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Why Disney is making 'High School Musical 4'

The Disney Channel is reportedly casting stars for a fourth movie in the 'High School Musical' series. The first few films became big hits for the network, as have recent original movies like the 2015 film 'Descendants.'

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    'High School Musical' stars (from l.) Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, Zac Efron, Chris Warren, Jr., Vanessa Hudgens, and Monique Coleman.
    Fred Hayes/Disney Channel/AP
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Fans of the popular Disney Channel movie series “High School Musical” have something new to look forward to. 

The Disney Channel recently announced that the network is planning a fourth film in the series and that new stars will be cast for the film. It seems likely that original stars such as Zac Efron of “Neighbors” and “Grease: Live” star Vanessa Hudgens will not be the center of the new movie, if they return at all.

An air date for “High School Musical 4” has not yet been announced. 

The first “Musical” film debuted on the Disney Channel in 2006 and became extremely popular. Its sequel, also airing on the Disney Channel, became one of the most watched films in basic-cable history. The third “Musical” film with Efron and Hudgens came to movie theaters rather than the Disney Channel. 

The soundtracks of the first and second films did well also, with both albums hitting number one on the Billboard 200, which looks at album sales. 

The Disney Channel in general is a big presence in kids’ TV. The TV industry values young viewers and industry watchers have noted in recent years how the Disney Channel is winning over some of the country's youngest TV watchers. 

“TV has replaced animated films as Disney’s biggest brand ambassador,” Variety writer Marc Graser wrote in 2013.

And the success of last year’s Disney original movie “Descendants” showed that these original films can still hit it big if the movie is right. The film “Descendants,” which centered on the offspring of famous Disney characters like Belle of the movie “Beauty and the Beast” and Maleficent of “Sleeping Beauty,” aired in 2015 and became one of the highest-rated TV movies airing on cable in TV history. A sequel is already in the works.

Before that, the 2013 Disney TV movie “Teen Beach Movie” experienced similar success, also ranking at the time as one of the most-viewed TV movies on cable ever. 

These films can also create success in other types of entertainment. The soundtrack to the movie “Descendants” hit number one on the Billboard 200 chart when it debuted, echoing the album success of the “Musical” series. 

But, as noted by USA Today writer Patrick Ryan, the "Musical" series still remains the gold standard in terms of success for an original movie on the Disney Channel.

"[Disney Channel original movies include] early pacesetters 'Halloweentown' and 'Johnny Tsunami' to feature-length spinoffs of series such as 'The Suite Life of Zack and Cody' and 'Wizards of Waverly Place,'" Ryan wrote. "But none have come close to the pop-culture ubiquity of 2006's 'High School Musical.'"

So it’s probably no surprise that Disney is returning to one of its most lucrative TV movie franchises. 

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