In the original HSM, East High was supposed to be in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But the real school where they filmed the franchise is in Salt Lake City, Utah. And although the name of the school stayed the same, no one at the real East High can chant: "What team? Wildcats!" Because the Utah students are actually the East High Leopards. The Disney+ series stuck true to that detail as well, and it is admittedly a little jarring that the real East High students can answer "What team?" with "Leopards!"
The premise of the Disney+ series is that new drama teacher Miss Jenn (Kate Reinders) wants to stage a production of High School Musical at the very school where the original films were made. It's all very meta. So, from February to July of this year, film crews rolled in to Salt Lake City and gave a whole new generation of students reason to be excited that they go to the real East High.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Governor's Office of Economic Development approved filming tax incentives in 2018 that encouraged the HSM production to film in the state once again. But it wasn't just the tax breaks that enticed Disney. Director of the Utah Film Commission Virginia Pearce told the Tribune, "They're hoping to use some of the original locations because they're so well-loved."
Pearce also told the Deseret News that she was excited that Disney was returning to the city. "Visitors still make special trips to Utah to see where High School Musical was filmed and we're incredibly proud of its resonating impact with generations of young people," Pearce said. "We're thrilled to introduce a fresh take on this classic story and continue to support Disney’s production here in Utah."
Honestly, the production should be thrilled to get to be synonymous with East High, because it's a pretty forward thinking school. In 2017, East High installed showers and washing machines for any of its students who were experiencing homelessness. And in 2017, the school dealt with flooding damage from heavy rainfall that did $2 to $3 million of damage to the iconic cafeteria, gym, and more. Fortunately, everything was eventually cleaned up and fixed, and East High welcomed the Disney+ team in just a couple of years later. East High is also known for being the school that Elizabeth Smart attended after her escape from her kidnappers in 2003.
But it's probably best known for the HSM movies, and now the series is peeling back some of the movie magic and letting viewers see the real East High — leopard mascot and all.
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