Disney says it is standing by High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens after fully-nude pictures of the actress surfaced on the internet.

There had been speculation that the 18-year-old would be dropped from the lucrative franchise amid fears the films' wholesome image would be tarnished.

In the picture, reportedly taken by Hudgens for her High School Musical co-star and real-life boyfriend Zac Efron, she stands naked directly in front of the camera.

But a statement from Disney said it had no plans to re-cast the actress in future movies.

"Vanessa has apologised for what was obviously a lapse in judgment," the statement read.

Earlier, the actress' representative explained that the photo, one of a set of provocative pictures leaked on to the internet by a third party, had been "taken privately".

"It is a personal matter and it is unfortunate that this has become public."

Hudgens said sorry to fans herself via her own website, saying: "I want to apologise to my fans, whose support and trust means the world to me.

"I am embarrassed over this situation and regret having ever taken these photos. I am thankful for the support of my family and friends."

In the Disney Channel High School Musical films Hudgens and Efron play a science geek and star Athlete who discover a shared passion for singing.

Last month the second movie in the franchise became the most-watched programme in cable TV history when it debuted in America.

08/09/2007 11:24:09