Sky High (2005 film)

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Sky High
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMike Mitchell
Written by
Produced byAndrew Gunn
CinematographyShelly Johnson
Edited byPeter Amundson
Music byMichael Giacchino
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
  • July 29, 2005 (2005-07-29)[1]
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$35 million[2]
Box office$86.4 million[3]

Sky High is a 2005 American superhero comedy film directed by Mike Mitchell and written by Paul Hernandez and Kim Possible creators Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle. The film stars Kelly Preston, Michael Angarano, Danielle Panabaker, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Kurt Russell. It follows Will Stronghold (Angarano), the son of two superheroes who is enrolled in an airborne high school for teenage superheroes where his powers kick in; he must deal with a growing distance from his old friends, a threat from a mysterious supervillain and get the girl of his dreams.

The film was theatrically released by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution on July 29, 2005, and grossed $86.4 million worldwide against a production budget of $35 million.[3] While it did receive generally positive reviews from critics and audiences during its original theatrical run, in the years since its release, its reputation has improved considerably, to the point of being regarded by some as a cult film.


Teenager Will Stronghold lives with his superhero parents, Steve Stronghold / The Commander and Josie DeMarco-Stronghold / Jetstream, in Maxville. Will is anxious about attending his parents' alma mater, Sky High, a school located on a floating campus that can only be reached by a flying school bus, because he secretly has not developed any superpowers. On their first day, he, his botanokinetic best friend Layla Williams, and the other freshmen are harassed by seniors Speed, Lash, and Penny Lent. Additionally, Will is assigned to the "Hero Support" curriculum and becomes a sidekick due to his lack of powers, though Layla joins him in protest of the school's two-track education system.

Unaware of what happened to his son, Steve shows Will his hidden trophy room, the Secret Sanctum. In particular, he expresses fondness for the "Pacifier", a weapon he took from his presumed dead arch-nemesis Royal Pain 16 years earlier, unaware they are being watched via a camera hidden in a separate trophy. Though he befriends his fellow sidekicks, Will comes into conflict with pyrokinetic student Warren Peace, whose supervillain father was imprisoned by Steve. In the ensuing fight, Will develops his father's super-strength, causing popular technopath Gwen Grayson to become infatuated with him. Upon being transferred to the Hero curriculum, Will spends more time with Gwen and her friends, ignoring Layla and the sidekicks. Layla later confides in Warren that she has a crush on Will. On the day before the school's Homecoming dance, Gwen tricks Will into throwing a party at his house and has Speed secretly steal the Pacifier. Layla tries investigating the party, but falls for Gwen's lies. Will later breaks up with Gwen and refuses to attend the dance despite his parents being invited as honored guests. While looking through his father's yearbook, Will discovers a student who resembles Gwen named Sue Tenny. Deducing Tenny became Royal Pain and assuming Gwen is her daughter, he heads to Sky High to stop her with help from bus driver, Ron Wilson.

At the dance, Gwen reveals herself as Royal Pain. With Speed, Lash, and Penny's aid, she captures and de-ages the attendees into infants in revenge for Sky High making her a sidekick because of her powers being unknown when she attended as Tenny. After reconciling with Layla, Will teams up with her, Warren, and the other sidekicks to rescue the captives and defeat Gwen's allies, during which Will develops Josie's flight power. Though Gwen sabotages the school's anti-gravity drive, the sidekicks successfully restart it and Will returns the school to the sky.

With Sky High saved, Gwen and her allies are given detention while her captives are restored to their proper ages and Will and Layla enter a relationship.


  • Michael Angarano as William "Will" Theodore Stronghold - A freshman at Sky High and the son of famous superheroes and Maxville real estate agents, the Commander and Jetstream, who inherited his father's super-strength and his mother's ability to fly, though they are initially dormant and gradually manifest over the course of the film.
  • Kurt Russell as Steve Stronghold / The Commander - Will's father who is reputed as one of the world's strongest superheroes, possessing superhuman strength and invulnerability, and a successful businessman in his secret identity.
  • Kelly Preston as Josie DeMarco-Stronghold / Jetstream - Will's mother and a successful real estate agent who possesses the ability to fly at supersonic speeds and is an expert hand-to-hand combatant.
  • Danielle Panabaker as Layla Williams - Will's botanokinetic, pacifistic, childhood best friend, next-door neighbor, and later girlfriend.
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Gwendolyn "Gwen" Grayson / Royal Pain / Susan "Sue" Tenny - A technopathic senior at Sky High whom Will, along with everyone else, falls in love with. Winstead said of her role, "I bounced around. I was either the hero of the sidekicks or the sidekick to the heroes."[4] Years prior, when she attended Sky High as Tenny, no one understood her powers and she was assigned to the sidekick curriculum, which eventually put her on the path to becoming a supervillain and the Commander's arch-nemesis until an accident with her "Pacifier" de-aged her during one of their battles.
  • Steven Strait as Warren Peace - The pyrokinetic son of supervillain Baron Battle, who is in jail with four life sentences, and an unnamed superhero mother.
  • Dee Jay Daniels as Ethan Bank / Popsicle - A sidekick and one of Will's friends who can melt into fluid.
  • Kelly Vitz as Magenta "Maj" Lewis - A sidekick and one of Will's friends who can shapeshift into a guinea pig with purple highlights and streaks in her fur similar to those in her human hair.
  • Nicholas Braun as Zachary "Zach" Braun / Zack Attack - A sidekick and Will's childhood friend who can glow in the dark.
  • Malika Haqq and Khadijah Haqq as Penny Lent - A senior at Sky High and Gwen's athletic best friend who can duplicate herself.
  • Jake Sandvig as Lash - A skinny bully and senior at Sky High who has complete body elasticity.
  • Will Harris as Speed - An overweight bully and senior at Sky High who can move at superhuman speeds.
  • Lynda Carter as Principal Powers - The principal of Sky High who can transform into a comet-like form.
  • Bruce Campbell as Tommy Boomowski / Coach Boomer / Sonic Boom - Sky High's gym teacher who can release sonic waves from his vocal cords.
  • Kevin Heffernan as Ron Wilson - Sky High's kind-hearted bus driver and the son of two superheroes.
  • Cloris Leachman as Nurse Spex - Sky High's elderly and eccentric yet kind school nurse who possesses x-ray vision.
  • Jim Rash as Mr. Grayson / Stitches - Royal Pain's cackling sidekick who raised her as his daughter after she was turned into a baby by the Pacifier.
  • Dave Foley as Mr. Jonathan Boy / All-American Boy - The Commander's former sidekick who works as a Hero Support teacher at Sky High.
  • Kevin McDonald as Professor Medulla - Sky High's Mad Science teacher who possesses an oversized brain, which grants advanced intelligence, creativity, and a multitude of genius-level skills.
  • Loren Berman as "Big" Larry - A socially awkward student who can turn into a giant, muscular golem at will.
  • Dustin Ingram as Carbon Copy Kid - A student with shapeshifting powers.
  • Nicole Malgarini as Freeze Girl - A student with cryokinetic powers.

Additionally, Tom Kenny and Jill Talley make cameo appearances as Mr. and Mrs. Chester Timmerman, a couple who witnesses Will prevent Sky High from destroying their new home.


Oviatt Library at CSU Northridge

Exterior shots of the Sky High school were filmed at the Oviatt Library[5] at California State University in Northridge in late 2004.[6]

In between working on the first and second seasons of the animated series Kim Possible, creators Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle had begun writing a script for a live-action adaptation, which ultimately never came to fruition.[7] Impressed with their work, the filmmakers asked them to look into re-writing the script for Sky High, which had been previously shelved.[7] McCorkle believes they were recruited for Sky High because "they liked the idea of a superhero high school. I think, reading how we wrote teens in Kim Possible, they felt like, 'This feels good and contemporary, and maybe you can apply that to this project for us.'[7] Similar to Kim Possible, Schooley and McCorkle wrote Sky High to be equally appealing to both children and adults.[7] According to, Disney was attracted by the "original concept" of "children of superheroes going to high school", originally conceived by screenwriter Paul Hernandez in the 1990s.[8]

After recruiting Schooley and McCorkle to update Hernandez's script (they only wrote the beginning and ending sequences) Disney hired several comedians such as Kevin McDonald, Dave Foley, and Kevin Heffernan for supporting roles.[8] For the main roles, the casting was a mix of established and new teenage actors: while Michael Angarano and Mary Elizabeth Winstead were already successful, Danielle Panabaker was little-known and former model Steven Strait was hired after his first audition ever.[8]

Director Mike Mitchell said that Sky High functions on two premises: "the adults are all insane" and "the girls are smarter than the boys":[9] the adults portrayed in the film tend to be caricatured, while the teenage girls are written as more assertive and powerful than the boys. The film also employed extensive usage of Dutch angles. For the treatment of the teenage actors, Mitchell also stated that the actors all had their own trailers and were generally kept separated, because "we did not want them to date after the second week and break up after the fourth", which would have made filming difficult.[9]

Mitchell, a science fiction fan, admitted that this project "was a dream", because it brought him together with four of his favorite SF cult heroes: Wonder Woman actress Lynda Carter), Snake Plissken actor Kurt Russell, Ash Williams actor Bruce Campbell, and Cloris Leachman, who earned fame as Frau Blücher in Young Frankenstein.[8]


Sky High (Original Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
ReleasedJuly 26, 2005
LabelHollywood Records
Singles from Sky High (Original Soundtrack)
  1. "I Melt with You"
    Released: 2005
Professional ratings
Review scores

The soundtrack album for the film was released by Hollywood Records on July 26, 2005, and is composed of covers of songs from the 1980s (with the exception of "Just What I Needed", which was from 1978). While none of the film's score, composed by Michael Giacchino, was included on the album, a limited edition of his score was released by Intrada Records in 2017.[11]

Track listing
  1. "I Melt with You" – Bowling for Soup (Originally by: Modern English) - 4:03
  2. "Through Being Cool" – They Might Be Giants (Originally by: Devo) - 3:17
  3. "Save It for Later" – Flashlight Brown (Originally by: The Beat) - 2:49
  4. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" – Christian Burns (Originally by: Tears for Fears) - 4:28
  5. "One Thing Leads to Another" – Steven Strait (Originally by: The Fixx) - 3:10
  6. "Lies" – The Click Five (Originally by: Thompson Twins) - 2:58
  7. "Voices Carry" – Vitamin C (Originally by: 'Til Tuesday) - 4:16
  8. "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" – Elefant (Originally by: The Smiths) - 2:53
  9. "True" – Cary Brothers (Originally by: Spandau Ballet) - 5:11
  10. "Just What I Needed" – Caleigh Peters (Originally by: The Cars) - 3:38
  11. "Can't Stop the World" – Ginger Sling (Originally by: The Go-Go's) - 3:25
  12. "And She Was" – Keaton Simons (Originally by: Talking Heads) - 3:49
  13. "Twist and Crawl" – Skindred (Originally by: The Beat) - 2:31


AllMusic rated the album 2.5/5, saying that it "stumbles more than it succeeds" and is "painfully conventional."[10]


Box office[edit]

On an estimated budget of US$35 million,[2] the film grossed just under $64 million in the US, and another $22 million internationally, bringing the total to $86 million.[3]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 73% based on reviews from 131 critics, with an average rating of 6.5/10. The site's critical consensus states: "This highly derivative superhero coming-of-age flick is moderately entertaining, family-friendly fluff."[12] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 62 based on reviews from 29 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[13] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade A− on a scale of A+ to F.[14]

Joe Leydon of Variety magazine praised the film calling it: "Smartly written and sprightly played, Sky High satisfies with a clever commingling of spoofy superheroics, school-daze hijinks" and "this lively live-action Disney release stands on its own merits as a tongue-in-cheek fantasy with cross-generational appeal."[15] Neil Smith at wrote: "While originality is hardly the film's strongest suit, its agreeable mix of knowing spoof and kid-pleasing fantasy makes it considerably more engaging than some of the 'straight' superhero blockbusters we've suffered recently."[16]

Over the years, Sky High has both been received more favorably and has also maintained a solid cult fanbase; particularly due to its lighthearted homage of normal superhero tropes. [17] Mark Harrison, writer for Den of Geek, summarized, “With a cast made up of bright young things and cult favourites and a script that goes post-modern without ever getting arch or snarky, Sky High is a real gem from Disney’s live action catalogue. It borrows from JK Rowling, John Hughes, Joss Whedon and any number of comic books and yet still stands on its own. Next to the current superhero boom, it was so ahead of its time that a decade later, it seems sharper and funnier than ever.” [18]

Cancelled sequel and TV series[edit]

In November 2016, Disney announced a sequel to Sky High was in early development stages.[19] In January 2019, Sky High director Mike Mitchell revealed earlier plans to make a franchise, but due to the film's box-office performance, nothing came to be. The sequel would have been titled Save U (Save University) and featured the characters from Sky High graduating from high school and attending college. There were also plans to make a TV series, which the main actors save for Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston had signed on to reprise their roles for,[20] but there have been no new developments for it as of 2023.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Detail view of Movies Page". Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved December 21, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Sky High (2005)". The Numbers. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Sky High (2005)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on April 10, 2016. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  4. ^ "Sky Kids Have Hero Issues Archived April 21, 2009, at," (22-JULY-05).
  5. ^ "Oviatt Library". Archived from the original on April 18, 2006. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  6. ^ "University Licensing". California State University, Northridge. Archived from the original on November 13, 2007. Retrieved December 21, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d Liu, Ed (February 9, 2007). "Toon Zone Interviews Bob Schooley & Mark McCorkle on Kim Possible Season 4". Anime Superhero News. Archived from the original on May 14, 2019. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d "Kurt Russell and company go back to high school to learn what it means to be super in Sky High". Archived from the original on April 22, 2009. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Sky High DVD extras
  10. ^ a b Sky High at AllMusic
  11. ^ "Sky High". Archived from the original on June 8, 2019. Retrieved June 8, 2019.
  12. ^ "Sky High (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Archived from the original on November 9, 2022. Retrieved October 6, 2021. Edit this at Wikidata
  13. ^ "Sky High". Metacritic. Archived from the original on November 9, 2022. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  14. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  15. ^ Joe Leydon (July 27, 2005). "Sky High". Variety magazine. Archived from the original on July 12, 2019. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  16. ^ Neil Smith (September 18, 2005). "BBC - Movies - review - Sky High". BBC. Archived from the original on August 10, 2020. Retrieved December 25, 2019.
  17. ^ Mark Harrison (April 8, 2017). "Sky High: A Superhero Movie Ahead of Its Time". Den of Geek. Archived from the original on December 25, 2022. Retrieved December 25, 2022.
  18. ^ Mark Harrison (April 8, 2017). "Sky High: A Superhero Movie Ahead of Its Time". Den of Geek. Archived from the original on December 25, 2022. Retrieved December 25, 2022.
  19. ^ Heath, Paul (October 17, 2016). "Exclusive: Story writer revealed for Dreamworks' 'Shrek 5' – 'Sky High 2' coming?". The Hollywood News. Archived from the original on October 19, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  20. ^ Lussier, Germain (January 25, 2019). "The Unrealized Sky High Sequel Could Have Been Called Save University". io9. Archived from the original on January 26, 2019. Retrieved January 26, 2019.

External links[edit]