School's Back In Session

"High School Musical" made its debut in January 2006 on the Disney Channel, becoming a surprise and massive hit, spawning a best-selling soundtrack and theme shows.

"High School Musical" made its debut in January 2006 on the Disney Channel, becoming a surprise and massive hit, spawning a best-selling soundtrack and theme shows. The sequel premiered in August and attracted the largest audience ever for any basic-cable telecast with an initial viewership of 18.6 million, and its soundtrack was the second-best-selling album of 2007.

So it's no surprise the franchise is back for a third spin, this time making its theatrical debut in tandem with a Disney soundtrack due this week. The movie begins with a blast of energy as basketball star Troy (Zac Efron) not only leads his team to victory but also belts out a song while he's shooting hoops.

Once again, the kids are preparing a school musical, but because it's senior year, they're also lining up prom dates and thinking about college. For director Kenny Ortega, the franchise's helmer and creative force who hasn't done a feature since 1993's "Hocus Pocus" and "Newsies," working on a theatrical film was "a dream come true."

"In high school, especially kids in musical theater, they look to Broadway, and look to movies and that's where they get their excitement and inspiration from," he says. "So as I imagined the first two movies, and especially the third one, I looked into my backyard and wanted to bring the same fun to this high school."