging out in a inflatable kiddie pool outside Efron and Hudgens' trailer or in Tisdale's trailer, where the big draw is Guitar Hero
on her Wii — a particular favorite of Efron's.