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LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Walt Disney's imminent release of two new film versions of "High School Musical" in Mexico and Argentina marks another expansion in the company's efforts to produce more localized content for international markets.
"High School Musical: El Desafio" is the first Disney-branded feature film made in Latin America. It was produced for Mexico, Argentina and Brazil (where filming hasn't yet begun), with three local casts, three distinct scripts and three versions of the soundtrack. The movie arrives in theaters July 17 in Argentina and September 5 in Mexico.
Walt Disney Co. Latin America president Diego Lerner said the idea was not to compete with the original "High School Musical," but to take universal themes and apply them with local flavors. Original songs by Alejandro Lerner (no relation) are more reggaeton for Mexico and more pop for Argentina. Soccer and rugby replace basketball in the film as the school sport.
"We use expressions and terminology that are totally local ... All the exteriors, all the music, all the songs describe situations of each country," he said. "It's not an adaptation of an American movie in Latin America. It's local talent with a local story."
The casts for each new version of the blockbuster hit were selected from reality shows that Disney produced in each market. (In Mexico and Argentina, the shows were co-produced with TV Azteca and Artear, respectively.) Unlike other Disney music releases, which are distributed by Universal, Disney Latin America partnered with Sony BMG for the local cast soundtracks because of the latter's experience in casting reality shows in the region. Disney is also considering a possible release of "High School Musical: El Desafio" on TV, DVD or the Internet for the U.S. Hispanic market and Spain, Lerner said.