How ‘The Office’ Inspired the New ‘High School Musical’ Series on Disney Plus

The Disney Channel movie High School Musical premiered in 2006, followed by two successful sequels. After rumors swarmed about a potential fourth movie, Disney announced that instead, a television series would be the thing to fill the HSM-sized hole in our hearts. Tim Federle, an executive producer of the new series, sat down with Entertainment Weekly to discuss his role in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Surprisingly, a big inspiration for this new iteration of the show came from mockumentary-style comedies like The Office.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Cast
Cast of the Disney+ series ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’ | Jeff Neira/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

The ‘High School Musical’ series has a new crop of characters

Federle told EW he wanted to “keep the High School Musical franchise going” for Disney. Considering how well the HSM movies did for the network, they no doubt jumped at the opportunity. But the executive producer didn’t just want nostalgia-factor to carry the show, he wanted to bring in an original take.

“Federle didn’t want to carbon-copy Troy and Gabriella for a new generation,” Entertainment Weekly wrote.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Cast
Monique Coleman, Joshua Bassett, Tim Federle, and Olivia Rodrigo | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

He also wanted as many songs sung live as possible, meaning he needed a cast with true talent for the new series.

“I knew that if we cast the right talent who had the right chemistry and who were proud theater kids themselves, the audience would become engaged with their journeys,” Federle said. “Casting was key and we looked really, really hard for this group.”

Federle was inspired by TV series such as ‘The Office’

The new show is, according to Federle, heavily influenced by the comedies of Christopher Guest. If you’re not familiar with Guest’s work, he co-wrote This Is Spinal Tap with Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Rob Reiner, the mockumentary that basically defined the genre. He also directed documentary-style comedy classics Best In Show, Waiting For Guffman, and A Mighty Wind. Guest’s films laid the groundwork for more recent mockumentary-style television shows, such as The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family.

Much like these very popular sitcoms, the new HSM series breaks the fourth wall and gets self-referential.

Entertainment Weekly reports that the High School Musical series portrays theater students “who occasionally talk to the camera about how they’re staging HSM at their high school (the very one where the 2006 movie was filmed, both in real life and in the shows’ overwhelmingly meta universe).” Federle also confirmed that “every episode should contain Easter eggs and callbacks and references to the original.” He said we will see an original movie cast member drop in on the series as well.

“I can confirm [it] happens, I just can’t say who or when!” Federle told EW.

‘HSM’ series producer says it’ll have ‘winks at the original but ‘with new songs’

The Office cast
The Office | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank

Federle said that the mockumentary style allowed them to create their own creative vision within the High School Musical universe.

The Office approach allows us to include winks at the original but do it with new songs,” Federle told EW. “It’s not a remake, it’s not even a reboot—it’s a remix of the original.” Federle didn’t want to copy the source material, and he knew a distinct style would distinguish the two.

… I wanted to differentiate us from the original [movies] right away. I knew that camera-style-wise, if I could borrow some of the elements from The Office, with characters talking to the camera and whip pans and zooms, it would immediately announce it as not a copycat of the original, but a new way in. And the docu-style would allow me to revisit the original music but not feel like we’re doing direct karaoke covers.

The new High School Musical series was ranked at number 6 on Entertainment Weekly’s “Must List” in its November issue. Disney+ debuted Nov. 12.

Original ‘High School Musical’ cast member Vanessa Hudgens sang this nostalgic song at karaoke

Actress Vanessa Hudgens played Gabriella Montez in Disney’s hit original film High School Musical (as well as HSM 2 and 3, of course). On Nov. 10, Hudgens took to Instagram to share a video of herself singing a song Disney fans will know by heart.

Hudgens threw it back big time to the HSM classic ballad, “Breakin’ Free.” This is the song introduces us to Gabriela’s singing talent in the early scenes of the first High School Musical film.

“Um,” the Princess Switch star started off her post. Hudgens poked fun at her own “really bad, aggressive, and totally sober” rendition of the hit HSM song. She admitted in her caption, “it hurts my ears but it also makes me laugh.”

We hope the new Wildcats can live up to this energy.