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Kenny Ortega

Kenny Ortega

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Also Known As: Ken Ortega, Kenneth Ortega Died:
Born: April 18, 1950 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Palo Alto, California, USA Profession: choreographer, producer, director, actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

ted for the first time on Jackson's "Dangerous" World Tour in 1992, a year-and-a-half, 69-city undertaking. The "Dangerous" show even closed with the illusion of Jackson (actually a secretly swapped stunt-double) appearing to fly out of the stadium on a rocket-belt. Ortega's longtime bread-and-butter business of live shows reached a new peak in 1996: in January he produced the extravagant 30th anniversary halftime show of the Super Bowl XXX in Tempe, AZ, with Diana Ross performing as the anchor of a pyrotechnic extravaganza. He reunited with Jackson to design his garish "HIStory" World Tour that summer, which would draw 4.5 million attendees in its 82-city circuit. To top off the year, he choreographed the opening ceremony of the centennial Olympiad in Atlanta, GA.Ortega continued to pad his directorial resume with TV work - sometimes with one-off dual director-choreographer jobs on TV series' stunt musical episodes - such as on "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000), "Ally McBeal" (Fox, 1997-2002) and "Grounded for Life" (Fox/WB, 2001-05), for which he would earn an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Choreography" in 2001. "Gilmore Girls" (The WB/The CW, 2000-07) became a frequent haunt, with Ortega directing...

ted for the first time on Jackson's "Dangerous" World Tour in 1992, a year-and-a-half, 69-city undertaking. The "Dangerous" show even closed with the illusion of Jackson (actually a secretly swapped stunt-double) appearing to fly out of the stadium on a rocket-belt. Ortega's longtime bread-and-butter business of live shows reached a new peak in 1996: in January he produced the extravagant 30th anniversary halftime show of the Super Bowl XXX in Tempe, AZ, with Diana Ross performing as the anchor of a pyrotechnic extravaganza. He reunited with Jackson to design his garish "HIStory" World Tour that summer, which would draw 4.5 million attendees in its 82-city circuit. To top off the year, he choreographed the opening ceremony of the centennial Olympiad in Atlanta, GA.

Ortega continued to pad his directorial resume with TV work - sometimes with one-off dual director-choreographer jobs on TV series' stunt musical episodes - such as on "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000), "Ally McBeal" (Fox, 1997-2002) and "Grounded for Life" (Fox/WB, 2001-05), for which he would earn an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Choreography" in 2001. "Gilmore Girls" (The WB/The CW, 2000-07) became a frequent haunt, with Ortega directing some 12 episodes. In 2002, he returned to the Olympic stage and to the Emmy Awards, earning three nominations for his stewardship of the XIX Winter Olympic Games' opening and closing ceremonies broadcast in Salt Lake City, UT, and winning for Outstanding Directing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program and Outstanding Choreography. A few years later, with his stage and TV work keeping him busy, Ortega nevertheless wanted to take another shot at directing long-form storytelling and told his agent to find him a movie project, however meager, just to prove he could still work within that format. What emerged from that search brought Ortega back to Disney, but proved to be anything but a one-off project.

"High School Musical" (Disney Channel, 2006) was a fairly formulaic story about a mismatched pair of high schoolers, including a basketball star and a science nerd, who discover their mutual affinity for song and wind up trying out for their high school musical in the face derision from various cliques more concerned about what's cool. Of course, as can only be done in musicals, the students navigate each plot-point via spontaneous song-and-dance numbers. With Ortega choreographing as well as directing the TV movie - and having burgeoning heartthrob Zac Efron in the lead did not hurt matters - "HSM" became a phenomenon among young female viewers, drawing a huge audience for cable - 7.7 million viewers in the U.S. Besides Efron, it made overnight stars of the cast of attractive, wholesome teens, including Vanessa Hudgens, Monique Coleman and Ashley Tisdale. The DVD release in May 2006 not surprisingly sold 1.2 million copies in its first six days, becoming the biggest selling DVD release of a TV movie in history. "HSM" also won the Emmy that year for Outstanding Children's Program, with Ortega himself taking home his third Emmy for Outstanding Choreography.

Ortega's wild ride at Disney was just beginning. An impressed Disney put him to work on another fluff-packed musical romp, the sequel to its successful "Cheetah Girls" (2003) TV movie; this time showing its fashion-forward (yet-somehow-not) eponymous pack of rich girls cavorting around Barcelona in "Cheetah Girls 2" (Disney Channel, 2006). The film topped even "HSM," drawing from essentially the same audience and premiering to an audience of 8.1 million. "HSM," meanwhile, snowballed to eclipse everything to that point, with Ortega and the cast returning the next year with "High School Musical 2" (Disney Channel, 2007), which drew a stunning 17.2 million viewers its first night. Disney expanded the franchise with big-selling audio CDs, live stage versions of the movies and even an ice show, which Ortega also produced. Ortega re-upped for another installment, and the next year, Disney took its gravy train in a more traditional movie route, releasing "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" (2008) in cineplexes. It raked in $82 million worldwide in the first weekend - the highest gross ever for a movie musical - on the way to a total of $253 million in worldwide ticket sales. He also served as the stage director for the show portions of another Disney preteen-girl-magnet, the theatrically released "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour (2008). In the interim, Ortega continued to expand his footprint with eclectic jobs outside of the Mouse House in such projects like "The Boy from Oz Arena Tour," a homecoming of sorts for the first Australian musical to move to Broadway, famed for being the song-and-dance showcase for Aussie action film star, Hugh Jackman. Ortega even choreographed the "dancing fountains" outside hotelier Steve Wynn's Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, as well as held the title of "artistic director" of the high-tech visual masterpiece "The Lake of Dreams" at Wynn's eponymous Vegas hotel.

In spring 2009, old friend and collaborator Michael Jackson, after years of legal w s and reclusion, gave Ortega the green light on something they had been discussing for two years - Jackson's first tour in more than 10 years. The two worked closely on both the stage show itself and the 3-D films Jackson envisioned playing behind him during dance numbers. On June 25, they was two weeks away from the London launch of the "This Is It" comeback tour, awaiting Jackson to show up for rehearsal at L.A.'s Staples Center when Ortega received the phone call telling him of Jackson's sudden death. After much drug speculation, Ortega told The Los Angeles Times on July 27, that he was unaware of any drug issues with Jackson and did not think the star's regimen preparing for the show had taken a physical toll, though some fans who had interacted with Jackson claimed he was considerably more gaunt than his usual skinny self. It was eventually ruled that he died of an overdose of the anesthetic Propofol, on top of a cocktail of drugs administered by one of his doctors, paid for by the concert promoters and Ortega's boss, tour promoter AEG. A grief-stricken Ortega would pay his respects by directing a universal feed of Jackson's star-studded, music-packed memorial service at the Staples Center which was picked up live by a number of broadcast and cable networks and watched by 31 million people in the U.S. alone.

Realizing that though the show could not possibly, "go on" in the traditional sense, AEG, with the Jackson family's consent, took stock of what was left behind - over 100 hours of rehearsal footage - and, recognizing the level of grief felt the world over, made an unorthodox decision. Under Ortega's direction, footage of the "This Is It" tour rehearsals was cut into a film of the same name, showing Jackson and the other performers recreating his classic video dance productions such as "Thriller" and "Beat It," as well as offering a the public a rarely scene private side of the King of Pop. Even before its release, the film stirred controversy, with a consortium of Jackson fans starting a website called www.this-is-not-it.com, alleging that AEG and others around Jackson ignored warning signs of his illness and drug abuse in order to profit off him. The site further avowed the movie selectively excluded corroborative footage, including Ortega "having to help Michael Jackson up the stairs and having to feed him and cut his food." Released on a Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009, the slapped together film nevertheless earned decent critical reviews and a box-office-topping $32.5 million through its first weekend domestically; another $68.5 million in overseas markets. Within a matter of days, the film altogether earned over $100 million for a $60 investment paid by Sony to AEG.kinship in their predilections for pushing the envelope in terms of the visual spectacle of live entertainment. They collabora

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

2.
  Descendants (2015)
3.
4.
8.
  Hocus Pocus (1993) Director
9.
  Newsies (1992) Director
10.
  Salsa (1988) 2nd Unit Director (2nd Unit)

CAST: (feature film)

3.
 And God Created Woman (1988) Mike
4.
 Salsa (1988) Himself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Began working as an actor in local repertory theater at age 13
:
While in high school was a member of the Hyatt Music Theatre in Burlingame, CA and the Circle Star Theatre in San Carlos, CA
1969:
Landed the role of George Berger in San Francisco company of "Hair"
:
Appeared in the American Conservatory Theatre production of "The Last Sweet Days of Isaac"
:
Played George Berger for three years in the national touring company of "Hair"
:
Began working with rock group The Tubes; staged and performed with The Tubes for five world tours
:
Choreographed TV special for "Cher"
1979:
Assisted choreographer Toni Basil on first feature film, "The Rose"
1980:
Debut as film co-choreographer, "Xanadu"
1986:
First film as 2nd unit director (also choreographer), "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"
1988:
Screen acting debut in "And God Created Woman" (also choreography consultant)
1988:
First film credit as song performer (also 2nd unit director and choregrapher), "Salsa"
1988:
TV directing debut on "Dirty Dancing" series (also choreographer)
1990:
Directed pilot and several episodes of NBC series, "Hull High" (also co-executive produced and choreographed)
1992:
Feature film directing debut with "Newsies"
1998:
Directed episodes of the CBS medical drama, "Chicago Hope"
2001:
Directed episodes of the FOX series, "Ally McBeal"
2002:
Directed the "XIX Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony"
2002:
Directed several episodes of the WB series, "Gilmore Girls"
2006:
Directed the Disney Channel TV-movie, "High School Musical"
2007:
Helmed the Disney TV-movie, "High School Musical 2"
2008:
Directed the third and final Disney channel TV-movie "High School Musical 3: Senior Year"
2009:
Directed "Michael Jackson: This Is It," compiled from an estimated 80 hours of rehearsal and behind-the-scenes footage of his never seen concert
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Education

Sequoia High School: Redwood City , California - 1964 - 1968
Canada College: Redwood City , California - 1968
Canada College: Redwood City , California - 1968

Notes

Ortega pioneered in choreographing music videos and worked on projects featuring such stars as Rod Stewart ("Young Turks", "Love Touch") Fleetwood Mac ("Gypsy"), Billy Joel ("Allentown"), and the Pointer Sisters ("I'm So Excited"). He also directed several of Cher's videos.

Ortega received a NARAS Award and an MTV Award for the video "Material Girl", starring Madonna.

He was awarded MTV Best International Video/Latin for his work with Chayanne.

Ortega was given the Golden Eagle Awards for best choregraphy for "Dirty Dancing" and "Salsa".

He received the American Dance Honors Award for choreographing "Dirty Dancing".

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