Dirty Dancing. Newsies. Hocus Pocus. High School Musical 1, 2, and 3. Michael Jackson’s This Is It tour. Descendants 1, 2, and 3. High School Musical: The Musical the Series. New hit Netflix show Julie and the Phantoms. What do all of these things have in common? They were all directed by one man.
Kenny Ortega is the man behind the lens in all of these. Who holds that much talent in their brains? It should be illegal to be such a musical genius. And he’s still creating this content at 70 years old.
A large majority of us should really thank this man for giving us a childhood. I can distinctly remember learning the choreography to “We’re All in This Together” in my basement surrounded by 10 screaming girls who thought Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens were endgame. The younger generation is now obsessed with his new work, including a reboot of High School Musical: The Musical the Series and Julie and the Phantoms.
I will now admit I am one of these obsessed kids. These shows hit. Kenny understands shows that celebrate diversity and inclusivity are becoming increasingly successful, for good reason, and he took the idea and ran with it.
For example, we all assume Ryan Evans from High School Musical was a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Kenny Ortega just recently said in an interview that he wanted Ryan to be gay, but Disney was not ready to take that step with him yet (big shocker). In his most recent work, however, Kenny has put LGBTQ+ characters at the forefront, making sure that kids watching feel accepted and heard.
Furthermore, the music in these shows is godsent. I could listen to all of their albums over and over again. I don’t know what part Kenny Ortega plays in writing, recording, and editing the music, but I’m assuming it’s a big one, because only geniuses could think this stuff up.
Kenny also directs with purpose. He hits hard subjects in a way that kids can understand and learn from in a beneficial way. In Julie and the Phantoms, the plot is centered around losing a loved one and trying to heal from it. In High School Musical: The Musical the Series, a character deals with his mother leaving him and his dad.
Say it with me. Thank you, Kenny! Thank you for giving us and generations to come classic films and shows.