Everyone loves money. Well maybe not nuns, but the rest of us enjoy having a few dollars in our pockets. Disney and their many subsidiaries love money more than almost anything else. They would do whatever it takes short of selling national security information or human kidneys in Brazil to put money in the corporate coffers. Case in point is the recent DVD release of High School Musical: The Concert. After viewing it I almost wish they had taken my kidney.
High School Musical, whose name pretty much contains the movie’s general concept, was one of the most popular Disney Channel movies ever and was released on DVD last year in at least two forms. The soundtrack CD shot up the charts and showed the music world that if enough 11 year old girls like your bouncy inoffensive pop, you too can have a hit record. Having conquered two entertainment mediums and with a gap in the schedule before the Disney Channel debut of the sequel, most of the movie cast hit the road on a concert tour.
The concert is not a stage show of the movie. High School Musical cast members Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, and Monique Coleman are joined by Drew Seely (substituting for the missing Zac Efron) and a small troup of back-up singers and dancers to perform concert versions of all the movie’s hit songs. Also, Hudgens, Tisdale, and Bleu perform one or two songs from their solo albums. Grabeel introduces the various songs to the screaming crowd and there are also brief intercut comments from the performers telling an interviewer how much they love meeting the fans.
The concert sucks, as you might expect. Every shot of the crowd shows kids (primarily girls) under the age of 12 and their parents. If you are not in that demographic this will have zero appeal to you. The whole thing zips by in 57 minutes; so if you are actually interested in the music, Disney screws you by making it barely long enough to qualify as a concert. All of the vocals (especially the backing vocals) sound heavily processed at best and it is more likely they were “enhanced” with pre-recorded vocals. Most of the High School Musical songs are staged to conform to the movie scenes and on one song some vocals are provided by on-screen actors from the movie. The desire to link the concert songs to images from the movie begs the question of what value there is in watching the concert, since everyone in the audience (or in the target DVD audience) will have the original movie already.
There is really no reason to have any interest in this concert film. If someone enjoys the songs from the movie, the versions in the movie sound and look better. Only four extra songs by Hudgens, Tisdale, or Bleu are included, but they are standard highly processed pop songs and don’t warrant sitting through the entire concert. Better to just skip this crass money-grab and wait for the debut on High School Musical 2 in the near future.
The DVD is billed as the “Extreme Access Pass Edition.” You don’t just have ACCESS you have EXTREME ACCESS. That means you see everyone and everything. Or, it could mean you get one semi-interesting behind the scenes featurette, a section on the concert’s horrible opening act, and the ability to direct the concert footage yourself, sort of.
Jordan Pruitt must be a Disney Music up and comer. She scored the opening slot in the High School Musical tour and her four song set is provided on the DVD. She sings to pre-recorded backing tracks and her stage presence involves walking back and forth and waving to fans. The music is pretty recognizable to anyone who owns Hillary Duff’s early albums or the Cheetah Girl’s soundtrack. She seems like a very nice girl and it seems cruel to say that she is awful, but I’ll go ahead and be cruel; she’s awful.
The “U Direct” function allows the viewer (or at least the one holding the remote) to “direct” the concert footage. Each song is shown in four camera angles and using the remote you can flip from angle to angle. That sounds interesting but there are five screens showing at one time and even the main screen is pretty small, meaning you never get a really good look at the songs as they play. Also, the reaction time is a little slow for the changes. But this might keep pre-teens occupied for a few minutes.
The most substantial extra is a nine minute featurette on what happens with the performers and crew from the time one show ends to the time the next begins the following day. Hosted by Lucas Gabreel, you see fan meet and greets, the tour bus, the sound check, and other behind the scenes areas. While its not particularly original, it’s somewhat interesting to see what everyone does during their “off-time” and what sort of accommodations are provided.
The only other extra besides the obligatory previews for other Disney product is a very, very brief look at the upcoming sequel on the Disney Channel. That movie, like this concert DVD, will probably appeal to the millions of pre-teens (mostly girls) who loved the first movie. They will probably enjoy anything with the HSM brand on it, but the rest of us should steer well clear.