I Spent A Whole Day Watching High School Musical And Other Disney Channel Musicals, Here Are My 7 Biggest Takeaways

We all have those movies on our list that we always mean to get around to watching, but we never do. Life gets in the way. When we have the time, we’re not in the right mood. When we’re in the right mood, we don’t have the time. As somebody who likes both musicals and Disney movies, but was a little too old for High School Musical when it became a thing on the Disney Channel back in 2006, I had always sort of planned to watch them at some point, mostly out of curiosity.

A year or so back, I watched the first High School Musical, and enjoyed it. I meant to watch the sequels, but time got away from me. Recently, I found myself with a rare day, a complete 24 hours with time on my hands, but also a need to stay at home. So I decided it was finally time to watch the High School Musical trilogy. And then, when that was over, for reasons I can’t fully explain, I kept watching Disney Channel musicals all day long. It turns out a Disney+ subscription is a dangerous thing.

I ended up watching six different Disney Channel original movies. First, there was all three High School Musical films (though yes, the third was technically a theatrical release and not a Disney Channel movie, but you know what I mean). Then I watched both Camp Rock movies, and followed those with a movie I had never heard of called Lemonade Mouth. After watching six movies in a single day, I have some thoughts.  

Zeke and Sharpay High School Musical

(Image credit: Disney)

The High School Musical Trilogy Leaves A Plot Thread I Need Resolved 

Overall, I really enjoyed the High School Musical movies. The characters are fun and the music is good. At the end of the day, that’s really all you ask from a musical, but the trilogy leaves one big open question that I fully expected would get resolved, but never did. Did anything ever happen between Zeke and Sharpay?

Zeke is one of the players on the basketball team and friends with Zac Efron’s Troy. He's a minor character, but we learn two important things about him: he likes to bake and he has a crush on Ashley Tisdale’s Sharpay. His crush on her is brought up throughout the trilogy, and I assumed it would be resolved in High School Musical 3: Senior Year, but it was not. He could have taken her to prom, and maybe he did, as we don’t actually see the prom, but it’s never mentioned. I need answers. 

Ryan and Sharpay singing I Wanit It All In High School Musical 3: Senior Year

(Image credit: Disney)

High School Musical 3 Benefits From The Larger Budget, But Never Feels Too Big 

The first two High School Musical movies were such big hits that Disney made the unprecedented decision to turn the third film into a theatrical release. This makes all three of the films somewhat unique, as the first and third movies take place mostly in the same high school, while the second is set at a country club during the summer break. The first two are made-for-TV movies, but the third was shot for the big screen.

High School Musical 3 could have likely gone buck wild with money if it had wanted to, at least compared to what the first two films had to deal with, but it doesn’t do that. It’s filmed at the same high school as the first film, and while the musical numbers are certainly bigger, they still feel like they could have been done on TV. Ryan and Sharpay’s showstopper,  “I Want it All” uses stage props to create its various scenes rather than bigger locations. Every other decision from director Kenny Ortega, who helmed all three High School Musicals, is clearly designed to make sure the franchise's roots aren't entirely forgotten.

Kevin, Nick, And Joe Jonas in Camp Rock

(Image credit: Disney)

Camp Rock Is Surprisingly Bad, In Part Because Camp Rock 2 Is Surprisingly Good 

If there was a weak link in my marathon, it had to be the first Camp Rock. It’s a lackluster story giving too much time to the well-worn trope of Demi Lovato’s Mitchie pretending her mother is successful in the music industry in order to fit in at Camp Rock. The musical moments also add very little to the movie as they’re not handled in a traditional musical style. They don’t progress the plot or give us insight into characters’ emotions, they’re just performances. The way the movie uses the song from Mitchie to inspire Joe Jonas’ character, leading to the film’ final duet, is great, but everything around that feels like filler.

I wasn’t too excited about moving to Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam after watching the first film, but I was pleasantly surprised because Camp Rock 2 was a lot more fun. It’s a more traditional musical, with songs telling the story. And while the plot is nothing new (a competition between two rival camps), it has some great music, with Nick Jonas’ “Introducing Me” a particular standout. 

Camp Rock 2 bus rolling over

(Image credit: Disney)

Camp Rock 2’s Budget Had To Be Insane Compared To The First Movie

When a movie is successful enough to get a sequel, it’s far from uncommon for that sequel to be given a much bigger budget than the first film. We can, of course, tell that High School Musical 3 had a lot more money to play with than the first two by virtue of being a theatrical release, but even Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam was clearly given a budget bump compared to the first film.

There’s a scene early in the film where the Jonas Brothers are standing next to their broken-down tour bus,  and due to a comedic situation, the bus ends up rolling down a hill into a lake. This had to be the single most complex, and expensive, shot in the entire franchise. This scene is followed shortly by Demi Lovato’s character back at Camp Rock with her friends remarking on how empty the camp looks, which is important to the plot. This is followed immediately by a musical number that appears to have ten times more dancing extras than any scene in the first movie.

Camp Rock Needed A Third Movie Where Mitchie Got To Win Something

Both Camp Rock movies end with competitions. The first is a battle between the members of Camp Rock, while the second pits Camp Rock against across-the-lake rival Camp Star. Normally in these sorts of movies, the happy ending involves our hero or heroes winning a competition, but in Camp Rock, Mitchie loses both times.

It's not that uncommon for a movie to end with the hero losing the battle, but winning the war. Maybe they lose the competition they were, in but they learn something important or they win what's really important to them. It would have been one thing to see Mitchie, like Rocky Balboa, lose the first fight, but win the second, but she loses both. It feels like there was supposed to be a third movie where maybe she could finally win. Nobody would have seen it coming.

Mudslide Crush in Lemnonade Mouth

(Image credit: Disney)

Asshole Singers Only Sing Songs About Being Assholes 

The one thing that all six movies I watched had in common, beyond being musicals, was that they were all about making music. Whether it was about staging a musical or being in a band, a lot of the musical moments come from diegetic performances, and that means that when it came time for the antagonists of the various films to perform, they unflinchingly sang songs about being terrible people.

From Sharpay singing “Fabulous” in High School Musical 2, to both of Luke’s big songs in Camp Rock 2, to Mudslide Crush’s aptly titled “Don’t Ya Wish U Were Us” from Lemonade Mouth, it seems that the “bad guys” in these musicals can’t help but sing about how great they think they are, which of course shows the audience how terrible they are.  

Lemonade Mouth band

(Image credit: Disney)

Lemonade Mouth Needs A Disney+ Legacyquel 

Looking not only at the three High School Musical movies, but the various Disney Channel franchises that followed it, the fact is that sequels were more common than not, as everything from Camp Rock to Zombies has seen at least one sequel. However, one notable exception is Lemonade Mouth. Reading about the film later, it seems there was interest in a sequel at one point, but there was difficulty finding a story that worked. 

While that may have been the case when Lemonade Mouth came out over 10 years ago, it’s actually the perfect candidate for a legacyquel 10 years later. The first movie tells the story of the band forming and shows that they eventually became massive stars. So what has a decade of stardom done to the friends who formed the band? Did Lemonade Mouth break up? Has their stardom been replaced by other bands, and if so, how are they coping with that? Disney has already found success dusting off older projects for new sequels on Disney+, so why not this one?

The folks who followed me on Twitter while I spent my day is Disney Channel Musical Insanity suggested several other movies I need to watch. At some point, I’ll try to do that. Maybe there’s another marathon movie day in my future. And then, of course, there's also three seasons of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which I can now watch because I will get all the references.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.