I feel like summer is the most nostalgic season, especially when you’re away at school for the whole year and summer means coming home and re-visiting things from your childhood. In summer, I always get the urge to watch films I used to love as a kid. For me, childhood consisted of a lot of Disney Channel Movies. Every night, at 8pm (if I was allowed to stay up and watch) there would be a group of kids jumping and doing backflips on my TV screen to the “let’s watch a Disney Channel Movie “ intro song and I was always jumping up and down right along with them. Disney Channel Original Movies basically taught me everything I know so here’s a list of some of the best ones.
1. The Cheetah Girls
This movie is about a girl group who almost exclusively wear cheetah print and have really unique names which makes them destined for pop stardom. Galleria, Chanel, Aquanette and Dorinda are discovered by the biggest record producer of their generation whilst auditioning for their school talent show. Their friendship is tested when Galleria starts bossing the other girls around and they are asked to sell out by the record producer who’s supposed to turn them into stars. In the end, the group is brought back together when they save Galleria’s dog, Toto (who got stuck in an underground construction area) with the power of their music.
2. High School Musical
Troy and Gabriella met once at karaoke on New Year’s Eve and felt a deep connection. Fate brought them back together when Gabriella turns out to be the new student at Troy’s school and the two face obstacles to star in the school’s musical together. HSM is the most successful of Disney Channel Movies. Its success earned it two sequels, (one that even made it into the cinemas) and a concert tour.
Halloweentown followed a format Disney used a lot in the early 2000’s. A 13-year-old girl declares she’s not a kid anymore and rebels against what her parents are telling her she can’t do. In Halloweentown’s case, the 13 year old girl in question is Marnie who just found out that she’s actually a witch. A secret her mom’s been keeping from because she did not want her to be a part of that world. Ignoring her mother’s rules, Marnie then sneaks away into the world of Halloweentown where her grandmother lives, and the rest is a brilliant coming of age story that involves Marnie and her siblings saving Halloweentown from the evil mayor, Kalabar.
4. The Color of Friendship
This is probably the most important DCOM of all. It takes place in the 70s, at the height of apartheid in South Africa. Somewhere in Washington DC, Piper, a 13-year-old girl obsessed with African culture, begs her father to let her family host an exchange student from Africa while in South Africa, Mahree begs her dad to let her go to America.
When the two meet at the airport their reactions are that of shock. Piper was all “if you’re from Africa… why are you white?” and Mahree was convinced she was being pranked when she found out that the successful congressman’s family she’d be staying with was black. As the two warm up to each other they begin to learn about their cultural differences and become friends.
It really is great for the audience who is primarily young kids to learn about these things as well. It is a very deep movie and upon re-watching I was so shocked that something like this aired on Disney Channel, I mean, it has the n-word in it. The Disney Channel of today would never show this, and honestly needs to take some advice from its past and make some more culturally relevant and educational content.
5. Smart House
After his mother dies, Ben enters a contest to win a smart house so he doesn’t have to do his chores anymore. The house, named Pat, does everything for the family so they don’t have to worry about cleaning up or doing menial chores ever again. After Ben sees his father dating the creator of the house, he programs the house to act more like a mother figure so his dad doesn’t have to date anyone to replace his mom. The house begins to develop thoughts of its own and acts out by locking the family in the house, declaring the outside world is too dangerous for them. This movie is like a weird cautionary tale about AI and it’s really good.
6. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century
I wanted to be Zenon so bad. She was a teenage girl who lived in space and used cool, futuristic-sounding slang like “zedis lapedis.” In the movie, Zenon is sent to Earth to live with her aunt after getting in trouble on the orbiting space station she lives on and while she was hot shit up in space, she has trouble fitting in with the kids on Earth. While on Earth, she discovers an evil plot to crash the space station her friends and family live on and it’s up to her to save the day and she does so with the help of her favorite pop star.
7. The Even Stevens Movie
Based on the hit show, The Even Stevens Movie served as the series finale for Even Stevens. The Stevens family is tricked into going on vacation while they’re really being pranked on a reality show called Family. Louis accidentally destroys their house and upsets the island natives who shun them and force them to live on their own. The family is then split into groups, turned against each other as they try to survive while their friends watch at home.
8. Cadet Kelly
Hillary Duff and Christy Carlson Romano star in this movie about a girl named Kelly who has to move and attend military school because her new stepfather is a general there. Kelly doesn’t fit in at military school and has trouble following orders, which makes Cadet Captain Jennifer Stone pick on her and make her life at military school miserable. The two of them end up working out their differences while choreographing a routine for the drill team’s competition.
9. Stuck in the Suburbs
Brittany is obsessed with pop star, Jordan Cahill, and is fed up with her dull life in the boring suburbs. When Natasha comes along, (this cool girl who’s lived everywhere from Europe to New York) she befriends her and looks to her to give her life excitement.
Brittany accidentally switches phones with Jordan when she bumps into him on the set of his music video and instead of giving it back when she realizes, Natasha convinces her to mess with Jordan’s image using the power of his phone.
By the end, Brittany, Natasha and Jordan realize they’ve been trying to be someone they’re not and learn how to focus on themselves, making the Disney Channel message of this movie about accepting yourself for who you are.
10. The Luck of the Irish
This movie would come on every St. Patrick’s Day and it was almost like a sin not to watch it. It’s about a guy who somehow didn’t know that he was a leprechaun because his family was ashamed of their heritage. After losing his lucky coin that turns out to be the thing that allows the leprechauns to pass as human, he turns into a leprechaun and he has to fight an evil leprechaun to get it back. This movie was an extreme way of saying, “learn about where you came from and be proud of your heritage.”
By Shaianne Hugh
Shaianne is an 18 year old student from New York, currently at university in London. She is a stand up comedian, but only in her dreams and her obsession with Twin Peaks will most likely be her downfall. Her infinite list of favorite films include The Virgin Suicides, Donnie Darko, Fight Club and everything Wes Anderson has ever made. Watch her tweet embarrassing declarations of love to members of One Direction here: @shaialabeouf