Exposure is usually a good thing for a franchise. And few will argue that High School Musical hasn't been blessed with exposure. Disney's (NYSE:DIS) original made-for-Disney Channel flick was a sleeper sensation last year. Last month's debut of High School Musical 2 caught no one by surprise, becoming the summer's most watched cable program, with 17 million viewers. It also became the cornerstone of the mighty Wal-Mart's (NYSE:WMT) back-to-school promotion.

However, Disney now has to deal with the kind of exposure that it didn't want to see. A snapshot of a naked Vanessa Hudgens -- one of the show's six young stars -- is making the rounds in cyberspace. Even though that's possible with anyone these days after a primer on using Adobe's Photoshop, Hudgens' reps are confirming that this is the genuine article.

This is an important franchise for Disney. The third installment is slated to be a theatrical release next summer. As we speak, an "on ice" version of the show is touring the country. Both soundtracks are still selling briskly.

So what do you do if you're Disney? The company is held to a higher standard as a family entertainment giant, yet it's not as if teens and pre-teens that are fans of the show will put up with the re-casting of the Gabriella character.

This may very well boil down to the nature of the photograph. Titillating snapshots have tripped up upstarts before. Whether it's stripping Vanessa Williams of her beauty pageant crown or finding Frenchie Davis booted off the second season of CKX's (NASDAQ:CKXE) American Idol, racy camera clicks can sink ships. However, those two instances were actual photo shoots by commercial adult entertainment photographers. Hudgens is a victim of a private incident, photographed naked and alone in a bathroom. That is a distinction that spared Antonella Barba's hide -- figuratively -- from being booted off the last season of American Idol.

Still, it's not an easy call for Disney. Publicity is typically a wonderful thing to have, but the company is bound to ruffle feathers no matter what it decides. In that sense, the franchise's timing is actually pretty good. As the next film graduates from Disney Channel and onto the more liberating big screen, the rules play out quite differently.

Keira Knightley and Johnny Depp have bared more than their souls in earlier flicks, yet Disney hasn't had a problem with casting both in the Pirates of the Caribbean blockbuster films. So it would be a shock to see Hudgens given the boot, even if the very nature of injecting new talent into a high school-themed franchise will eventually mean unearthing new stars.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz can usually be found at Walt Disney World. He's the one wearing the "Bob Iger Fan Club" T-shirt. He does own shares in Disney. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.