The Power of Fictional Spaces: A Non-Existent Country Club That Changed Summer’s Aesthetic.
An exploration of High School Musical 2’s Lava Springs Country Club and its design. Plus, hot off the press headlines!
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An Exploration of the Brand Design of High School Musical 2’s Lava Springs
It’s 2007. My family and I have finished dinner and we gather in the family room as Disney Channel counts down the minutes to the premiere of the season’s most anticipated release.
After weeks of Disney Channel commercials and dance tutorials with the cast, this appeared on the screen and I squealed a squeal no media has since elicited from me.
I, apparently, was not the only 9 year old immersed in the summer-time world of Kenny Ortega’s High School Musical 2.
“In the U.S., High School Musical 2 generated 17 million viewers in its premiere broadcast, smashing the record of its predecessor by over ten million, while the figure remains the highest the network has ever produced.”
Troy Bolton and the HSM2 crew became the most-watched cable telecast in history, the most watched made-for-cable film of all time, and after just 3 showings on Disney Channel, it garnered an astounding 33.04 million views. Soon after, the film was adapted to the stage and high schools and professional theatre companies alike begin bringing “Fabulous” to auditoriums across America.
Furthermore, the film and its soundtrack scored an American Music Award, People’s Choice Award, Teen Choice Award, Bravo Magazine Award, and a CMA Wild and Young Award.
Sequels, generally, do not hold the power High School Musical 2 held. Everything from the outfits to the “T” Troy necklace appeared in stores targeted towards young teenagers. The clothing, the romance, the music — all shaped culture pre-influencers and social media.
The movie convinced me that having a high school summer job was going to be incredibly glamorous and that any breakup (should I ever break up with a boy) would be done best in the soft blue glow of a poolside at night.
What is most fascinating to me about the film was the creation of the “Lava Springs Country Club,” which, does not actually exist. The directors found the perfect resort with an oasis-in-the-dessert-feel in St. George, Utah and crafted a fake country club to host the high schooler’s summer jobs.
The majority of the film ends up taking place in Lava Springs, which is actually The Inn at Entrada, and I want to explore the creatives responsible for making the fake country club brand that so deeply impacted my 2007-year-old-self.
Let’s start with the logo:
This logo appears consistently on the uniforms of the cast throughout the movie. It’s even on the gate entrance to the club, as seen here.
While there was only one graphic designer credited for the movie, I could not find further information on his work or determine that he was in fact the creator of this logo. It could have been made by another member of the art department, and shockingly, no one has put together research on this ficticious logo before. So I have no leads on the true creator.
What I do know is how to interpret this logo. I think it plays on the southwest aesthetic of the red mountain region setting. The little squiggles are similar to other branding and design found in tourism throughout this dessert/canyon region of the U.S. It reminds me of a tourist shop t-shirt from the Grand Canyon.
My interpretation is green was chosen to represent the polished grass of the country club, and orange to represent the surrounding clay-colored mountain peaks.
I have to address Papyrus used as the font. The controversial typeface has earned media attention after being used as the title design for the blockbuster series “Avatar.” (SNL even poked fun at it with a skit featuring Ryan Gosling). It’s known for being over-used, kinda ugly, and is criticized for being used in high-budget productions since it is just a free font on Microsoft Word.
It’s not incredibly shocking that the earthy-looking type was used to create the Lava Springs brand - and I’m guessing not a lot of money was thrown at the logo as it was not featured in any promotional material for the film, just on set pieces.
Speaking of set pieces…the non-existent country club had to come to life through both realistic luxury furnishings mixed with Disney magic.
In my research, I discovered Mark Hoefling and I am so glad I did. I have found the man “behind the curtain” of the Disney movies that so deeply influenced my childhood. Every Disney Channel movie that you were anxiously counting down the premiere to…this man made the magic!
Mark was responsible for THE pink piano in the pool. Not sure how career-wise you could top that, though working with Nicolas Cage on Con Air is surely something to mention.
I found his portfolio, which includes behind the scenes photos from the set design of Lava Springs.
Everyone only has one childhood — and then they often spend the rest of their lives nostalgic about the media they loved as a kid. Those cartoons, songs, snacks, and characters are precious treasures to get you through adulthood.
Just like my father taught me the REO Speedwagon songs that played during his high school graduation, my children will know the names of Sharpay Evans and Troy Bolton when inevitably begin to show them the Disney Channel classics that made 9 year-old-me squeal with delight.
I’m so thankful for the creatives who invest in creating such believable and thorough environments for kids to take part in — down to the pink piano and papyrus logo.
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