×

From Zac Efron to Olivia Rodrigo, Looking Back at Careers the ‘High School Musical’ Franchise Has Launched

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, Ashley Tisdale, Zac
©Disney Channel/Courtesy Everet

The first “High School Musical” film was released 15 years ago, introducing kids everywhere to the world of the East High Wildcats and bolstering the importance of following one’s passions instead of the status quo.

The response was unprecedented for a Disney Channel Original Movie, with its triple-platinum soundtrack becoming the first ever from a television movie to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart. It was the No. 2 movie on cable in 2006, right behind “Cheetah Girls 2,” won two Emmy awards and produced six gold-certified singles. “High School Musical” established a franchise — with two more uber-successful films to follow — and shot its stars to fame in the process, among them Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale and Corbin Bleu.

“The ‘High School Musical’ franchise created an indelible mark on the music and television worlds, not to mention in the larger cultural zeitgeist (Can anyone hear the words, ‘We’re All In This Together’ ever again without thinking about that finale song?),” said Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer of Disney Branded Television. “The role that our extraordinary cast played in creating this cultural phenomenon is undeniable; without them, there would be no ‘High School Musical.’ The entire cast was catapulted into stardom – almost Beatlemania status — with fans spanning the globe! We’re often asked, ‘Why this project and this cast?’ The answer, I believe, is because the audience easily saw Gabriella and Troy as stand-ins for themselves – Gabriella finding the courage to step outside of her comfort zone to shine onstage and Troy defying stereotypes by following his newfound passion for the arts.”

In late 2019, the first season of the spin-off mockumentary series, “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” premiered on Disney Plus. It has also proved to have just as much star-making power as the original, particularly with its breakout lead, Olivia Rodrigo.

Below, catch up with the careers of the franchise’s breakout stars, from then to now.