19 Facts About Kenny Ortega


Kenny Ortega is known for directing the films Newsies, Hocus Pocus, The Cheetah Girls 2, High School Musical, Michael Jackson's This Is It, Descendants, and Julie and the Phantoms.


Kenny Ortega choreographed the films St Elmo's Fire, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Dirty Dancing; and directed multiple concert tours for Cher, Gloria Estefan, Miley Cyrus, and Michael Jackson.


Kenny Ortega was born in Palo Alto, California, the son of Madeline, a waitress, and Octavio "Tibby" Kenny Ortega, a factory worker.


Kenny Ortega attended Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California, where he was a cheerleader and in the drama group.


Kenny Ortega was offered the leading role in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, but turned the offer down to become a choreographer for the San Francisco-based band The Tubes after being spotted on the dance floor in a club by members of the band.


Kenny Ortega toured with the band for ten years, before being contracted by Cher to choreograph a TV special and tour and by KISS on their Dynasty Tour.


In 1980, Kenny Ortega was hired as one of the choreographers on the film Xanadu, working with Gene Kelly who mentored him into choreographing for film.


Kenny Ortega made his directorial debut in 1992 with the Disney musical Newsies, which was followed up by Hocus Pocus in 1993.


In 2006, Kenny Ortega directed and choreographed two Disney Channel Original Movies, High School Musical and The Cheetah Girls 2.


In May 2009, Kenny Ortega began work directing and choreographing the scheduled 50-date Michael Jackson This Is It concert residency at The O2 Arena, billed as Jackson's final concerts in London.


Kenny Ortega would serve as the director of the Michael Jackson Public Memorial at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which was broadcast live on several networks on July 7,2009, reaching a television audience of 31 million in America and more than one billion worldwide.


Kenny Ortega directed the concert film Michael Jackson's This Is It, which was put together from rehearsal footage recorded at the Los Angeles Forum and the Staples Center.


Kenny Ortega was set to direct the 2011 Footloose remake, but dropped out in October 2009 due to differences with Paramount over the budget and tone of the film.


Kenny Ortega was hired to direct a film adaptation of the Broadway musical In the Heights for Universal, but the studio dropped the project in 2011 due to budgetary and casting issues.


On May 12,2014, Kenny Ortega guest-judged on the 18th season of Dancing with the Stars during the semifinals.


In 2015, Kenny Ortega directed and choreographed Descendants for the Disney Channel, a film based on the children of legendary Disney Villains.


In 2019, Kenny Ortega was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was named a Disney Legend at the 2019 D23 Expo.


In 2020, Kenny Ortega recalled being falsely arrested at the age of 21 after a chief of police planted narcotics in his hotel room, allegedly upset by his performance in a touring production of Hair.


The charges were dropped after investigations were made, and Kenny Ortega recalled the arrest report identifying him as George Berger, the name of the character he played in the show.