Disney Channel’s Freaky Friday movie celebrated with a red carpet film premiere July 30. You may have seen Freaky Friday before, but never like this – the new movie is also a musical!
Marlowe Percival (AKA Sarah Willey) and Jag Arneja will star in the new version of Freaky Friday.
Directed by Steve Carr, the music-driven contemporary body-swap comedy also stars Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Heidi Blickenstaff, as well as Ricky He, Alex Desert, Jason Maybaum, Kahyun Kim, Dara Renee, Jennifer Laporte and Isaiah Lehtinen.
There are no surprises when it comes to “Freaky Friday”. The message behind the plot is fairly straightforward: mother and daughter constantly butt heads before literally walking a day in each other’s shoes and come to understand and appreciate one another in a way they’ve never done so before.
It’s a well-loved story, with its roots in a 1972 children’s book of the same name before being adapted into a film by Disney in 1976 starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster. Since then, it’s been remade by Disney as a TV movie in 1995, a feature film in 2003 with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan, and a stage musical in 2016.
The latest remake – a TV movie for the Disney Channel scheduled to air August 10 – is based closely off of the musical, which was developed two years ago by Disney Theatrical Productions and debuted in Virginia before moving to the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego in 2017. It even shares a lead in Broadway star Heidi Blickenstaff, who reprises her role as Katherine, Ellie’s perfectionist mother who’s in the midst of planning her own wedding. Ellie (played by Cozi Zuehlsdorff), in the meantime, is obsessed with participating in an upcoming all-night scavenger hunt, which is set to take place the same night as her mother’s rehearsal dinner.
“Freaky Friday” is timeless, and this new adaptation is a chance for Disney to tell that story with its new efforts in mind to accurately represent and reflect today’s youth.
Seeing it on the stage and seeing our demo – the 10-year-old kids in the audience – and how they reacted and feeling it in a theater, we [Disney Channel executives] walked out of it saying ‘We have to make this work as a movie,’” Adam Bonnett, executive vice president of original programming for Disney Channel, said.
Bonnett added that at the heart of every Disney Channel production – whether it’s a remake or an original – is the core belief that children and young adults want shows that are emotionally honest to experiences they can relate to. And in productions where songs and lyrics can convey emotions in a more obvious and direct way, adapting the “Freaky Friday” stage musical was a no-brainer for Disney.
“When I talk about the honesty of ‘Freaky Friday,’ there’s a little more of it in the stage musical because it was created and produced for a very broad audience – not just for kids, but adults as well,” Bonnett said. “I think that’s one of the things audiences walk away from our movie is really feeling that we tackle things that we may have been afraid to tackle in the past, but because of the way you dealt with it, it felt real and appropriate.”
In this new “Freaky Friday” adaptation, the musical stays true to the fun and energetic moods created in the past by original productions like “High School Musical” (in one scene, students in biology class perform a dance number while wielding iPads), but the film really hits an emotional crescendo during a song about the pain and hurt behind why parents lie to their kids.
It’s a moment, Bonnett said, that shows how carefully Disney Channel has always paid attention to it’s viewers.
“Kids today want to taste a lot of different flavors. They want a full course meal that isn’t just meat and potatoes, but has different flavors and different colors. You’re underestimating the audience if you just want to give them one thing,” he said. “We’re working hard to give them a diversity of content. I think kids really need to look at a show and say ‘That’s me up there! I’m about to go through that’ and to really see themselves in characters is so important.”
The film will premiere August 10 on Disney Channel.
Jag Arneja as teacher Señor O’Brien:
Freaky Friday | Disney Channel:
From Broadway to Hollywood, ‘Freaky Friday‘ returns to The Disney Channel:
Marlowe Percival Talks Diversity On Set At Disney Channel’s “Freaky Friday” Premiere (@marlowepercival):