The famed director has spoken out about the character of Ryan Evans, who was played by Lucas Grabeel in all three movies.
Kenny Ortega, the director of some of the most endearing of movies, underwent a wide-ranging interview with Variety where he looked back on some of his most flamboyant and queer creations, given that the month of June was Pride Month.
The man behind the likes of 'Hocus Pocus', Michael Jackson's 'This Is it', as well as having directed a number of episodes of 'Ally McBeal' and 'The Gilmore Girls', touched on the subject of Ryan in the 'High School Musical' franchise. The first original Disney creation kicked off the career of Zac Efron, and went on to spawn two sequel movies to a new generation of musical-loving fans.
All these years later (the first entry in the series arrived in 2006), the topic of Ryan Evans has surfaced, with the publication asking the director why the character was never openly gay. When asked if there's a "queer aesthetic" that runs through his movies, Ortega responds: "Yeah, for sure. I do, because that’s who I am. I put a lot of who I am into my work. I mean, really all the way back from the earliest work that I’ve done, even as a choreographer in film and television. And I think, yeah, that it’s just there, and whether it’s screaming at you, or whether it’s just sort of quietly there, it’s there.
"The character of Ryan in 'High School Musical', Sharpay’s twin brother, we decided he’s probably going to come out in college. It was less about coming out and just more about letting his true colours come forward."
When asked if it would have been possible for Ryan to be openly gay, he expanded on the matter: "I have to be honest with you. I didn’t think at the time — and Disney is the most progressive group of people I’ve ever worked with. I was concerned because it was family and kids, that Disney might not be ready to cross that line and move into that territory yet.
"So, I just took it upon myself to make choices that I felt that those who were watching would grab. They would see it, they would feel it, they would know it and they would identify with it. And that is what happened."
From the comments made by Kenny Ortega, it's pretty clear that Disney wasn't all-too-keen to have an openly gay character in one of their biggest franchises of the 2000's. Having said that however, not every queer character on-screen has to come out (especially when you're in high school) - but at the same time it would have been progressive and inclusive for the House of Mouse to take that leap that millions of people face around the world.