Cortesía de HM Communications
People Staff
October 28, 2008 AT 10:00 AM EDT

After the success of the first two High School Musical made-for-TV movies, Walt Disney’s decision to take the third and last chapter of this trilogy to the big screen surprised no one. And once more the film company was right on-target. During the first three days of its first run in the U.S., High School Musical 3: Senior Year took in $42 million, making it the top box-office hit over the weekend and breaking the record for a musical film set by Mamma Mia! in July.

The fever has also reached countries like Great Britain, Germany and Spain, where the film has been popular among adults and kids. The millionaire High School Musical franchise is still hot.

Behind the popularity reached by each one of the films in this trilogy are the talent and contagious moves of Hispanic director and choreographer, Kenny Ortega. Naturally, the 58-year-old dancer’s Hispanic roots influenced the choreography in the film. “It was common to see my Spanish grandmother dancing flamenco in the kitchen while she cooked Sunday mornings,” he says. “Those memories define who I am. That passion, that emotion toward life has definitely had an impact on everything I do.”

All that passion is reflected in this piece of work, not only as director but also in the way the characters are presented. “It makes me happy to say that the members of our cast have come back and plunged deeply into these marvelous characters, giving more heart than ever before,” Ortega says about the cast headed by Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, and Ashley Tisdale. “I believe it’s a magnificent celebration of High School Musical‘s last chapter.”

But don’t be fooled, because, though they are the same actors and it’s a continuation of the original story, as Ortega himself has said, this high-school senior year offers new elements: “We have a completely new story, new music and new choreography. Our characters have grown up, have matured and have begun to see life after high school. We have three new actors, Jemma McKenzie-Brown, Matt Prokop, and Justin Martin, who have added a few fun surprises and mischief to this final celebration.”

And while he savors his movie’s success, Ortega is already in talks with Paramount for a remake of the film Footloose, based on the original musical, in which Efron could be the star. Also, the director expects to be undertaking other original theater projects for television. And his young fans can’t wait.

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