The High School Musical franchise will return to its television roots for its fourth outing, it has been announced.

High School Musical 4 will feature an entirely new cast of characters and debut on the Disney Channel in 2010, after the first two films in the series found phenomenal success on the children's station.

The all-singing, all-dancing films, starring Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, became a runaway success for the Disney Channel, spawning a lucrative merchandising and spin-off tour industry and breaking the basic cable ratings record in 2007, with 18.6 million viewers watched the High School Musical 2 story.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year became the first of the films to open in cinemas and has grossed $250 million (£178 million) since its October 2008 release.

And eager to introduce a new generation of East High characters, Disney has signed up Peter Barsocchini - who wrote the first three films - to return as screenwriter and Bill Borden and Barry Rosenbush as executive producers for the fourth film.

It has not been confirmed whether director Kenny Ortega will return while an appearance from Efron, Hudgens or their former cast-mates is unlikely, as their characters graduated high school at the end of the third movie.

However, a number of new characters were introduced in High School Musical 3: Senior Year and they - including English actress Jemma Mackenzie-Brown -are likely to feature in a planned storyline about a rivalry between East High students and their West High rivals.

04/03/2009 09:34:58