Reel Toronto: Terrible Disney Channel Movies
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Reel Toronto: Terrible Disney Channel Movies

Disney sure knows how to use Toronto—and bad blue-screening—to entertain the tweener crowd.

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

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The Disney corporation isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Oh sure, there are the lovely parks and the happy Pixar movies and Disney’s synergistic acquisitions of the Muppets, Star Wars, Marvel, and really just about anything you ever loved in your childhood or anything any of your future children might love.

But there is a dark side: the Disney Channel (or Family channel, up here in Canada), and its unending stream of subpar TV shows stocked by a numberless roster of cute, precocious kids and their boilerplate family and friends (blonde mom, male-pattern-baldness dad, ethnic friend, dumb friend, etc.). This system of theirs has yielded Ryan Gosling and Justin Timberlake, it’s true, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Greasing the wheels of this machine are cheaply made “movies” that Disney advertises ad nauseum, puts on the air, and then casts off into the home video market. Making them on the cheap is key and, hey, that’s what Toronto does best!

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In fairness, we’re not the only tax credit haven and that’s why, say, the High School Musical movies were shot in New Mexico. But then some highly paid Disney employee decided that, with the franchise pretty much spent, what they really needed was a spinoff featuring its antagonist, the princessy Sharpay. (Feel free to read her whole bio at the HSM Wiki!) Hence Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure, which naturally takes place in New York City. Why, just look at this obvious stock footage here!

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Or this obvious blue-screen work out the window!

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Yes, Sharpay is thrilled to be in “New York City” and its famous Washington Square Park…

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…which, when we zoom in, looks a bit different. The fountain ain’t quite the same, is it?

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Yeah, it’s actually Berczy Park.

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Here she’s pulling up to a luxury hotel…

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…actually the Prince Arthur condos.

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The penthouse offers a tremendous vista of the New York skyline…

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…complete with landmarks such as, um, the CBC building…

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…and Metro Hall? Yeah, that’s because it’s actually the penthouse at the Soho Met.

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Here Sharpay is sad about being alone in the big city or something…

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…until she’s totally not weirded out by this hunky young man filming her…

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…outside on Avenue Road with a TTC sign and Toronto garbage can behind her.

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She goes back with him to his apartment…

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…which we can locate at Queen Street West and Landsdowne Avenue, thanks to the pharmacy across the street.

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Well, Sharpay is in New York to be an actress on Broadway, so she auditions at a theatre…

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…which turns out to be…

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…the Elgin.

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And look who works there! It’s Joey Jeremiah!

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Sharpay also pays a visit to the Winter Garden, upstairs.

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The exterior of the theatre, however, is the Royal Alex.

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Okay, there is one amusing bit in this movie. It’s a romantic montage with these cute dogs, starting with a “Central Park” carriage ride (complete with Toronto garbage can)…

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…going all around “New York,” seeing landmarks like Roy Thomson Hall.

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And it’s set to Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” so there’s your bona fide Canadian content.

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A more recent film is How to Build a Better Boy, which is about as good as it sounds. Yeah, there are these teens and they use a computer to design a fake boyfriend but then he’s created for real but he’s actually some government project gone awry, yada yada yada.

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As you can totally obviously see from this shot, we’re totally definitely in Washington, D.C.

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Except that in other views of the football field…

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…we can see it’s actually North Toronto C.I.

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It’s where they filmed the interiors, too.

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When there’s a big football game at the end of the movie (because of course there is!)…

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…it’s actually at McMaster University’s Ron Joyce Stadium.

You may note with some amusement that the fictional high school is called “McMaster,” allegedly because they just liked the school’s existing logo (but not the “Marauders” name) so much. Not—let’s be clear here—not because it was cheaper to use what was already there.

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The heroine’s house is actually not too far from the high school…

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…on Chestnut Park.

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There’s a big scene at this park, which is probably supposed to be Central Park…

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…but this fountain shows…

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…we’re actually in St. James Park.

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As we pan down from this secret government lab…

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…we see it’s really U of T’s Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, and beside it the Rosebrugh Building.

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Of course a movie like this has to end with a prom…

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…which gets invaded by the army. You can see it’s actually at the Liberty Grand, down at Exhibition Place.

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Finally, it’s worth briefly mentioning that High School Musical‘s outdoorsy cousin, Camp Rock was also shot up here…

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…mostly outside the city (natch) at Haliburton’s Camp Wanakita and…

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Camp Kilcoo, in Minden.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Hey, I’m young and cool and don’t have to worry about this corporate tweener entertainment.” But make no mistake: it’s out there and it’s waiting and it may be shooting more footage. Right now. In your hometown.