Carla Jeffery, Milo Manheim, Kylee Russell, Meg Donnelly in 'Zombies 2.' Photo credit: Disney Channel/John Medland.
In 2018, Disney Channel delivered a sensation with its Original Movie, Zombies. The film was such a success for the network that they ordered up a sequel to continue the story of zombies, cheerleaders and the town of Seabrook. This time around, the storyline adds werewolves to the mix, too.
Choreographer Jennifer Weber was brought in to deliver her fresh take on the movement for the second film. She's been praised for her interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s music with The Hip Hop Nutcracker, and her recent West End debut with & Juliet, featuring the music of hit songwriter, Max Martin.
For Weber, it was important to honor the work that was done in the original movie by Jeffrey Hornaday and Christopher Scott, but still, put her spin on the characters.
"I watched the original, obviously, and then I created the work," she explained to Dance Network. "The vocabulary of each group was something I wanted to investigate in my own way with my own interpretation. I watched it and then I let it all go."
Ariel Martin, Pearce Joza and Chandler Kinney in 'Zombies 2.' Photo credit: Disney Channel/John Medland.
Zombies 2 was Weber's first foray into choreographing on a scripted TV movie, so the production offered her a huge amount of growth as a choreographer.
"This was my first time really doing work for the camera in this way. When you're working with different locations, different types of cameras and different types of lenses, there is a lot to consider," Weber said. "It opens up a lot of new possibilities with what you can create visually, how you can create energy and how you can create narrative because the camera's really driving so much of that."
Focusing on the narrative was a key component for director Paul Hoen, who created a collaborative environment for Weber and the rest of the cast and crew.
"Film is a super collaborative art form, it doesn't really work if everyone's not telling the same story," she shared. "Early on, we were talking about different scenes and we were sending each other videos and images back and forth over text. We had a huge text dialogue to figure out how we wanted to tackle different moments within the film. The world of zombies exists in the world of fantasy, and there was so much possibility to create full worlds."
Fans of Zombies can expect nine original musical numbers in the sequel with returning cast members, Meg Donnelly, Milo Manheim and Emilia McCarthy. Manheim even brought a few of his Season 27 Dancing with the Stars moves with him.
"Milo has range. He's a great dancer. It was fun creating all the moves with him, but there were definitely some Dancing with the Stars-type moments, but they happened mostly in-between takes," Weber laughed. "There are great clips with the dancers racking up some proper ballroom."
The dances range from smaller numbers with the wolf pack, which had 12 dancers, to some of the bigger numbers which featured up to 60 dancers, including the zombies and the cheerleaders. The one scene Weber is really excited for viewers to see is a debate scene between Zed (Manheim) and Bucky (Trevor Tordjman).
"On the page, you wouldn't necessarily think this is going to be a really big dance number. When I read it, I had this idea that there could be all this choreography with the students listening to the debate in the bleachers," Weber described. “It wouldn't just be Zed and Bucky, but it would involve the whole school. I think this is the moment I was super proud of because it was my idea to make it into this big dance number. It could have been something small, and I saw it all come together. It was such a magical moment to see that come to life."
Jennifer Weber at the 'Zombies 2' premiere. Photo courtesy of LSG Public Relations.
Working on Zombies 2 whet Weber's appetite for directing her own scripted show, just like she's done on the stage throughout her career.
"I think my dream is to create my own show. I really want to develop something where it's the exact story that I want to tell," Weber said. "So now that I see the potential power of this medium, I really want to create my own stories in the same way that I do for stage."
Zombies 2 premieres Feb. 14 on Disney Channel.
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