From our August 2018 magazine:
Starring Justin Long, Jason Lee and David Cross, the 2009 film “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” features the classic animated characters Alvin, Simon, and Theodore Seville as they take a break from stardom to go to high school. The chipmunks are tasked with saving the school’s music program by winning a battle-of-the-bands contest.
One scene in the film features Alvin in a football game as a receiver on Woodrow Wilson Classical High School’s football field. In the scene, Alvin heckles the other team’s defender and is ultimately thrown with the football to score a touchdown. Alvin is thrown, hanging onto the football, and viewers can actually see the Joe Rodgers Field and Ximeno Avenue in the distance. Other scenes were filmed inside of the school, including the 100 Building staircase and the school’s gyms for the battle of the bands, where a stage was built.
“[Wilson] had these big, broad, inside hallways, and it felt like a school that could be in California or anywhere in America,” remembered location manager Craig Van Gundy. “So we really liked the idea that it had this Universal flavor to it.”
In order to film these scenes within Long Beach Unified School District, special approval was required, according to current Wilson High School principal Sandra Blazer.
LBUSD partners with a film production company called Unreal Productions and once the school decides they want to be a part of filming, Unreal does a walkthrough of the school to scout out specific areas of the campus. If the film’s location managers approve the site, then they decide when to film and if it will fit with Wilson’s schedule. Ms. Blazer recalled that the school decided to move forward with filming because compensation was given to Wilson, LBUSD, and Wilson teachers for temporarily losing their rooms.
We liked the school because of its big hallways, the wood stairways, football field, the theatre, also the biggest factor, was that production looked for a school to film in for a long time.
“Years ago in Los Angeles, it was difficult to find schools that would allow filming when classes were in session,” Van Gundy said. “So we had this big search throughout Southern California looking for schools that would allow filming while school was in session. Wilson was very accommodating.”
Assistant location manager Steve Woronieki fondly remembers just how accommodating Wilson staff was, including two people who helped everything run smoothly.
“Vice principal Murphy was great—he was very on the ball in helping us coordinate filming,” Woronieki said. “Also, [Curtis] Herd, the music teacher, was fantastic and super accommodating because we shot in the chorus room a lot.”
After filming was complete, “The Squeakquel” left a literal mark on the school through a colorful transformation.
“The Squeakquel had to turn [Wilson] into a school of another name with a different mascot [a hawk]. You can see in the 100 building stairs these nice stripes painted with a big ‘W.’ They did that for us because they had to repaint the school,” Blazer remembered.
Besides the 100 building, Wilson’s big and small gyms were given a new fresh coat of burgundy and gold paint. It is still noticeable today as most students that walk through Wilson’s halls do not know that the ‘W’ was painted because of “The Squeakquel.”
The television show “Dexter" and NFL commercials have also been filmed at Wilson High School. And while not filmed at Wilson, the film “Freedom Writers” is based on a true story that occured at the school in the ‘90s.