WELCOME TO SKY HIGH
The everyday reality of ordinary teenagers joins forces with a fantastical super hero world in SKY HIGH, an original Walt Disney action-packed family comedy that meshes teen drama, comic book adventures and inventive special effects with a cast of hot up-and-coming actors to create a thrilling summertime entertainment event. Tomorrow's heroes are led by the legends of today such as the return of Disney icon Kurt Russell -- celebrating his 40th anniversary with Disney where he began his career as a child star -- as well as Kelly Preston and a host of comic book icons, ranging from Lynda Carter (TV's "Wonder Woman" ) to comic book movie favorite Bruce Campbell.
SUPER HERO SCHOOL'S IN SESSION: HOW SKY HIGH WAS CREATED
Teen culture collides with super hero fantasies in the world of SKY HIGH, with funny and exciting results. The original concept for the film came from the mind of screenwriter Paul Hernandez, a long-time comic book fan, who began to wonder if super heroes really existed in the world . . . what would happen to their kids? Surely, as they turned into rebellious, uncertain and searching teenagers on the cusp of adulthood, they would need a special school that could train them to use their untamed super-abilities for the good of the planet. It would be a place where instead of studying for the Scholastic Aptitude Test, kids would train hard for the "Save the Citizen" Test. And just as any high school tends to separate kids into different cliques and social groups, this academy would have its elite "Heroes" dominating over those destined to merely be "Sidekicks." The idea lit a wild spark in Hernandez's imagination.
He began to think about setting a hip and observant coming-of-age comedy inside a secretly located school designed especially for future super heroes. The idea was to mix a John Hughes-style teen drama - complete with cafeteria power struggles, stake-your-future exams and high-pressure school dances -- with mega-powerful comic book icons.
Hernandez brought the concept to producer Andrew Gunn who saw the potential for creating what he calls "'The Breakfast Club' with capes," an enormously fun, stunt-and-effects-laden family adventure fueled by the equally incendiary stuff of adolescent emotions. "One of the things I loved about the idea for SKY HIGH is that it combines real, everyday high school problems any one can relate to with the far more incredible problems of being a super hero," Gunn observes. "In high school, no matter who you are, all your emotions are dialed up to 11 and you have all these intense worries about being popular, having a girlfriend, etcetera. But add to that also being a super hero and having the ability to throw flames and crush buildings and suddenly there's a lot of fun you can have combining these two volatile worlds."
Gunn continues: "I grew up on movies like 'Pretty in Pink,' and 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off.' Nobody has ever made movies since that were so authentic about the emotions kids go through at that time in their lives. John Hughes' writing was so respectful of teens, and didn't speak down to them. Hopefully this movie is the perfect combination of John Hughes movie meets super hero movie."
As the screenplay evolved, Gunn asked the screenwriters to focus on the story's teenage emotional reality first and foremost - then layer on top of that the characters' uniquely super-heroic skills and adventures. Gunn explains: "For me, the key to developing the script became creating a story strong enough that you could actually remove all the super hero elements and still have a fun movie. We ended up with a great foundation for the action in a story that's about friendship, loyalty and a kid realizing that what really defines being a hero isn't his external power but what's on the inside."
Gunn also pushed the writers to develop the film with its own fresh, upbeat style. "So many contemporary super hero films are very dark and take themselves so seriously," he says. "We wanted SKY HIGH to be a comedy full of big, bright color and lots of tongue-in-cheek humor."
The search then began for a director who could conjure just the right blend of reality, comedy and fantasy to make the visual fantasia of SKY HIGH come to life. The filmmakers decided trust their vision to Mike Mitchell, a talented animator and story-board artist who carved out a reputation for innovation with several award-winning shorts. Says executive producer Ann Marie Sanderlin: "Mike Mitchell is a big kid and we knew he could deliver our vision of the film. He is constantly drawing cartoons and coming up with ideas. Everything is in his mind visually before it's ever on paper or the screen and he brought so much enthusiasm to the project." Adds executive producer Mario Iscovich: "Mike constantly thinks of the most amazing things. He takes the art of cinema in new directions because he is so modern in his approach. He really understood the heart of this film because he is so kid-like himself."
For Mitchell, SKY HIGH was a chance to create an imaginative fantasy world filled with flying and shape-shifting while reflecting the real world of teen hopes and ambitions at the same time. He infused the story with a buoyant, pop-influenced look-and-feel to heighten both its comedy and energy. "I wanted to hearken back to those fun 60s and 70s family comedies that we all remember so fondly and at the same time to really play and have fun with the genre," says Mitchell. "Most of all I wanted SKY HIGH to be a very entertaining roller coaster ride for audiences of all ages."
WILL STRONGHOLD: HERO OR SIDEKICK? MICHAEL ANGARANO PLAYS A KID WHO CAN'T FIND HIS SUPERPOWERS
Are you one of tomorrow's "Heroes" or simply a "Sidekick" of the future? At Sky High, that questioned is quickly answered with the school's high-pressure Power Placement test, which assesses a teen's potential for crime-fighting brilliance right off the bat. But what happens when the son of two of the world's most awesome super heroes fails the test and is told he's destined to become "Hero Support" (a nice way of saying "Sidekick")? This is the dilemma that faces young Will Stronghold, who seems not to have inherited any of the amazing superhuman skills that his mega-powerful Mom and Dad have at their disposal. (As Kurt Russell, who plays Steve Stronghold AKA The Commander says of Will Stronghold: "It's basically as if the child of Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf went to tennis camp and couldn't even hit the ball.")
To play the story's unlikely hero, Will, the filmmakers searched for an ordinary, All-American kid who could handle being thrust into a truly extraordinary situation. They found what they were looking for in teenaged Michael Angarano, who most recently drew acclaim in the skateboarding drama "Lords of Dogtown." "Michael has that true Every Kid quality," says Mike Mitchell. "He's also a really funny guy, physically very talented and he just seemed to sum up who we wanted Will Stronghold to be: a normal likeable person you want to hang out with."
For Angarano, the decision to star in the film was instantaneous. How often does any teen get a chance to transform into a super hero, not to mention learn how to leap through solid walls? "The idea of SKY HIGH fulfills every kid's dream, and my dream too, to be a super hero," says Michael. "What kid didn't grow up with the fantasy of being able to fly across the whole country or being super strong and being able to toss a building? At Sky High, it all comes true."
But Michael also could relate to the troubling secret weighing heavily on Will: that he might not have what it takes to follow in his parent's awe-inspiring footsteps; indeed, that he might not be "super" at all. "Because of his parents, everyone expects Will to be ultra-strong and be able to fly, only he can't seem to do any of that yet," Michael explains. "It's intimidating to feel like you have to fulfill your Mom and Dad's incredible legacy when you're just a kid and you don't really know who you are yet. And right from the start, Will feels like he's in a lot of troubled because he's going to Sky High with all these expectations and he doesn't believe he can meet them."
He continues: "What's really interesting about Sky High is that it's pretty much a typical American high school of today except that every kid has these different amazing powers. It has its cool kids and its nerds, its "Heroes" and its "Sidekicks" - which is why I think it's a story a lot of people will relate to. But then it's also got a lot of comedy and it's completely action-packed, so not all the situations are entirely normal!"
Though Michael enjoyed the emotional drama inherent to Will's character, he was especially revved up by the film's action - which has him ultimately defying gravity at exhilarating speeds. "For me, one of the best parts of the film was simply getting to put on a harness and fly through the air. That part is the dream come true," he summarizes.
SUPER PARENTS: KURT RUSSELL AND KELLY PRESTON STAR AS A SUPER HERO DUO
WITH BIG CRIME-FIGHTING DREAMS FOR THEIR SON
Will Stronghold's loving Dad and Mom are typical stressed-out, over-worked American parents with one difference: their "jobs" are defeating world-threatening villains and saving the planet on a daily basis. To play Steve and Josie Stronghold -- AKA The Commander and Jetstream, the married super hero duo who send their son off to Sky High with high hopes -- the filmmakers brought in two popular and charismatic Hollywood stars: Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston.
For Kurt Russell, taking a major role in this contemporary Disney family comedy was a unique opportunity to bring his versatile motion picture career full circle. He actually began in movies as a child star under contract to Disney in 1966, working closely with Walt himself and went on to be seen in dozens of Disney projects over the next four decades - including such memorable family classics as "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" to "Superdad" and "The Strongest Man in the World."
"It's been an interesting experience working with Disney through the years," says Russell. "I spent a lot of time with Mr. Disney when I was a kid. He took the time to really talk to me and teach me at a very early age about script and character and story arc -- things that later on in my life would become very, very important to me. It was a long time ago, but he was a great filmmaker, a great man and a great student of the game. So it's a lot of fun to be able to do a movie that has his brand on it."
Some thirty years after starring as "The Strongest Man in the World" in 1975's Disney family comedy, Russell was thrilled to return to fresh Disney territory and impressed by the script for SKY HIGH. "It really struck my funny bone," he comments. "I especially liked the idea of Heroes versus Sidekick kids - like the nerds having to deal with BMOC's (Big Man On Campus)! I also thought the character of The Commander was fun and full and exciting. Overall, it felt like a great comedy adventure."
Though The Commander embodies a chiseled, invincible profile of a classic super hero, Russell sees Steve Stronghold as not only a made-of-steel super hero but also a good yet flawed family man. "He's a loving father but not a particularly attentive one," the actor observes. "Being a super hero, his son has a lot to live up to, even more than most children do, and Steve doesn't realize the enormous pressure he's putting on Will. He's like the father who was a great athlete; and now he wants his son to follow in his footsteps. He assumes that his kid is great, only to find out he's not even going to make the team. I think a lot of men have the fantasy of seeing their kid be the big hero, in fact that's natural because it reflects their heritage. We all go through this stuff, so when you put that all on the super hero level, it's even more interesting and fun."
Mike Mitchell found Russell's portrait hit just the right note. "Kurt really captured the tone of a dad who loves and wants the best for his son - but at the same time is a little twisted in wanting too much for his son," says the director. "What was also wonderful about Kurt is that he really grabbed the humor of the film right away. There's a way to play this sort of role cool and straight and then there's the way we wanted to approach it - with that kind of 1960s 'Batman' feeling of really having fun with the genre. Kurt's even got a little hint of Adam West in his multi-layered performance."
Joining with Russell as perhaps the world's most powerful mom is Kelly Preston in the role of Will's literally highflying mother, Jetstream. Preston was struck by the story's fresh concept in family comedy and adventure. "I thought it was such a clever idea to have super hero kids going to a high school in the sky and the story was very original and funny," she says. "I also liked the idea of playing a super hero mom who has to deal with fighting crime and raising a son simultaneously - and I knew that working with Kurt Russell would be a blast."
Preston quickly fell in love with her character's potent nature. "Josie's great. She can fly very fast, kick villain's butts and she's extremely strong," says the actress. "When I put on the boots and the cape and the whole outfit, I would really feel like a super hero and had a great time."
But Preston also enjoyed playing Josie Stronghold as a regular mom whose teenaged son is facing tough times at the precipice of adulthood. "What makes SKY HIGH so special I think is that it is a comedy adventure that also has a wonderful family story to it about kids and parents and surviving the teen years," she says. "And the thing about Josie is that no matter what else happens, Will is her top priority and the thing that matters most in the world." Mike Mitchell was thrilled with Preston's contributions to the film. "Kelly brings a really great balance to the Stronghold family," he says. "She has her own amazing strengths but she's also the one who is most able to tune into Will as he heads off to Sky High. She's the sort of the ultimate fantasy Mom."
SKY HIGH'S SIDEKICKS
HERO SUPPORT SAFETY PRACTICES
1. Report all unsafe condition to your super hero immediately.
2. Be aware of emergency exits from super villains lair.
3. Use only approved super hero costumes and utility belts.
4. Always wear your personal body armour when facing villains.
5. Do not attempt to save lives if under the influence of a super villains spell or potion/power.
6. Remember you are responsible for the safety of your super hero as he saves the world!
In the world of SKY HIGH, if you're not a "Hero," you're simply a second-fiddle "Sidekick" destined to provide "Hero Support." After the all-important Power Placement test, Will Stronghold himself is labeled a "Sidekick" and joins a group of other super-kids who haven't quite worked out the full force of their powers. Among his new crew of friends are:
Sidekick: Layla (Danielle Panabaker) Special Power: Controls Nature
Will's loyal friend Layla hides her superior superpowers during the Power Placement test so that she will become a "Sidekick" just like Will - and winds up helping to lead the "Sidekicks" to unexpected victory. To play Layla, director Mike Mitchell turned to a rising young talent he had worked with in "Surviving Christmas:" Danielle Panabaker. Danielle found Layla to be an extremely cool character to play. "She's very funky and upbeat, with her own unique vibe and she definitely marches to the beat of her own drummer," says the young actress. "She's Mother Nature's daughter so she's really concerned about the earth and being wholesome - but she also has her own secret: she's in love with Will. And in true male fashion, Will is oblivious to that fact!" She continues: "The issues that Layla and Will and the other characters are dealing with in SKY HIGH are really similar to issues that kids were dealing with at the high school I went to. They might be super heroes but they're dealing with unrequited love, trying to fit in and trying to please their parents just like every kid of that age."
Sidekick: Ethan (Dee-Jay Daniels) Special Power: Melts
Brainy, awkward Ethan is another "Sidekick" who discovers unknown strengths when the going gets tough - and soon realizes the uses for unique superpower: the ability to melt his body into liquid whenever he gets into a tight spot. Playing Ethan is 16 year-old Dee Jay Daniels making his feature film debut. Dee-Jay didn't mind playing a "Sidekick" in SKY HIGH. "What I like about the movie is that first everyone thinks these "Sidekicks" are just nothing, they have boring powers, and the "Heroes" are the best - but then the "Sidekicks" start to get bold and they realize they can do some amazing things. As it turns out, "Sidekicks" are pretty cool, too."
Sidekick: Zach (Nicholas Braun) Special Power: Human Nightlight who can glow at will
Zach is the cocky Freshman who is quickly humbled when he is labeled a "Sidekick" after his power to glow fails to impress. To portray Zach, the filmmakers cast Nicholas Braun, who was previously honored with a Young Artists' Award nomination for his role in Showtime's "Walter & Henry." Braun related to Zach's split-second journey from In Crowd to outcast. "It happened to me in high school," he notes. "It happens to a lot of kids. You go to school thinking you're so cool and then things happen where you get humbled. And in Sky High, Zach realizes the "Sidekicks" are really where it's at. They're all talented; they're loyal to each other, and it turns out they all have reasons to be proud of who they are."
Sidekick: Magenta (Kelly Vitz) Special Power: Shapeshifter
Magenta, played by newcomer Kelly Vitz in her feature film debut, is a punky young super hero with the power to shapeshift - only she can't seem to turn into anything other than a purple guinea pig! Like her cast-mates, Kelly was immediately drawn into the story's mix of very recognizable high school reality and wild comic book fantasy. "It's a coming of age film as well as a comedy and that's what makes it a lot of fun," she says. Kelly also had a great time working with director Mike Mitchell. "He is so like a kid," she observes. "He's drawing all the time, he has all these amazing creative ideas and he makes everything really, really fun."
SKY HIGH'S HEROES
Ruling over Sky High's "Sidekicks" are the popular, elite and stunningly powerful "Heroes" who are being honed to become the great crime-fighters of tomorrow - which can sometimes go straight to their heads. Among their ranks are:
SKY HIGH'S ACTION-PACKED ACTIVITES: ABOUT THE FILM'S SOARING STUNTS AND EFFECTS
THE SUPER-STAFF OF SKY HIGH: A HOST OF COMIC BOOK ICONS AND LEADING COMICS JOIN THE CAST