Ortega in February 2010
Kenneth John Ortega
April 18, 1950
Palo Alto, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Producer, director, choreographer|
Kenneth John Ortega (born April 18, 1950) is an American producer, director and choreographer. He directed the films Newsies (1992), Hocus Pocus (1993), the High School Musical trilogy (2006–2008), Michael Jackson's This Is It (2009) and the Descendants trilogy (2015–2019). Ortega has choreographed films including St. Elmo's Fire (1985), Pretty in Pink (1986), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) and Dirty Dancing (1987). He has also directed multiple concert tours, including tours for Cher, Gloria Estefan and Michael Jackson.
Ortega was born in Palo Alto, California, the son of Madeline, a waitress, and Octavio "Tibby" Ortega, a factory worker. Both of his parents were also born in Palo Alto, though his paternal grandparents were Spanish immigrants. He attended Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California, where he was a cheerleader.
Initially, Ortega came out of the San Francisco Arts scene, working with the Tubes. In 1979, Ortega was contracted to work with KISS on their Dynasty Tour. He became more recognized after working with dancer and choreographer Gene Kelly on the film Xanadu, Ortega went on to choreograph the dance for the Menudo video "Hold Me", as well as the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, and has won awards for choreography in music videos, such as Madonna's "Material Girl". He also worked with The Tubes on their stage shows and directed the video for "She's a Beauty". Ortega also did the choreography for Styx's "Mr. Roboto" video.
Ortega directed Billy Squier's "Rock Me Tonite" video, which is often cited as the worst music promo clip ever made and has been blamed by Squier for killing his career. Together with Michael Jackson, he created and designed the Dangerous World Tour (1992–1993) and the HIStory World Tour (1996–1997). He has also choreographed events ranging from Super Bowl XXX, the 72nd Academy Awards, the 1996 Summer Olympics (Atlanta) and the 2002 Winter Olympics (Salt Lake City).
In May 2009, Ortega began work on the scheduled Michael Jackson 50-date This Is It concerts, which was cancelled subsequent to Jackson's sudden death. He directed the concert film Michael Jackson's This Is It which was put together from rehearsal footage recorded at the Los Angeles Forum and the Staples Center. The film was released on October 28.
Ortega directed the Michael Jackson Public Memorial at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which was broadcast live on several networks on July 7, 2009. It reached a television audience of 31 million in America, and more than 1 billion worldwide and via the internet. At the end of the service, he introduced a rendition of Jackson's 1985 charity single "We Are the World" created for the This Is It concerts, featuring Jackson's backing singers on lead vocals with his dancers performing around them.
He was set to direct the 2011 Footloose remake, but dropped out in October 2009 due to differences with Paramount over the budget and tone of the film. Ortega was also hired to direct a film adaptation of the Broadway musical In the Heights for Universal, but the studio dropped the project in 2011 due to budgetary and casting issues.
Ortega is openly gay, and in a 2014 interview with anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution, he said that "as a gay man having grown up in the 50s and 60s, I have to say, I'm very proud of the industry that I work in," referring to the acceptance of people with different sexual orientations in show business.
Filmography and concerts
|Year||Title||Choreographer||Director||Producer||Rotten Tomatoes||Budget||Box office|
|1980||Xanadu||Yes||No||No||39%||$20 million||US$22.7 million|
|1982||One from the Heart||Yes||No||No||48%||$26 million||$0.6 million|
|1985||St. Elmo's Fire||Yes||No||No||47%||$10 million||$37.8 million|
|1986||Pretty in Pink||Yes||No||No||81%||$9 million||$40.4 million|
|Ferris Bueller's Day Off||Yes||No||No||79%||$6 million||$70.1 million|
|1987||Dirty Dancing||Yes||No||No||72%||$6 million||$213.9 million|
|1988||Salsa||Yes||No||No||50%||$6 million||$8.8 million|
|1989||Shag||Yes||No||No||64%||$5 million||$6.9 million|
|1992||Newsies||Yes||Yes||No||30%||$15 million||$2.8 million|
|1993||Hocus Pocus||Yes||Yes||No||32%||$28 million||$39.5 million|
|1995||To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar||Yes||No||No||42%||N/A||$47.7 million|
|1998||Quest for Camelot||Yes||No||No||36%||$40 million||$22.5 million|
|2008||High School Musical 3: Senior Year||Yes||Yes||Executive||65%||$11 million||$252.9 million|
|2009||Michael Jackson's This Is It||Yes||Yes||Yes||81%||$60 million||$261.1 million|
|2017||A Change of Heart||No||Yes||No||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|1988||Dirty Dancing||No||Yes||No||2 episodes|
|1990||Hull High||Yes||Yes||Executive||2 episodes|
|1996||Second Noah||No||Yes||No||1 episode|
|1998–99||Chicago Hope||No||Yes||No||2 episodes|
|2000||Resurrection Blvd.||No||Yes||No||1 episode|
|2001||Grounded for Life||No||Yes||No||1 episode|
|2001–02||Ally McBeal||No||Yes||No||3 episodes|
|2002–06||Gilmore Girls||No||Yes||No||11 episodes|
|2006||High School Musical||Yes||Yes||No||Television movie (budget: $4.4 million)|
|The Cheetah Girls 2||Yes||Yes||No||Television movie|
|2007||High School Musical 2||Yes||Yes||Yes||Television movie (budget: $7 million)|
|2016||Crazy Ex-Girlfriend||No||Yes||No||1 episode|
|The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again||Yes||Yes||No||Television movie|
|2017||Descendants 2||Yes||Yes||Executive||Television movie|
|2019||Descendants 3||Yes||Yes||Executive||Television movie|
|1989–90||Cher's Heart of Stone Tour||No||Yes|
|1991–92||Gloria Estefan's Into The Light World Tour||Yes||No|
|1992–93||Michael Jackson's Dangerous World Tour||No||Yes|
|1996–97||Gloria Estefan's Evolution World Tour||Yes||No|
|1996–97||Michael Jackson's HIStory World Tour||No||Yes|
|2003||Gloria Estefan's Live & Unwrapped||Yes||Yes|
|2004||Gloria Estefan's Live & Re-Wrapped Tour||Yes||No|
|2006||The Boy from Oz||Yes||Yes||Australian arena tour|
|2006–07||High School Musical: The Concert||No||Yes||Also producer|
|2007–08||Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Tour||Yes||Yes|
|2009–10 (cancelled)||Michael Jackson's This Is It||Yes||Yes|
Awards and nominations
|Year||Association||Category||Work / nominee||Result||Ref.|
|2001||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Choreography||Grounded for Life||Nominated|||
|2002||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Choreography (shared with Doug Jack and Sarah Kawahara)||Opening Ceremony Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games||Won|||
|2006||Directors Guild of America Awards||Outstanding Directing – Children's Programs||High School Musical||Won|||
|Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Choreography (shared with Charles Klapow and Bonnie Story)||High School Musical||Won|||
|Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Special||High School Musical||Nominated|||
|2007||Directors Guild of America Awards||Outstanding Directing – Children's Programs||High School Musical 2||Nominated|||
|Helpmann Awards||Best Choreography in a Musical (shared with Kelley Abbey)||The Boy from Oz||Won|||
|2008||ALMA Award||Outstanding Director of a Made-for-TV Movie||High School Musical 2||Won|||
|Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Choreography (shared with Charles Klapow and Bonnie Story)||High School Musical 2||Nominated|||
|2009||National Association of Latino Independent Producers||Outstanding Achievement Award||Kenny Ortega||Won|||
|Young Artist Award||Jackie Coogan Award – Contribution to Youth||High School Musical||Won|||
|2015||Directors Guild of America Awards||Outstanding Directing – Children's Programs||Descendants||Won|||
- "Kenny Ortega Interview, Michael Jacksons This Is It". moviesonline.ca. Archived from the original on November 1, 2009.
- Hartlaub, Peter (October 19, 2008). "Ortega directs 'High School Musical 3'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
- Hernández, Lee (October 23, 2008). "Kenny Ortega: The man behind every step of 'High School Musical 3'". Daily News. New York.
- "Kenny Ortega: Biography" (PDF). Archived from the original (pdf) on December 18, 2008. Retrieved June 15, 2009.
- "Michael Jackson Gets Ready For Tour". Sky News. May 12, 2009.
- Hinckley, Daivd; Huff, Richard (July 8, 2009). "Michael Jackson's memorial 2nd most-watched funeral ever, after Princess Di, say Nielsen ratings". Daily News. New York.
- Fleming, Michael (October 25, 2009). "Ortega exits Paramount's 'Footloose'". Variety. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- Fleming Jr., Mike (March 28, 2011). "Universal Dropping Musical 'In The Heights'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- Chaney, Jen (August 8, 2011). "'Dirty Dancing' the remake: Should it be pursued or put in a corner forever?". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
- "Kenny Ortega - As a Gay Man". IMDB. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- Rooney, David (August 6, 2006). "The Boy from Oz". Variety. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
- "53rd Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Emmys.com. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- "54th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Emmys.com. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- "59th annual DGA awards". Director's Guild of America. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- "58th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Emmys.com. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- "58th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Emmys.com. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- "60th annual DGA awards". Director's Guild of America. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- "Past nominees and winners, 2007". Helpmann Awards. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
- "ALMA Awards 2012". Alma Awards. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012.
- "60th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Emmys.com. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- Crystal A. Johnson. "LTTS Exclusive: An Interview With High School Musical Director Kenny Ortega". Look to the Stars.
- "30th Annual Young Artist Awards". Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved May 11, 2012.
- "68th annual DGA awards". Director's Guild of America. Retrieved March 6, 2018.