Surf’s Up

Teen Beach Movie director Jeffrey Hornaday talks about filming the musical for Disney Channel

Jul 19, 2013 | By Kelli Plasket
FRANCISCO ROMAN—DISNEY CHANNEL

Ross Lynch, playing Brady, performs the song "Cruisin' For a Bruisin'" in the Disney Channel original movie Teen Beach Movie.

Have you ever wished you could enter the world of your favorite movie? That’s what happens to Brady, played by Austin & Ally’s Ross Lynch, in Teen Beach Movie, an original movie musical premiering July 19 on Disney Channel. When Brady saves his girlfriend, McKenzie, played by Maia Mitchell, from a bad wave during their last surf of summer, the couple is magically transported into the plot of Brady’s favorite beach musical, a fictional movie called Wet Side Story that is set in 1962.

Teen Beach Movie is a modern, tongue-in-cheek take on the beach party movies from the 1960s. The movie was directed and choreographed by Jeffrey Hornaday, who famously choreographed dance movies Flashdance and A Chorus Line and recently directed the Disney Channel original movie Geek Charming. Hornaday spoke to TFK about filming the new movie.

Jeffrey Hornaday, right, directs actor Ross Lynch, left, while filming a scene for Teen Beach Movie.
FRANCISCO ROMAN—DISNEY CHANNEL
Jeffrey Hornaday, right, directs actor Ross Lynch, left, while filming a scene for Teen Beach Movie.

TFK:

The fictional Wet Side Story movie was partly inspired by the real movie musical West Side Story. What are some of the movies that inspired Teen Beach Movie?

JEFFREY HORNADAY:

For a lot of us, it was Back to the Future, and then more closely, The Wizard of Oz because ultimately, it’s about a girl that goes pretty far out of herself to learn that home is inside herself or in her own back yard.

TFK:

Kids know musicals, but some might not be familiar with the beach movies from the 60s. How did you bring their qualities into Teen Beach Movie?

HORNADAY:

Because kids have no point of reference for the films, what we tried to do was recall the feeling you have thinking about them, which was a real sense of whimsy and excitement. In order to make it relevant to kids today, we really wanted to create a real sense of fun. One of the things we talked about was deliberately going over-the-top with it, like the overhead shots with the surfboards and the kids busting out into song and dance. It’s not often where you get to do a full-on breakout song and dance musical.

TFK:

Is there one beach film that you would suggest kids go back and watch if they enjoy this movie?

HORNADAY:

Beach Blanket Bingo [from 1965] was the quintessential one, and it had the romantic through-line, which I think is the other thing that resonates with Teen Beach Movie.

TFK:

Ross Lynch told us he learned how to surf for the film. Can you talk about that and the experience of filming those scenes in Puerto Rico?

Actress Maia Mitchell films a scene in Puerto Rico for Teen Beach Movie.
FRANCISCO ROMAN—DISNEY CHANNEL
Actress Maia Mitchell films a scene in Puerto Rico for Teen Beach Movie.

HORNADAY:

Ross turned out to be a quadruple threat because he acts, he sings great, and he’s not just a really good contemporary dancer, but he’s an old hoofer and can tap dance. There was one scene where he needed to be on a jet ski and the waves were really big that day. We were concerned, so we brought in a stunt double, but Ross said, “Let me try this.” He completely outdid the stunt double. It was his footage that we ended up using.

It was the same with surfing. He and Maia both unabashedly threw themselves into it. Rather than being top-notch competitive surfers, what was important was that they became fearless, and that’s what I was really amazed by. There’s one sequence in the film where Maia’s character takes a really rough crashing into the white water falls, which she did herself. We were actually able to use a lot of [footage of] them doing their own surfing.

TFK:

What is your favorite musical number from this film?

HORNADAY:

Just because it’s so unabashedly physical and dynamic in terms of its dancing, it would be the “Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’” number. It’s the motorcycle kids against the surfer kids.

TFK:

The movie is kind of tongue-in-cheek about the inherent corniness of musicals. What's the key to a good, fun movie musical?

HORNADAY:

This was an important goal for us. When they first arrive in that 60s movie, we want to portray the characters in that world from Maia’s early point of view. She saw that genre as something that was two dimensional and kind of over-the-top. We wanted by the end of it to be real, full people that you felt something for.

TFK:

Why should kids tune in?

HORNADAY:

It’s funny and really fun and ultimately touching and, if they love music and dance, they are going to get to see it in a whole new way. Even though they haven’t seen the original [beach movies], I think it will be really fun for them to see modern flair but in a really kind of vintage way.

TFK:

You had a career in choreography. When did you start dancing and what advice would you give kids who are interested in that career?

HORNADAY:

I first started when I was 14 or 15, which traditionally is late to be starting. The advice I’d give kids is that, wherever you live and whatever your circumstances, if you feel something passionate in your heart, then you should follow that. That’s an important theme in the movie as well.   

Teen Beach Movie premieres on Disney Channel at 8 p.m. ET, followed by the series premiere of the new Disney Channel show Liv & Maddie at 9:45 p.m.

TFK Kid Reporter Adriana Palmieri reviewed the movie and spoke to actors Garrett Clayton and Grace Phipps. Click here to read her report.