Disney Channel has been very fortunate that its stable of clean-cut, well-behaved tween and teen actors haven’t scandalized the great Walt Disney brand … but that could change very quickly.
Representatives of High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens confirmed Friday that a nude photo circulating on the Internet of the 18-year old singer/actress is indeed authentic, according to the Associated Press. The “private” photo of Hudgens – the love interest of budding teen actor Zac Efron in both High School Musical movies and apparently in real life, threatens to undercut the child-friendly image the Disney Channel has built around its phenomenally successful High School Musical franchise, and indeed all of its content brands.
The Aug. 17 premiere of High School Musical 2 generated a cable record 17.2 million viewers and drew an incredible four out of five 6-11 year old girls watching television that night. In fact it’s been the 9-to14 year old tween audience and their trusting parents that have led Disney to an incredible summer ratings run, with the network capturing or sharing the prime time household ratings crown the last seven weeks.
Disney has yet to comment on the matter, but certainly we’re not talking about something as devastatingly lewd as a Paris Hilton sex tape here. Time will tell whether the network will have to go to great lengths to reassure parents that the clean-cut, controversy-free images of its child stars are indeed authentic and not contrived for television sake.