One successful franchise. Three iconic films. A straight-to-DVD spin-off, a reality TV show, and a series of books. A concert tour, a stage musical, and a production on ice. It has been adapted into foreign languages and for television. It’s been parodied on Saturday Night Live with the startling revelation that in life after high school there is zero choreography – zero! And let’s not forget when it was given the Bad Lip Reading treatment, transforming the film’s star-crossed lovers into a bouncy-ball player who can’t keep track of his invisible cat and a brainiac robot who just wants to feel human.

This is, of course, about High School Musical. A contemporary twist on Romeo & Juliet, this tale as old as time is all about embracing individuality and celebrating what brings us together. Yes, it presented highly unrealistic values for high school or any time, like the chance of finding true love at age 16 or the frequent occurrence of flash mobs in day-to-day life. But High School Musical also strived to teach us to stand up and sing loud, to not be afraid of our own greatness, and how everyone loves a good jazz square. When it premiered on the Disney Channel fifteen years ago (the passage of time!), it really did feel like the start of something- well, we’ll save the puns, shall we?

High School Musical What I've Been Looking For

Courtesy of: Disney-ABC

When the concept of High School Musical was first scripted back in 1999, it was written as a sequel to that most iconic of musical movies, Grease. The lead characters of that first script, which was imaginatively titled Grease 3, were supposed to be played by none other than Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. The idea didn’t take off, however, and the project was ultimately shelved. It wasn’t until five years later that producers revitalised the concept, transforming it into the film we know and love (or loathe, depending on your standpoint) today.

Despite this changed direction, there is no denying its impact. The first of three movies, this was the beginning of a franchise that the New York Times once termed “a new religion.” Its famous fans include Lin-Manuel Miranda, the cast of Stranger Things, and Kermit the Frog. It paved the way for Glee, Pitch Perfect, and, more recently, Netflix’s Julie and The Phantoms. It was even at the forefront of film technology, demonstrating the astounding cinematic feat of a rotating corridor years before Inception. So, what was it that made High School Musical such a sensation?

High School Musical Start Of Something New

Courtesy of: Disney-ABC

To answer that question, let’s first consider the plot: boy and girl meet. Boy and girl start to fall in love. Boy and girl succumb to peer pressure and conform to the social demands of their peers. Drama ensues. In the end, the good guys win and an all-out dance number draws the story to a close. The tale High School Musical tells is one that, chances are, sounds familiar – or at least it leans heavily enough on clichés for it to feel like you’ve heard it somewhere before. So, if it’s not original storytelling that had audiences enraptured all the world over, then what did?

Let’s instead consider how this story is told. High School Musical is set at East High, a school where the student body’s deepest darkest secrets include playing the cello, baking apple pandowdy, and break dancing. The most violent insult uttered throughout the movie’s 98-minute duration is “evaporate, tall person!” To put it succinctly, this film is both wholesome and, quite frankly, absurd – a combination that proves itself to be nothing short of a delight.

High School Musical Get'cha Head In The Game

Courtesy of: Disney-ABC

This melding of simplicity with the surreal makes High School Musical such a wonder to experience. These are characters and emotions that are almost universally recognisable presented at their most glee-inducingly dramatic. From Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) staring poignantly into the middle distance as he battles the existential dilemma of whether to play sport or to sing, to Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) crooning brokenheartedly to a 7ft poster of her crush in a deserted school corridor, this is teenage angst turned up to eleven – which is exactly how it all feels when you’re a teenager.

The film was made for teenagers and pre-teens, and it speaks directly to that audience. Directed and choreographed by Kenny Ortega (Dirty Dancing, Newsies), it pairs larger-than-life musical moments with catchy chorus hooks and dance routines that are relatively easy to pick up. It’s bright. It’s colourful. Its songs are contagious. The whole production is an open invitation to escape from wherever you might be and be a part of something- sorry, it’s not quite time for puns yet, is it?

High School Musical We're All In This Together

Courtesy of: Disney-ABC

High School Musical is just the right combination of relatable and ridiculous. It’s a story of figuring out who you want to be and finding the strength and support you need to make it – with a stellar soundtrack to boot. It has just the right amount of sincerity to make it equal amounts endearing and entertaining, and a cast more than capable of holding their own. And it goes well with everything. It syncs perfectly with Taylor Swift. It mixes with “Uptown Funk”. There’s even an entire corner of the internet devoted to High School Musical / One Direction mashups (seriously, Zac Efron ft Harry Styles is the collaboration the world never knew it needed – any disagreement would be a lie).

When it first aired back in 2006, High School Musical was an instant success, and it remains a joyous experience today. It told us that anything can happen when you take a chance and that there’s not a star in heaven that we can’t reach. It taught us to fake right and break left and showed us the power in learning to slip and slide and ride that rhythm. Most importantly, it reminded us that we’re all in this together. Fifteen years on from when High School Musical was released, that might just be a message we need to hear more now than ever.