High School Musical was a hallmark movie for pop culture at large. The 2006 Disney Channel movie featured an iconic soundtrack and a cast of up-and-coming actors whose characters were navigating the ups and downs of high school life. What many people don’t know is that the parts made famous by Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens were almost played by Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake.
‘High School Musical’s origins
High School Musical actually wasn’t called that when it was first conceptualized six years before its Disney Channel premiere. According to IMDb, the idea came from a 1999 script for a movie called Grease 3.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that High School Musical was originally going to be a Grease sequel; in many ways, Grease was the original High School Musical. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John starred as two high schoolers from different cliques who end up falling for each other, all punctuated with classic musical numbers.
Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake (and other Disney stars) were almost in the movie
Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake — both rising stars at the time — were reportedly supposed to star in the film as the children of Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson from the classic 1978 movie. The plot of Grease 3 was almost identical to that of High School Musical but was closer to Grease in style.
Spears and Timberlake’s Mickey Mouse Club co-star Christina Aguilera was also a new young singer in 1999. She was approached by producers to play the daughter of Betty Rizzo in the movie, but she declined. Meanwhile, Timberlake’s *NSYNC bandmates were going to have supporting roles, and even Travolta and Newton-John were in talks to make a cameo.
‘High School Musical’ became one of the biggest Disney Channel Original movies ever
Of course, Grease 3 never saw the light of day, and the project was shelved for several years. To bring the movie to life, producers would have needed permission from those who owned the rights to Grease. As a result, the story evolved to become what we now know as High School Musical.
HSM was an instant hit from when it first premiered in January 2006. It was the most commercially successful Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) ever produced, pulling in 7.7 million viewers on premiere night.
High School Musical 2 was released just a year later during the summer and gave a look into the East High students’ lives at their summer jobs. The year after that, the HSM saga came to an end with High School Musical 3: Senior Year, which premiered in theaters. Today, the HSM legacy lives on with the Disney+ series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
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