Before It Bought Marvel, Disney Made Its Own Superhero Movie

Nowadays, high-end, massive budget, globally renowned Superhero movies are common, from both the DC and Marvel franchises that have turned the world’s favorite comic books into big-screen adaptations. The Marvel films, from The Avengers and their individual movies, right down to the Disney + series available on subscription, are some of the most successful in TV history, amassing over 7 billion dollars in box office revenue alone.

But before the superhero fandom swept the world, there was the odd superhero movie that was just starting out at the beginning of this hugely impressive trend, films like the first X-men film in 2000, the first Tobey Maguire Spider-Man in 2002, and Hellboy in 2004. Nestled in among these in 2005, 3 years before the first Iron Man film came to cinemas and changed the face of superhero film-making history, was a Disney Film by the name of Sky High. This is one of those films that slips under the radar in comparison to the massive success of the films today, but was an absolute wonder of its time, and contains all of the fantastical, fun and essential elements of the films that audiences know and love today.

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From the outset, the first recognizable trope is that of comic book panels, in a cartoon style, are laid out on the screen as they would appear on the page. The audience is introduced to the Stronghold Family, and the main character is their son Will, who is struggling to live up to the fame and glory of his superhero parents. Similar to families like The Incredibles, the Strongholds live an ordinary life by day, acting as realtors, and a secret life on demand, where they will drop everything and rush to save the populous when called. Right from the beginning of the film, we see the superheroes battling giant robots that are trying to overrun the city, and using their powers of flight and super-strength to defeat their enemies. These things are instantly recognizable nowadays, but when the film first came out, audiences were only just beginning to see these sorts of special effects and CGI in relation to these extraordinary savior-type characters.



Sky High Royal Pain

As it is a Disney film, the story follows the journey of Will Stronghold, and his attendance at Sky High, the school for children with unusual abilities. Everyone has great expectations for him because his parents are some of the most famous and successful heroes in history, but he has one problem: he does not have any powers. Here we see the beginnings of films like the recently released Encantoin which the main character is also born into a gifted family without receiving any gifts herself.

By the end of the film however, Will, like Mirabel, discovers that he had powers all along, and that they were just waiting under the surface for the right moment to appear. For Will, it’s when his current girlfriend Gwen Grayson turns out to be one of his fathers oldest Nemesis’ Royal Pain. Gwen is a Technopath, and is able to control technology telepathically, and used her ability to create the Pacifier, a machine ray that turns Will’s parents and many of the other Superheroes in the hall into infants. Her evil plan is to raise them as a new generation of super villains, and start her own academy to teach them how to put their powers towards nefarious purposes.


However, she is foiled at the last moment, in true superhero movie fashion, by Will, who discovers he has inherited both his father’s super strength, and his mother’s ability to fly. By his side fights the enigmatic Layla, his best friend who does not believe in using her powers for violence but reveals an overwhelming capability to command nature, and grow trees and vines like the Batman villain Poison Ivy, and a Pyrokinetic by the name of Warren Peace, who starts out hating Will because of a dispute between their fathers, but quickly becomes an ally. There is also Zach, who glows in the dark, Ethan, who liquefies into a puddle, and Magenta, who shapeshifts ditto style into a Guinea Pig.


At the start of the year, these students, Will’s friends, were relegated to ‘Hero Support’, more commonly known as Sidekicks, and considered lesser than the students who are trained as ‘Heroes’ in school. But of course, it’s up to them to save the day, as all the ‘Heroes’ have been turned into babies. They save the day, defeat the villain Royal Pain, and prove that the dichotomy between heroes and sidekicks should be erased, as all powers are valid and important in saving the day.


Sky High Sidekicks (1)

There are many parallels between Sky High and the DC and Marvel films of today, from the kid that climbs up the wall at a house party like Spiderman, to the school, (which floats in the sky using anti-gravity) falling and nearly crashing into the earth below like Sokovia In Age of Ultron. Although it may seem a little dated now, like all of these old superhero movies do, it has all of the elements that make these films so gripping and joyful to watch, and is definitely worth a go for fans of these types of films to see a little more of how the genre started out, and is available on Disney + now.


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