High School Musical star Zac Efron has admitted he never expected the Disney franchise to become such a phenomenon.

Having begun life as a television movie for the Disney Channel, the high school saga has become a massive global brand, spawning two sequels, sold-out concert tours, enduringly popular merchandise and thousands of school productions.

And speaking ahead of the release of the third film - the first to be released in cinemas - leading man Zac Efron admitted the worldwide popularity of the franchise has taken everyone involved by surprise.

"The first time we realised what High School Musical had become was on the first international press tour," he told a London press conference on Wednesday.

"We went all through Europe and were meeting so many fans, kids who were very excited to tell us how much High School Musical had influenced their lives and how much they had connected with it. That was something none of us expected."

Efron was appearing alongside director Kenny Ortega and fellow cast members Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu and British newcomer Georgina Mackenzie-Brown at the press conference, following the UK premiere of High School Musical 3: Senior Year earlier this week.

Though Efron and Hudgens are a couple off screen as well as in the High School Musical franchise, both remained very cagey when one reporter joked about practising kissing scenes, only commenting on the scenes' relation to the films.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year is released on October 22nd.

09/10/2008 02:02:01