Last week, Sky High turned ten years old. And rewatching this classic superhero movie only made us appreciate it all over again—and now we’re wondering: Why isn’t this a TV show?
This summer, Disney presented the world with another movie version of “children of heroes go to high school together and also save everyone.” It was Descendants and it ... existed. We’re getting a sequel to that, as well as an animated TV series. But there’s no TV show based on Sky High, which seems like a terrible oversight.
After all, Sky High is everything you could want in an action comedy—the jokes know exactly what about superheroes is ridiculous, the plot is solid enough that the jokes don’t have to carry the whole thing, and the cast handles it all decently. Sky High’s protagonist is Will, the son of two superheroes who’s about to go to a high school for the superpowered. Except that, despite his parentage, Will hasn’t shown any powers. His father is super-strong and his mother can fly, but Will’s got nada.
At Sky High, Will ends up in the “Hero Support” track—for sidekicks—along with his best friend Layla, who controls plants. From there, he deals with failing to live up to his father’s expectations, finally getting his powers and becoming popular overnight, and his father’s old adversary stirring up trouble.
Sky High has a lot of layers, which is part of why it would make for a great TV series.
While the movie is largely the story of Will and, to a much lesser extent, Layla, there are a lot of other kids at that school. There’s Warren Peace, the pyrokinetic son of a superhero and a supervillain, who ends up one of Will’s best friends. We only scratch the surface of his family life in the movie, and it’s fertile ground for a series.
There’s also a pack of interesting characters in Will’s sidekick friends: Ethan, who can melt into a liquid; Maj, who can turn into a guinea pig; and Zach, who glows in the dark. The movie gives them each a small moment to shine, but a show could give them a lot more. Plus, a show could develop different reactions to the sidekick/hero divide. Who wants it eradicated? Who’s internalized it? Who doesn’t care? There’s a wealth of possibilities.
I’d also give anything to spend an episode or two seeing things from the teachers’ point of view. Not that the show could necessarily keep most of the original cast from the movie, but the acting power of the teaching staff is strong. Lynda Carter plays Principal Powers, with endless grounds for in-jokes. Bruce Campbell plays Coach Boomer—who’s casually cruel to children, but in a funny way. Dave Foley is Jonathan Boy, who teaches hero support classes. And Kevin McDonald (mini Kids in the Hall reunion!) is Professor Medulla, mad science teacher.
If only there was a way to justify bringing Community’s Jim Rash back as a teacher, rather than as the character he actually played. Then we could have two shows — one about the kids, and one about the teachers.
Even without making up new plots, Sky High has a lot of material already that can be turned into television. One of the biggest plot points is the division between the hero track (the popular kids) and the sidekick track (the weak and nerdy, basically). The resolution of Sky High shows that sidekicks can be every bit as powerful as the heroes and the heroes can very easily let their status make them villains. It’s very neat, but a TV show could really take the allegory to the next level.
After the events of the movie, does the school move to integrate the two? Does it train the former sidekicks better? Is there resistance from parents and alumni? What does Jonathan Boy teach if there is no more sidekick track? Coach Boomer’s going to have trouble adapting, too.
In the movie, Layla is actually extremely powerful. But she’s also a pacifist. There’s another thread that could easily make a whole episode.
And Sky High is already set in a high school. There’s a reason schools work so well in fiction. The target demographic is probably still in school. Their parents probably went to school. The writers, too. There’s a pool of common experience to draw from.
School has also been an easy way to include social messages in stories. Sky High does this by having the heroes be bullies. And by turning the need to please your parents into a story about what happens when your superpowers manifest. And by using the hero/sidekick tracks to exaggerate the way students are divided and divide themselves based on their status at school—while showing just how wrong this is. The rules of high school are just as insane as the rules of superheroing—so it’s a perfect match.
And the movie has a lot of threads that it weaves together nearly perfectly. There’s a revenge scheme, there’s friendship torn apart when one person becomes popular, there’s romance, there’s archenemies becoming best friends, and the aforementioned sidekicks/heroes and parental-approval storylines. There’s a lot packed into one movie. In terms of genre, this film covers family drama, romance, comedy, and action. This means a TV show could go to a lot of different places. You can tell all sorts of stories, and the anchor of the school setting will keep it grounded.
I’ve saved the most superficial point for last: this movie’s type of comedy is so perfect for a TV show. Professor Medulla’s classes have an endless number of mad-science tropes they could lampoon. The students could play “Save the Citizen” in every episode and it wouldn’t get old. In the movie, Mr. Boy literally writes on a chalkboard “Holy (blank), (blank)man” at one point.
And, for all the time we spend at the school, there are also great jokes to be had in the home. For example, Will’s dad has a trophy room full of things from his most famous battles. Episodes that delved into the home life of superhero families could also be great.
In a way, TV is a better format for really spending time with these jokes. There’s something about a joke that is set up in episode five but doesn’t pay off until episode nine that is especially hilarious. There’s also something about a joke that happens every week, without fail, that is oddly satisfying.
Sky High feels practically made to have a spinoff TV show. So it’s shocking that, ten years later and in the middle of studios turning every superhero property possible into a giant franchise, we’re still yearning for more Sky High. What gives, Disney?
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