Kenny Ortega

The Magic Behind the Film Magician

By Lauryn Alise Thomas

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Kenny Ortega at AFI Fest in 2009


Kenneth John "Kenny" Ortega was born on April 18, 1950 in Palo Alto, California. He is the son of Madeline and Octavio Ortega, both working lower class jobs in the hard knocks of California. His family is of Spanish descent. At the young age of 13, Ortega showed a great interest in the performing arts, starring in "Hair". In the 1980's he began to show an interest in stage direction and choreography, and soon he began to choreagraph big motion pictures such as Dirty Dancing and Newsies. He also helped put together Michael Jackson's 1992-1993 tour. These early works set the stage for some of his later and larger products.
'Descendants': Director Kenny Ortega on How to Be Inspired


Kenny Ortega has one more than several awards. These awards include two Primetime Emmy awards in 2002 and 2006 for his work with High School Musical and the 2002 Olympics, two ALMA awards for Special Achievement and Director of a Television Drama or Comedy. He also won the Directors Guilds of America Award for Outstanding Directing - Children's Program.
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Kenny With Primetime Award


"There's an old Fred Astaire movie where the stage becomes bigger and deeper and more complex. Moments like that really did impact me and influence me."