Kenny Ortega - Wikipedia
Kenny Ortega
Kenneth John Ortega (born April 18, 1950) is an American filmmaker, touring manager, and choreographer. He is known for directing the films Newsies, Hocus Pocus, High School Musical, Michael Jackson's This Is It, and Descendants.[1] He also choreographed the films St. Elmo's Fire, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Dirty Dancing; and directed multiple concert tours for Cher, Gloria Estefan, Hannah Montana, and Michael Jackson. For his work, Ortega was honored with a star on both the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Disney Legend Award in 2019.
Kenny Ortega

Ortega in February 2010
BornKenneth John Ortega
April 18, 1950 (age 71)
Palo Alto, California, U.S.
OccupationFilmmaker, choreographer, touring manager
Years active1980–present
Notable workNewsies
Hocus Pocus
High School Musical
Michael Jackson's This Is It
AwardsHollywood Walk of Fame (2019)
Disney Legends (2019)
Early life
Ortega was born in Palo Alto, California, the son of Madeline, a waitress, and Octavio "Tibby" Ortega, a factory worker. He also has a sister, Marcela Ortega. Both of his parents were also born in Palo Alto,[2] though his paternal grandparents were Spanish immigrants.[3] He attended Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California, where he was a cheerleader and in the drama group.
Ortega began his career as an actor, appearing in a touring productions of Oliver! and Hair before venturing into choreography and directing. Ortega was offered the leading role in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, but turned the offer down to become a choreographer for the San Francisco-based band The Tubes after being spotted on the dance floor in a club by members of the band. Ortega toured with the band for ten years, before being contracted by Cher to choreograph a TV special and tour and by KISS on their Dynasty Tour.[4][5]
In 1980, Ortega was hired as one of the choreographers on the film Xanadu, working with Gene Kelly who mentored him into choreographing for film. During this time period, Ortega also served as choreographer for several of John Hughes's films, including Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, as well as the 1987 film Dirty Dancing. Ortega would also serve as choreographer for several music videos, including "Material Girl" by Madonna, "She's a Beauty" by The Tubes, "Rock Me Tonite" by Billy Squier, and "Mr. Roboto" by Styx.
Ortega made his directorial debut in 1992 with the Disney musical Newsies, which was followed up by Hocus Pocus in 1993. Ortega also served as choreographer for To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar in 1995.
Alongside Michael Jackson, he created and designed Jackson's Dangerous World Tour (1992–1993), HIStory World Tour (1996–1997) and Michael Jackson & Friends (1999). He has also choreographed events ranging from Super Bowl XXX, the 72nd Academy Awards, the 1996 Summer Olympics (Atlanta) and the 2002 Winter Olympics (Salt Lake City).[6]
In 2006, Ortega directed and choreographed two Disney Channel Original Movies, High School Musical and The Cheetah Girls 2. Ortega would return as director and choreographer for High School Musical 2 in 2007 and High School Musical 3: Senior Year in 2008.
In May 2009, Ortega began work directing and choreographing the scheduled 50-date Michael Jackson This Is It concert residency at The O2 Arena, billed as Jackson's final concerts in London. The engagement was subsequently cancelled due to Jackson's sudden death in June 2009.[7] Ortega would serve as the director of the Michael Jackson Public Memorial at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which was broadcast live on several networks on July 7, 2009, reaching a television audience of 31 million in America and more than one billion worldwide. At the end of the service, he introduced a rendition of Jackson's 1985 charity single "We Are the World" created for the This Is It concerts, featuring Jackson's backing singers on lead vocals with his dancers performing around them. Ortega directed the concert film Michael Jackson's This Is It, which was put together from rehearsal footage recorded at the Los Angeles Forum and the Staples Center. The film was released on October 28 of the same year.[8][9]
He was set to direct the 2011 Footloose remake, but dropped out in October 2009 due to differences with Paramount over the budget and tone of the film.[10] Ortega was also hired to direct a film adaptation of the Broadway musical In the Heights for Universal, but the studio dropped the project in 2011 due to budgetary and casting issues.[11] On August 9, 2011, it was announced that Ortega would direct a remake of Dirty Dancing, a project that was later postponed. The 2017 TV remake was filmed without Ortega's involvement.[12]
On May 12, 2014, Ortega guest-judged on the 18th season of Dancing with the Stars during the semifinals.
In 2015, Ortega directed and choreographed Descendants for the Disney Channel, a film based on the children of legendary Disney Villains. He would return in the same capacity for its two sequels, Descendants 2 in 2017 and Descendants 3 in 2019.[13]
In 2019, Ortega was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was named a Disney Legend at the 2019 D23 Expo.[14][15]
That fall, he directed and served as executive producer of the Netflix Original series Julie and the Phantoms , which premiered on Netflix on September 10, 2020.
Personal life
Ortega is openly gay, and in a 2014 interview with anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution, he said that "as a gay man having grown up in the 50s and 60s, I have to say, I'm very proud of the industry that I work in," referring to the acceptance of people with different sexual orientations in show business.[16]
In 2020, Ortega recalled being falsely arrested at the age of 21 after a chief of police planted narcotics in his hotel room, allegedly upset by his performance in a touring production of Hair. The charges were dropped after investigations were made, and Ortega recalled the arrest report identifying him as George Berger, the name of the character he played in the show.[17]
Filmography and concerts
YearTitleChoreographerDirectorProducerRotten TomatoesBudgetBox office
1980XanaduYesNoNo39%$20 millionUS$22.7 million
1982One from the HeartYesNoNo48%$26 million$0.6 million
1985St. Elmo's FireYesNoNo47%$10 million$37.8 million
1986Pretty in PinkYesNoNo81%$9 million$40.4 million
1986Ferris Bueller's Day OffYesNoNo79%$6 million$70.1 million
1987Dirty DancingYesNoNo72%$6 million$213.9 million
1988SalsaYesNoNo50%$6 million$8.8 million
1989ShagYesNoNo64%$5 million$6.9 million
1992NewsiesYesYesNo30%$15 million$2.8 million
1993Hocus PocusYesYesNo32%$28 million$39.5 million
1995To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie NewmarYesNoNo42%N/A$47.7 million
1998Quest for CamelotYesNoNo36%$40 million$22.5 million
2008High School Musical 3: Senior YearYesYesExecutive65%$11 million$252.9 million
2009Michael Jackson's This Is ItYesYesYes81%$60 million$261.1 million
2017A Change of HeartNoYesNoN/AN/AN/A
TBAAuntie ClausNoYesNoN/AN/AN/A
1988Dirty DancingNoYesNo2 episodes
1990Hull HighYesYesExecutive2 episodes
1996Second NoahNoYesNo1 episode
1998–1999Chicago HopeNoYesNo2 episodes
2000Resurrection Blvd.NoYesNo1 episode
2001Grounded for LifeNoYesNo1 episode
2001–2002Ally McBealNoYesNo3 episodes
2002–2006Gilmore GirlsNoYesNo11 episodes
2006High School MusicalYesYesNoTelevision movie (budget: $4.4 million)
2006The Cheetah Girls 2YesYesNoTelevision movie
2007High School Musical 2YesYesYesTelevision movie (budget: $7 million)
2012BunheadsNoYesNo1 episode
2015DescendantsYesYesExecutiveTelevision movie
2016Crazy Ex-GirlfriendNoYesNo1 episode
2016The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp AgainYesYesNoTelevision movie
2017Descendants 2YesYesExecutiveTelevision movie
2019Descendants 3YesYesExecutiveTelevision movie
2020Julie and the PhantomsYesYesExecutiveNetflix series
1989–1990Cher's Heart of Stone TourNoYesNo
1991–1992Gloria Estefan's Into The Light World TourYesNoNo
1992–1993Michael Jackson's Dangerous World TourNoYesNo
1996–1997Gloria Estefan's Evolution World TourYesNoNo
1996–1997Michael Jackson's HIStory World TourNoYesNo
2003Gloria Estefan's Live & UnwrappedYesYesNo
2004Gloria Estefan's Live & Re-Wrapped TourYesNoNo
2006The Boy from OzYesYesNoAustralian arena tour[18]
2006–2007High School Musical: The ConcertNoYesYes
2007–2008Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds TourYesYesNo
2009–2010 (cancelled)Michael Jackson's This Is ItYesYesNo
Awards and nominations
YearAssociationCategoryWork / nomineeResultRef.
2001Primetime Emmy AwardOutstanding ChoreographyGrounded for LifeNominated[19]
2002Primetime Emmy AwardOutstanding Choreography (shared with Doug Jack and Sarah Kawahara)Opening Ceremony Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter GamesWon[20]
2006Directors Guild of America AwardsOutstanding Directing – Children's ProgramsHigh School MusicalWon[21]
Primetime Emmy AwardOutstanding Choreography (shared with Charles Klapow and Bonnie Story)High School MusicalWon[22]
Primetime Emmy AwardOutstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or a SpecialHigh School MusicalNominated[23]
2007Directors Guild of America AwardsOutstanding Directing – Children's ProgramsHigh School Musical 2Nominated[24]
Helpmann AwardsBest Choreography in a Musical(shared with Kelley Abbey)The Boy from OzWon[25]
2008ALMA AwardOutstanding Director of a Made-for-TV MovieHigh School Musical 2Won[26]
Primetime Emmy AwardOutstanding Choreography (shared with Charles Klapow and Bonnie Story)High School Musical 2Nominated[27]
2009National Association of Latino Independent ProducersOutstanding Achievement AwardKenny OrtegaWon[28]
Young Artist AwardJackie Coogan Award – Contribution to YouthHigh School MusicalWon[29]
2015Directors Guild of America AwardsOutstanding Directing – Children's ProgramsDescendantsWon[30]
  1. ^ "Kenny Ortega Interview, Michael Jacksons This Is It". Archived from the original on November 1, 2009.
  2. ^ Hartlaub, Peter (October 19, 2008). "Ortega directs 'High School Musical 3'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
  3. ^ Hernández, Lee (October 23, 2008). "Kenny Ortega: The man behind every step of 'High School Musical 3'". Daily News. New York.
  4. ^ Setoodeh, Ramin (June 30, 2020). "Director Kenny Ortega on the Queer Aesthetic of His Movies From 'Hocus Pocus' to 'High School Musical'". Variety. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  5. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (October 3, 2008). "Kenny Ortega: From dancer to director". Variety. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  6. ^ "Kenny Ortega: Biography" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 18, 2008. Retrieved June 15, 2009.
  7. ^ "Michael Jackson Gets Ready For Tour". Sky News. May 12, 2009.
  8. ^ Hinckley, David; Huff, Richard (July 8, 2009). "Michael Jackson's memorial 2nd most-watched funeral ever, after Princess Di, say Nielsen ratings". Daily News. New York.
  9. ^ "This Is It - Cast | IMDbPro". Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  10. ^ Fleming, Michael (October 25, 2009). "Ortega exits Paramount's 'Footloose'". Variety. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  11. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (March 28, 2011). "Universal Dropping Musical 'In The Heights'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  12. ^ Chaney, Jen (August 8, 2011). "'Dirty Dancing' the remake: Should it be pursued or put in a corner forever?". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  13. ^ "Disney Channel announces 'Descendants,' movie about the villains' kids". Hypable. December 12, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  14. ^ "Meet the 2019 Disney Legends to Be Honored at D23 Expo". D23. May 16, 2019. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  15. ^ Friedlander, Whitney (July 24, 2019). "'Descendants' Director Kenny Ortega Receives Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame". Variety. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  16. ^ "Kenny Ortega - As a Gay Man". IMDb. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  17. ^ Setoodeh, Ramin (June 30, 2020). "Director Kenny Ortega on the Queer Aesthetic of His Movies From 'Hocus Pocus' to 'High School Musical'". Variety. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  18. ^ Rooney, David (August 6, 2006). "The Boy from Oz". Variety. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  19. ^ "53rd Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  20. ^ "54th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  21. ^ "59th annual DGA awards". Director's Guild of America. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  22. ^ "58th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  23. ^ "58th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  24. ^ "60th annual DGA awards". Director's Guild of America. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  25. ^ "Past nominees and winners, 2007". Helpmann Awards. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  26. ^ "ALMA Awards 2012". Alma Awards. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012.
  27. ^ "60th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  28. ^ Crystal A. Johnson. "LTTS Exclusive: An Interview With High School Musical Director Kenny Ortega". Look to the Stars.
  29. ^ "30th Annual Young Artist Awards". Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved May 11, 2012.
  30. ^ "68th annual DGA awards". Director's Guild of America. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
External links
Last edited on 13 April 2021, at 05:24
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