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Tim Federle
Justin Patterson

Tim Federle

Tim Federle

Meet one of the artists, disruptors, educators, groundbreakers, innovators, and storytellers who all helped make the world a better place for LGBTQ+ people.

Sometimes, life really is like a high school musical. And thanks to Tim Federle, the creator of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, queer kids got to feel like that’s true for them too.

In the show, inspired by Disney’s popular High School Musical films, Federle filled his version of East High, the high school in Utah where the films were shot, with queer students. “I didn’t feel you could tell a modern story about theater kids — or high schoolers, period — without many of them belonging to the LGTBQ+ community,” he says.

While the first season of the show had two out queer teens in the main cast, the final season, which aired this year, boosted the number to five (most played by out queer actors), along with a few others showing up in guest roles. It’s exactly the kind of teen media needed in the world right now, as it gives young people hope for the future.

“The world can be a tough place, and whether as a screenwriter or a director — and particularly when writing queer characters — I try to offer a little bit of levity without being a total Pollyanna,” says Federle, who is also known for cowriting the animated film Ferdinand and penning the novel Better Nate Than Ever.

For HSMTMTS, that levity included LGBTQ+ romance and love songs (a first for Disney), as well as finding joy and pride in a community of friends and teachers who celebrate them.

“If you want to see which way the LGBTQ+ world is going — and should go — listen to the next generation,” Federle says. Thanks to him, we got to know that next generation a lot better. @timfederle


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