Disney Channel delivers its latest summer movie tonight, when Teen Beach Movie premieres at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. I got an advance look at the movie and the chance to talk to two of its stars, Grace Phipps and Garrett Clayton.
Teen Beach Movie is a fun, energetic look at old 1960s beach movies, with a positive message at the center. This upbeat musical has a great cast, including Maia Mitchell (“Mac”), Ross Lynch (“Brady”), Grace Phipps (“Lela”), and Garrett Clayton (“Tanner”). The movie kicks off when Mac and Brady get swallowed by a wave while surfing and magically find themselves tossed into a ’60s beach movie musical called Wet Side Story. Fortunately, Wet Side Story is one of Brady’s favorite films, and he suggests that they can make their way back home via the storm that occurs at the end of the movie.
In the meantime, they meet many new friends, including Tanner and Lela, the couple at the center of the plot of Wet Side Story. But Brady and Mac begin to change the storyline, impacting the outcome of the movie, and lessening the chance of their returning home. In addition to making Tanner and Lela fall for them (instead of each other), Brady and Mac get involved in the rivalry between bikers and surfers who hang out at the beach. The groups are battling to claim a restaurant as their exclusive hangout.
The movie features some lively music and dance numbers, including “Surf Crazy” and “Falling for Ya,” and a wild-mayhem scene where the bikers and surfers converge on a lighthouse to overpower the mad scientists who are trying to destroy their beach.
Not only was this film entertaining, it was empowering. In the end, Maia learns a lesson about following her heart and being her own person that should inspire viewers everywhere.
But first and foremost, it’s a movie that aims to have fun. “I hope you go into watching the movie with an open mind and get ready for a wild adventure,” Garrett told me during our phone interview. “It’s such a blast to watch. Just go with it and know that it’s fun, and it’s a good, heartwarming message.” Keep reading for more of my interview with Garrett and Grace.
How long did Teen Beach Movie take to prepare and shoot?
We started voice training and rehearsals in Los Angeles. We all then flew to Puerto Rico, where we had rehearsals every day for hours and hours. It was a lot of work, but our choreographer was just fantastic.
How does this compare to other projects you’ve done? Would you like to do more things like Teen Beach Movie?
A musical is entirely different, in terms of the process of shooting it, in that we were on set, working together on a project for so long, all in the same place and living in the same hotels. The bond that the actors formed was unlike anything I’ve experienced on any other project. I would definitely do another one. I love the idea of incorporating old genres into a film and revitalizing them with a new outlook.
I think in general this is the most fantastic style. I’ve done a lot of musicals on stage but I’ve never gotten to do a movie musical. It’s so big, and so fun–the colors, the music, and the acting–it was just a blast.
What was your favorite scene?
My favorite scene to shoot was the sleepover scene with just me and Maia. We shot that at the very end of the day we shot “Cruisin’ [For a Bruisin’],” and we had already expended so much energy. Getting to feed off each other and to do that scene was such a private moment, and it was a really intimate and a really beautiful scene to shoot.
For my character, I would have to pick the one between me and Maia, because I thought that was really fun – the one where you see Tanner at face value, where he’s kind of all goofy and not all “with it.” You can see later that he doesn’t give in to social norms and that he’s a good person. I [also] had a blast shooting “Surf Crazy.”
Did you watch old beach genre movies to get inspiration?
I grew up watching beach movies because both of my parents were fans of them. Every Friday night my family and I would make pizza from scratch and we would watch old movies. So we would watch Beach Blanket Bingo, Beach Party, and other movies like that. I tried to embody [Beach Blanket Bingo actress] Annette Funicello as much as possible.
I grew up with old shows like Grease and West Side Story; I didn’t grow up with Gidget and other beach movies, so I found as many clips as I could and watched them when I was preparing for the role. I drew a lot from watching [Beach Blanket Bingo actor] Frankie Avalon and the stuff he had done; I think he was definitely my inspiration when I was making this project.
If you found yourself inside an old movie, which one would you want to be in, and what role would you want to play?
I would have fun in The Philadelphia Story, with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Or I would want to be in The NeverEnding Story. And I guess there I would be the snail.
I’d have to say Aladdin. I feel like that would be so fun. It’s one of my favorite movies, and I’d like to go in and meet Genie. I’d definitely want to play Aladdin.
What do you think is the main message of Teen Beach Movie?
The message is that you can be and do whatever you want, regardless of who you are or whoever you’re supposed to be. One of the things I especially liked about the script was that the girls could be friends and be supportive of each other. When I was growing up, there were a lot of shows and scripts where the girls were just being mean to each other. In this movie, you have girls inspiring each other, and I felt that was really significant.
Just be who you are and trust in yourself. Whatever’s meant to be will happen for you, and you just have to believe that, no matter what, you will find your way.
Teen Beach Movie premieres on Disney Channel at 8 p.m. ET, followed by the series premiere of the new show Liv & Maddie.
For more on the movie, click here to read a Q&A with Teen Beach Movie director Jeffrey Hornaday.