And somehow we managed not to be permanently traumatized by the major plot points: Mothers killed by hunters; princesses poisoned by witches who are also relatives; parents eaten by panthers in tree houses, anamorphic cars anamorphing…
I watched these movies as a kid and didn’t really notice until I was a mom that an awful lot of parents are killed in these childhood classics. My kids have seen most of the old Disney stuff, occasionally with me fast forwarding through some harrowing scene of maternal doom.
These days, Disney produces original movies exclusively for its own Disney channel. Our kids, ages 11, 9, and 6, keep me informed since they are only allowed to watch channels 31, 32, and 32 (Disney, Cartoon Channel, and Nickelodeon) with an occasional foray to TV Land. All right, I’ll admit our eleven- year-old watched American Idol but only on the nights it ended at 9 and she had to mute commercials for House and look at the ceiling whistling until patients stopped collapsing in hallways or exploding during surgery as Dr. House scowled at them.)
The kids occasionally ask for permission to watch a new Disney movie, which they see promoted relentlessly on the network. And they were especially adamant about High School Musical, which seemed to have buzz before it ever came out. It was a Friday night, so I said okay especially since I hooked up my VCR wrong, don’t have a DVD recorder, and am not quite sure what is meant when people say, “Why don’t you just TiVo it?”
When High School Musical began, the kids were glued to it. It quickly caught my attention as well, mostly because of the catchy tunes and the humor. There are some standout comic performances specifically from the two “bad” kids, Sharpay and her brother Ryan. They want to star in the high school musical and rarely have any competition. When jock Troy and science brain Gabriella decide to try out, Sharpay and Ryan’s corner on the talent market is threatened.
Hijinks ensue. There’s a bit of teenage angst when romance blossoms between Troy and Gabriella and their respective teams (basketball and science) want them both to forget about each other and the play.
It’s kind of like Fame without the dark stuff–no gritty tales from the streets of late 1970s New York. Still, the film deals with tween/teen issues of peer acceptance, listening to your instincts, being yourself.
Songs like “We’re All in This Together,” and “Bop to the Top” range from the inspirational to the simply fun. In an age of music that has to be heavily censored just so your kids can listen, it’s refreshing to hear the lyrics, “Zip zap zop, pop like a mop.” Sharpay and Ryan also sing, “Stump, stump, stump, do the rump,” but it is harmless enough and they are supposed to have bad taste.
My daughter and her sixth-grade friends have memorized every song from the soundtrack and hope their school will let them do a production of it at some point. Tonight, they’ll gather to watch the newly released DVD with sing-along version and how-to choreography extra.
I approve. It’s wholesome, fun, and the parents survive.
— Susan Konig, a journalist, is author of Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road (And Other Lies I Tell My Children).