Not many people can say they’ve worked as an executive producer on musicals featuring puppets, animated characters and humans, but that’s exactly what industry veteran Michelle Manning has done.
Along with being a producer on Disney’s highly anticipated Teen Beach Movie 2, she also did stints on South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and Team America: World Police. While the Teen Beach world is obviously different from anything created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Manning’s long list of credits from her 30-year career as a producer for film and television include classic teen movies The Breakfast Club and Clueless, as well as The Addams Family and Disney Channel’s upcoming original movie Further Adventures in Babysitting.
“I love kids and movies for everyone because I feel like it’s a market that is underserved, particularly in the feature world,” says Manning. “For me, I always wanted to do a musical with humans, and when I saw Teen Beach Movie, I was blown away.”
Once Manning signed on to the Rain Forest Productions sequel, the pressure was on to make a movie worthy of its predecessor’s success. It was a lofty task, considering the July 13, 2013 premiere of Teen Beach Movie, according to Nielsen, remains the number-two movie in US cable TV history in total viewers (13.5 million) and the number-two telecast of all time across major youth demographics, behind only High School Musical 2.
“When you set out to make a sequel, you only want to make it bigger and better, and Teen Beach 2 is both of those things,” says Manning.
Shot in Puerto Rico, the new movie sees Ross Lynch (Austin & Ally), Maia Mitchell (The Fosters), Grace Phipps (Baby Daddy) and Garrett Clayton (The Fosters) reprise their main character roles as Brady, Mack, Lela and Tanner, respectively.
While the original’s fantastical plot transported characters from the “real” world into the fictional 1960s world of Brady’s favorite movie West Side Story, the sequel sees Brady and Mack’s 1960s biker and surfer friends time-warp into the modern world.
Manning says the production, led by returning director/choreographer Jeff Hornaday (A Chorus Line, Flashdance), was a fabulous experience, but the film’s dance numbers did pose some challenges.
“There are more musical numbers than in the first movie and the choreography is more complicated. The challenge is making it all look very simple, which it does,” says Manning. “We got all of the dance scenes done in the days we had scheduled, which is a testament to the multi-talented cast and dancers who had everything rehearsed and nailed it every time.”
In what’s become a go-to launch strategy for Disney Channel, Teen Beach 2 will get a digital-first debut on the WATCH Disney Channel app and on WATCHDisneyChannel.com on June 19, prior to the movie’s US broadcast debut on June 26 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT.
And in line with the first movie, ancillary products from Disney Consumer Products are expected to be a big part of the launch. Apparel and accessories from D-Signed are already exclusively available at Kohl’s stores stateside, and soundtrack number two is being released on June 23, followed by the movie’s DVD and digital sell-through options three days later.
When asked if the teen musical trend will ever cool down, Manning says not likely. “When you have hundreds of children who are on vacation in Puerto Rico dress up as the characters, do the dance steps, sing the songs and watch in awe during the shooting of the sequel,” she notes, “it speaks volumes to the fact that teens still treasure these types of movies.”
This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Kidscreen