Dis boosts 'Musical 2' debut


Disney Channel has big plans for the debut weekend of "High School Musical 2," including interactive viewer chats with the stars and a sing-along telecast.

The channel also disclosed that the original movies "Minutemen" and "Camp Rock" are going into production for a 2008 premiere, while "The Cheetah Girls 3" is set to go into production early next year.

Those were among the announcements made Saturday by Disney Channel Worldwide president of entertainment Gary Marsh during the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour at the Beverly Hilton.

The premiere of "Musical 2," at 8 p.m. Aug. 17, will include a telecast hosted from a backyard barbeque with the movie's stars and director-choreographer Kenny Ortega. After the movie's premiere, Disney Channel will preview an episode of the upcoming animated comedy series "Phineas and Ferb" at 9:45 p.m., and a new episode of "Hannah Montana," guest-starring recording artists the Jonas Brothers, will air at 10:15 p.m.

"I guarantee the night of Aug. 17 will be on every kid's calendar," Marsh said, adding that music has become an important part of the network's programming. "It's clear that if you combine great storytelling and world-class music, you can connect with kids across all geographical lines, culture lines and socioeconomic lines."

As for "High School Musical 3," Marsh said, "We're working on a script and talking to talent. When there's something to announce, we'll let you know. We're hopeful and optimistic we'll pull everybody back together."

On Aug. 18, an interactive viewer chat with the stars of the movie will be featured during another "Musical 2" telecast at 8 p.m., and a sing-along telecast of the movie, with lyrics to each song visible onscreen and available for printing at DisneyChannel.com, will air the next night at 8 p.m.

In addition, "High School Musical: The Music in You," which is being called a "documusical" that follows students in Fort Worth, Texas, as they produce a stage adaptation of "Musical," is set to debut in the fall. It's from Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple and Cabin Creek Films. The telecast will coincide with the kickoff of a theater grant program for schools being launched by Disney Channel and the NAMM Foundation.

Before the "Musical 2" premiere, however, Disney Channel is giving viewers "sneak peeks" of the movie, taking them behind the scenes and offering up "Musical 2" games as part of what the network is calling its "most extensive interactive digital marketing outreach." Before its premiere, "Musical 2" will be available on Disney Channel on Demand, while select music videos will be available at iTunes.

In addition, online elements will include the premiere this week of the music video "You Are the Music in Me" from the movie's soundtrack, an audio streaming simulcast of Radio Disney's premiere of the "Musical 2" soundtrack and behind-the-scenes features. A new interactive mobile WAP will give fans access to additional video, SMS alerts, polls, trivia and other features. Other mobile offerings include a "Musical" game, graphics and ring tones.

Meanwhile, the comedy/ sci-fi/adventure movie "Minutemen" stars Jason Dolley (Disney Channel's "Cory in the House") in a story about three high school kids who invent a time machine to spare others just like them from the humiliation they've endured.

Lev L. Spiro is set to direct from a script written by David Diamond, David Weissman and John Killoran, with revisions by Tom Burkhard. The executive producers are Andrew Gunn, Ann Marie Sanderlin and Doug Sloan.

"Camp Rock," scheduled to begin production in September, centers on a teen girl who desperately wants to spend her summer at a prestigious rock camp, but can attend only if she works in the kitchen as one of the cooks. The movie was written by Julie Brown and Paul Brown, Regina Hicks and Karen Gist, with Matthew Diamond directing. Alan Sacks is the producer.

In addition, Disney Channel is debuting a series of sitcom shorts titled "As the Bell Rings," based on Disney Channel Italy's shortform series "Quelli dell'Intervallo," at 8:25 and 8:55 p.m. Aug. 26. The 15 shorts, which follow six friends in the school hallway during classroom breaks, are two to five minutes each. Marsh said this marks the first time Disney Channel U.S. has adapted a programming format developed by an international Disney Channel.

The series, filmed at Del Valle High School in Del Valle (Austin), Texas, stars Demi Lovato, Tony Oller, Seth Ginsberg, Gabriella Rodriguez, Collin Cole and Carlson Young.

Also at TCA on Saturday, Disney Channel sister network SoapNet spotlighted its first original serialized drama "General Hospital: Night Shift," which broke network records in its debut Thursday night.

SoapNet executive vp and general manager Deborah Blackwell said no decision has been made about a second season but added that "this has been wildly successful for SoapNet, and my happiest ideal is to continue this on an ongoing basis. … I'm very open to just continuing on immediately to a second cycle" after the initial 13-episode order ends its run.