‘High School Musical’ Showrunner Explains How His Meta Disney+ Series Works

“I wanted to approach and say, ‘What if a group of kids put on ‘High School Musical’ as their stage show?” Tim Federle tells TheWrap


Tim Federle knows you’re probably confused about how his “High School Musical” TV series, one of the debut original series for Disney+, is supposed to work.

“I didn’t wanna remake ‘High School Musical,’ because I feel like that’s just a recipe for disaster,” Federle, who created the series and serves as its showrunner, told TheWrap. “I wanted to approach it and say, ‘What if a group of kids put on ‘High School Musical’ as their stage show?’”

Although the series debuts on Nov. 12, Disney will air its first episode Friday night on ABC, Disney Channel and Freeform.

The 10-episode series — titled “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” — follows the “real” East High drama club as they put on the school’s first production of “High School Musical.” The show is filmed and set at the actual East High School in Utah, which also served as the setting for the “fictional” East High School from the Zac Efron-led film trilogy.

That means that, in the world of the Disney+ series, the movies existed in real life. “We name-check Zac Efron as a real person. We’re shooting this as if we descended on the real-life East High in Salt Lake City,” Federle said. “We’re doing it as if the movie existed in real life. They also name-check Ashley Tisdale. They go to the school where they shot the movie, as real-life kids do to this day.”

While Federle was mum on if that means either of the more-famous Troy and Sharpay would make an appearance, he did tease that “there are for sure some Easter Eggs” in the series. “I have fairly ambitious plans for the show to have a long life,” he said.

The series has already been renewed for a second season. “I would love to find a way to engage with as many of the originals as possible,” he added.

Each episode will feature a song from the original movie — some of which will be done as a rehearsal song (in case this show wasn’t meta enough for you) — plus a new song made just for the series. So, there are multiple levels of meta going on here.

“Disney gave me a really long leash to never make fun of, but to have fun, with this franchise that’s beloved by many. It’s this celebration of these goofy, corny but wonderful theater tropes,” Federle continued. “We were able to shoot it in this kind of docu-style — Christopher Guest was a giant inspiration of mine — that allowed us to approach it with a different sense of levity.”

“High School Musical: The Musical: The TV Series” debuts Tuesday, Nov. 12 on the same day Disney+ launches.