The Disney Channel has been around since 1983, and in that time the popular television network has released a myriad of original shows and films. For children all over the world, seeing their favorite star “draw” a Mickey Mouse head in the corner of the television was one of the most exciting parts of the day. Every year, new concepts are presented to cater to an evolving audience of children and teens (and even a few adults), but that doesn’t mean that the past should be forgotten.
For decades, Disney Channel Original Movies have been exciting features for the channel, with everything from holiday-themed films to odd, futuristic cinematics gracing screens everywhere. Here are the top 15 forgotten Disney Channel Original Movies (spoiler alert – nostalgia ahead).
15. Now You See It (2005)
Now You See It… is a 2005 (a busy year for DCOM’s (as you’ll see)) Disney Channel Original Movie starring Aly Michalka and Johnny Pacar and focuses on an aspiring teen producer of a reality show (like all teens do!) that wants to create a new reality show that would search the world for the best magician (that also happens to be a kid). The movie is really about what happens when a reality show ends up showing a different reality than they originally intended. Allyson has a really hard time finding her “star” until she ends up running into Johnny Pacar’s character, Danny Sinclair. Sinclair amazes her with his talent and proves that he’s the best person for her show.
The show is actually a competition and Danny ends up as a finalist (Top three) and Allyson is betting on Danny to win the show (as she didn’t select the other two finalists). While the other two magicians are good, Danny seems to be on some other next level (if this was real he’d be labeled a “Demon Magician” or “Black Magic Practitioner” on YouTube). Ironically, he actually admits to Allyson that his magic isn’t the product of slight of hand or props, but that he actually has magical powers. Because of that, Danny has been an outsider his entire life (something that’s common in DCOMs) and because of THAT he and Allyson bond, because she’s also been an outsider around other teens (probably because she works a 40 hour a week job at a TV studio instead of, you know, going to school?).
Danny is interrogated by an older magician who is also on the show, and he fails to prove that he has actual powers and Allyson feels betrayed. Because of that “betrayal”, she doesn’t want to be friends with Danny anymore. However, she ends up watching the original video of her interaction with Danny and sees some doves appear out of thin air and begins to believe him again. The reason that Max interrogated Danny is because he’s also a real magician, a sorcerer at that. He gives Danny a ring so he can control his powers, but the ring ends up being evil and something that Danny can’t remove himself. Allyson attempts to remove it for him before he is killed by Max (who kills people who wear the ring, for some reason). She finally removes the ring after some fighting and Danny finally gets actual control of his powers. Finally, there’s some actual magic with Danny flying around the theater, and Allyson putting the ring on Max’s finger, which forces him to disappear. After that, Allyson and Danny disappear and prepare for their eventual showdown with Max.
14. Buffalo Dreams (2005)
Buffalo Dreams is one of the more obscure DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie) as is evidenced by the Wikipedia page, which seems morer rushed an incomplete than the movie itself. While it follows the typical arc of most DCOM’s (an “outsider” learns lessons while eventually becoming friends with their “rivals”) this movie has a pretty strong message and because of that it makes this list. The movie stars Reiley McClendon as Josh Townsend, who moves to New Mexico because his father starts a new job there.
Josh eventually becomes part of a group of Navajo boys who are attempting to preserve both the Buffalo population in New Mexico as well as their culture’s ways and beliefs. Like most DCOM’s most of the movie is filled with ham-fisted attempts to state a point of view or belief, but that’s really what these movies are all about so it’s hard to criticize them without just criticizing them for existing in the first place. They’re essentially really well made After School Specials or those “The More You Know” things from NBC back in the day. So, while Josh was making friends with the Navajo teens he also was dealing with another boy (and his group of friends) who represented the antagonist in the film.
Eventually Josh decides to race his rival to prove which one was “better” (or just faster?) and while he’s about to prove himself he notices that the buffalo herd is stampeding and sees his Navajo friends attempting to stop/protect the buffalo so he quits the race and begs his rival to help him. While the rival refuses his “disgusted” friends decide to help Josh and leave their mean friend behind. They succeed in luring the Buffalo back to their preserve. Because of his bravery, he is inducted into the Navajo nation with the name “Rides With the Wind” and he makes peace with his rival, Thomas, and together they agree to always protect the Buffalo (or they could just buy a fence?).
13. Go Figure (2005)
Go Figure is a DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie) about a girl named Katelin Kingford (Played by Jordan Hinson) who dreams of becoming a figure skating championship. She is discovered by a famous Russian figure-skating coach named Natasha Goberman (played by Cristine Rose) who coaches at a famous and expensive boarding school that Natasha and her family can’t afford. There are no scholarships left for figure skaters so they decided to accept Kingford through a sneaky plan, adding her to the hockey team and their last scholarship.
While at first she struggles to learn and play the game, especially because it’s not her main focus or dream (she was also figure skating at the time) and the film gives a great message to kids/teens that sometimes you have to work hard and do things that you don’t necessarily want to do or even believe in to obtain your goal(s). Eventually, she embraces hockey, especially after she finds out that her mother also was a “twirl girl” and that she eventually essentially gave up on her dream.
A conflict arises after she accepts and begins to excel at hockey (while also bonding, hard, with her teammates), when the date of the Senior National figure skating competition (which was viewed/scouted by people from the Olympics) is on the same date as the hockey finals. Torn between her dream and letting her newfound friends down, Katelin talks to her teammates who tell her to go to the figure skating competition. However, she is still torn and ends up going to the hockey game instead of the Senior Nationals. They end up losing the game by one point, but the team celebrates anyway (Bad News Bears style) because they realized both that they had made it that far and that the journey is sometimes worth the experience. She ends up dropping her suitcase while rushing to also try to make it to the figure-skating competition and ends up losing one of her figure skates. She ends up skating in her hockey skates instead and falls at the beginning of her routine. Her hockey teammates show up with her other figure skate and after the judges deny her request to start over, her teammates begin a chant of “Let her skate!” and she gets her second chance. She performs beautifully and is told she made the Olympics as her hockey team carries her off the ice…
Talk about happy tears!
12. Life is Ruff (2005)
There’s nothing more endearing than a movie with a dog in it (with the exception of K-9, with Jim Belushi) and Life is Ruff is a perfect example of that. The movie starts in the best way possible, by showing a box of adorable puppies that are in a box outside of a grocery store. There are six gorgeous puppies five of which are black and one of which is a golden retriever (which feels pretty tone deaf, but keep in mind this is 2005, around the time Janet Jackson took all the heat for that “wardrobe malfunction” while Justin Timberlake somehow got more popular). Perhaps the opposite of what was just said, the five black puppies are taken leaving the main puppy heartbreakingly alone. Because of that, the puppy breaks out of his cardboard prison and decides to find an owner on its own. That doesn’t work because puppies don’t have critical thinking skills and he is eventually caught by animal control and is taken to the pound.
That’s where the main characters come in. The movie stars Kyle Massey, Mitchel Musso, Kay Panabaker, Carter Jenkins and Daniel Day-Lewis. Okay, not the last one. Massey plays Calvin Wheeler, one of the popular kids at school who somehow also collect comic books. His best friend is played by Musso and is named Raymond Figg (Which is also tone deaf because Fig Newtons are disgusting). Figg is devoted to his best friend because he saved his life during an asthma attack when they were in second grade by… Handing him his inhaler.
Calvin really wants a rare comic book to complete his collection, it’s called Gotham Man which is a clear nod to Batman. The comic costs $3,000 and that’s like half a Bitcoin in 2017, and he and Figg attempt to find a way to buy it. After a show dog chases him on his skateboard and he learns that a dog show is offering a $5,000 top prize to the winning show dog, he gets an idea and ends up adopting the dog who had been in the pound for a year, naming him Tyco.
We won’t spoil how it ends but it’s a great movie for animal and Disney channel lovers, especially those who were children in 2005 and are hitting the age of looking back upon movies they loved regardless of their objective quality.
11. Cow Belles (2006)
Cow Belles is a romantic teen comedy starring signers Alyson Michalka and her sister, Amanda Michalka (which are also/better known as the sister duo Aly & AJ). The movie was an instant smash as it almost had six million viewers when it debuted on the Disney Channel back in March of 2006. It received generally positive reviews from critics, who did seem to review it in the context of other Disney productions.
A critics from the website Monsters and Critics, named Jeff Swindoll, reviewed it and said that the film was “Not too bad” which is always a bad way to start a review but at the same time, there are adults reviewing films that are meant for teens and for the most part they seem to resent their job as they have higher aspirations (like reviewing YouTube videos?). Beyond that, he said “It’s a perfect time killer for the kids, I’d suggest a rental for family movie night.” Again, he understands the “point” of the film, which even back in 2006 was basically just to keep kids/teens occupied. Another point of these films is to basically portray some teachable moments and imply some sort of set of morals. The critic acknowledged that, saying “Maybe the lessons the girls learn in [the movie] will cross over to the audience”. Other critics noted how it was a perfect vehicle for Aly & AJ, who were signed to the Disney label (like Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, etc.).
Beyond that, the couple was compared to another sister/sister duo who also dabbled in the music scene, Hailey and Hillary Duff saying that the duo was on pace to replace them and even Lindsay Lohan (Who was also attempting to start a movie career inbetween movies and arrests). It’s one of the better reviewed Disney films of that era, which is proven by the fact that it was listed as more expensive than other Disney films on their website (should someone want to buy a DVD in 2017).
10. The Thirteenth Year (1999)
The Thirteenth Year was a comedic fantasy-drama movie released on May 15, 1999, as a Disney Channel Original Movie. Produced by Dream City Films and directed by Duwayne Dunham, the film has a 95-minute runtime that captures one of the most unique, mythical concepts on the Disney Channel.
The story centers on Cody Griffin, a popular teenager who is a part of the swim team at his school. He establishes himself as one of the fastest members, ranking their team as one of the most highly-acclaimed in the district. At home, he is an adopted child to two doting parents who want nothing more than to see Cody excel at everything that he does. With a beautiful girlfriend named Sam and great athletic capabilities, there’s nothing more that a growing adolescent could want or need.
After Cody’s thirteenth birthday, however, things become a little wonky. He begins noticing odd things about himself, including the milk carton getting stuck to his hand at breakfast and his body needing to consume abnormal amounts of water. Although initially ignoring these signs, Cody realizes that he should enlist the help of Jess Wheatly, a nerdy boy at school who he’s partnered with on a biology project, since Cody is failing the class. Jess is as informed about the subject as one can be, and after a series of subsequent incidents and tests run by him, Jess proposes the theory that Cody is becoming a merman.
The movie is incredibly well-done and captures a unique concept following Cody’s life, as traditionally, the fictional aquatic creatures are usually female. This spin, as well as the setting within the plot, scores The Thirteenth Year spot ten on our list – because it is just too good, but no one ever seems to remember it.
9. Jump In! (2007)
The exciting Disney Channel Original Movie, Jump In!, stars Corbin Bleu and Keke Palmer as an athletically dynamic pair of protagonists. Set in Brooklyn, Isadore Daniels, who goes by the nickname “Izzy”, is a seventeen-year-old boxer, renowned for his sharp skills. His father, Kenneth, pushes him to be the best that he can be in the sport, as he is a former Golden Glove champion. Tied together by Izzy’s younger sister, eight-year-old Karin, who holds an interest in Double Dutch, the trio are a relatively close family after the loss of their mother.
Izzy’s neighbor, Mary Thomas, is a part of the competitive Double Dutch team, the Joy Jumpers. Despite the pair frequently arguing and poking sarcastic fun at one another, their chemistry is obvious from the start of the movie, and it’s clear that Mary harbors a crush for Izzy. While Izzy is in serious preparation for going for the esteemed Golden Gloves against a fellow undefeated boxer and neighborhood bully, Rodney, Mary’s team is getting ready for an upcoming regional match to go to the next leg of the competition.
When Izzy is forced to take his sister and her friends to see Mary’s performance at regionals, Izzy finds himself becoming significantly engrossed with Double Dutch as the teams go head-to-head in three stages: speed, compulsory, and freestyle. When the Joy Jumpers barely qualify for the city finals, a member of their team leaves to join another competitive group who has won the entire championship four times in a row.
Izzy is asked to join the Joy Jumpers, since his athletic ability and obvious interest in the sport make him an optimal replacement for their lost member. Jump In! follows Izzy making tough decisions between two sports – the one that he has done throughout his entire life to make his dad proud, and the one that will genuinely make him happy. The film broke the record of another Disney Channel Original Movie on this list with 8.2 million viewers tuning into the premiere, establishing it as one of the greatest DCOM’s of all time. Unfortunately, even the greatest things can be forgotten, and Jump In! was only one of many films that is seldom remembered.
8. Minutemen (2008)
The highly-acclaimed sci-fi film, Minutemen, was a hit on the Disney Channel network during its release on January 25, 2008. Director Lev L. Spiro won a nomination by the Director’s Guild for Outstanding Achievement in Children’s Programs for a fantastic blend of exceptional acting, creative concepts, and relatable themes that steal Minutemen a spot on this list.
The movie starts out with Virgil Fox, Derek Beauregard, and Stephanie Jameson, three lifelong best friends, at their first day of high school together. The trio is excited to try out for the new activities that they’re now able to participate in, with Derek opting for football and Stephanie for cheerleading. When Charlie Tuttle, a boy who is so intelligent that he was able to skip his way up to high school, despite being significantly younger, releases his invention of a rocket car onto the school field, Derek throws a football at him to stop the chaos. Virgil sees the commotion and defends Charlie’s antics, while Derek accepts the moment of fame he receives from the rest of the team. This ends with Virgil and Charlie being hung from the statue mascot for their school, dressed as cheerleaders and ultimately labeling them as a laughing stock.
By the time their senior year rolls around, Virgil and Charlie have remained best friends and are still on the outs with the rest of the school. When Charlie presents the idea of a time machine that he is certain will work, the duo bring Zeke into the fold, a fellow outcast who appears to be a lone wolf for his tall and quiet demeanor. When the group’s invention actually works, the three set out to do a series of fix-its for fellow schoolmates who have fallen on embarrassing moments, reminiscent of Virgil and Charlie’s first day of school.
As anyone can probably guess, the movie presents a number of horrible possibilities, ranging from rips in the space time continuum to some major issues with the past and the present lining up correctly, even when they snag a set of white snowsuits to disguise themselves throughout each visit to the past. The film was incredibly popular, with 6.48 million viewers tuning in during its release and stars of the movie going on to be included in several other DCOM’s in the future.
7. Princess Protection Program (2009)
Princess Protection Program was perhaps one of Disney’s most impressive adaptations to date, as it brought together a slew of creative concepts, a star-studded cast that featured Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato, and some of the most inspirational messages included on Disney Channel. Released on June 26, 2009, the film won the hearts of many and earned itself a Teen Choice Award for Choice Summer Movie that year.
The plot focuses on Princess Rosalinda Fiore, a teenager who is getting ready for her coronation in the small island nation, Costa Luna. While she is rehearsing for her big moment, General Kane, an evil dictator of a close-by country called Costa Estrella, sets out to kidnap the remaining members of the royal family in an effort to obtain Costa Luna and take over as the new dictator.
The Princess Protection Program, a top-secret agency that relocates endangered princesses to keep them safe from harm, sends Agent Joe Mason to take Princess Rosalinda out of the country. Her mother, however, is forced to stay behind while she is flown out via helicopter. These intense events set the tone for the entire movie, where the princess, who only trusts Joe Mason, is relocated at his home in Louisiana, where he lives with his daughter, Carter.
Conveniently renamed “Rosie Gonzales” the princess struggles to fit in with Carter and her life, where she works at her family’s bait shop and attends high school at the relative bottom of the social food chain. The movie beautifully illustrates the growing relationship between two girls from very different walks of life, as well as defines what it truly means to be a princess, aside from all of the glitz and glam. During its premiere, the movie was watched by 8.5 million viewers, ranking it as the most-viewed channel during that time.
6. Avalon High (2010)
Despite being loosely based on the novel of the same name by Meg Cabot, Avalon High is still considered to be a Disney Channel Original Movie. Premiering in November 2010, the unique film featured fantastic talent, including British actor Gregg Sulkin and female leading lady Britt Robertson.
Allie Pennington is the daughter of a pair of literature philosophers who primarily focus on the history of medieval concepts. The unique film centers around a Camelot prophecy, in which people at Allie’s high school are depictions of the characters from Camelot. This includes Will, a popular football player and supposed reincarnation of Arthur; Miles, an odd boy who has psychic visions and perpetuates the ancient wizard, Merlin; and Marco, the stepbrother to Will who seems to absolutely hate him, thus prompting Allie to believe that he is Mordred, a notoriously evil traitor to Arthur who could ultimately turn the entire world back to dark times.
When Allie must team up with Miles on a school project regarding a work of literature that her parents wrote, she begins to envision Camelot and the prophecy, which states that Arthur is going to return. With her pre-established thoughts on this notion, she fears that Will is going to fall in the same way that Arthur did when she discovers that his girlfriend, Jennifer, is cheating on him with his best friend, Lance, therefore throwing the universe into peril.
Avalon High’s creative concept is most prominent in the plot twists that ensue. Its foothold in the medieval and mythological world make it an incredibly unique storyline from Disney, earning it a spot as one of the most interesting, but sadly forgotten, Disney Channel Original Movies.
5. Read it and Weep (2006)
Premiering in July of 2006, the popular, decade-old film still strikes a nostalgic chord whenever it plays on the Disney Channel. The movie, based around the book How My Private, Personal Journal Became a Bestseller by Julia DeVillers, starred Kay Panabaker as the main protagonist, and her older sister, Danielle Panabaker, as the protagonists alter ego. The film was renowned for its suspenseful storyline and relatable aspects that made it such a hit among children and teens around the world.
Jamie Bartlett, a young freshman with a big imagination, is surrounded by her best friends – Connor, Lindsay, and Harmony – as well as a mean-spirited school bully named Sawyer Sullivan who also happens to be dating Marco, a boy that Jamie has a crush on. In order to vent her emotions about her life, Jamie uses a high-tech tablet where she journals about the adventures of a character named Isabella, or “Iz”, who is popular at her school and has the ability to “zap” people she doesn’t like out of the story. Jamie bases Iz loosely on herself, as well as the other characters in her story.
When she accidentally submits her journal for an English essay, Jamie’s teacher enjoys the tale so much that she submits it to a writing contest, which it subsequently wins. Although the fame and popularity that come from her detailed diary-turned-novel are fun at first, not only does Jamie’s personality completely change in the limelight, but reality hits the entire school and they realize that all of them are actually characters in the book.
With a captivating storyline, Read It and Weep is one of the coolest Disney Channel Original Movies to date, simply because it completely captures how children and teenagers feel every day. Growing up isn’t easy, especially when influenced by so many factors and people, and the cast of Read It and Weep touch upon this subject fantastically. Unfortunately, very few of the current generation are previewed to the fantastic film – something that should definitely change.
4. The Cheetah Girls (2003)
The Cheetah Girls is not just a single movie that graced Disney Channel in 2003. The franchise follows three films and four talented young ladies, Raven-Symone, Adrienne Bailon, Sabrina Bryan, and Kiely Williams, who made up the popular singing group. In the original movie’s debut, it was watched by 6.5 million viewers and sold more than 800,000 copies on DVD.
The film followed the lives of four teenagers – Chanel, Galleria, Aqua, and Dorinda – who have come together as a group and dubbed themselves “The Cheetah Girls”. The movie starts out with them performing at a birthday party, to which several mistakes are made. Despite this, the group is intent on auditioning for the school talent show, hoping to be the first-ever freshmen to win the program. After successfully making it into the roster, the four are discovered by a former school-goer, Jackal Johnson, who owns a well-established record label and is interested in signing the group.
Throughout the movie, the girls face a myriad of problems ranging from stardom getting to their heads to the possibility of their entire image being changed. The Cheetah Girls are one of the most classic Disney Channel singing groups, with movies that spanned up until 2008. Unfortunately, Raven-Symone ended up leaving the foursome before the premiere of their final movie, causing them to disband in December 2008.
Despite the fact that the group hasn’t been a thing for almost ten years, their exciting, upbeat music and popular film series earns them a top spot on this list – gone, sort of forgotten, but definitely still “cheetahlicious”.
3. Camp Rock (2008)
Starring the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato, two of the most prominent Disney stars of their time, Camp Rock was everybody’s favorite musical Disney Channel Original Movie. Debuting on June 20, 2008, the film grossed 8.9 million viewers during its premiere, which leaves it as the 3rd top-viewed DCOM of all time.
The story follows Mitchie Torres, a teenage girl with great passion for music and an incredible ability to sing. Her dream is to become a professional singer, and a surefire way to help her achieve this is to attend the popular music camp entitled “Camp Rock”. In order to afford the high price set by the camp, Mitchie’s mother arranges to be the cook and caterer for the duration of the event, allowing her daughter to attend.
Shane Gray, 1/3 of the popular music band Connect 3, is forced to be a dance teacher at Camp Rock because of his bad attitude and need to get back in touch with who he is. When he arrives, he overhears Mitchie singing by herself and is enthralled with her captivating voice, however, he is unable to find out who the mystery girl is.
Throughout the movie, there are a number of exciting song and dance numbers, plenty of fun moments with the star-studded cast, and a series of dramatic events that made the film incredibly popular among avid Disney Channel fans. It did so well that a sequel, entitled Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam, was created to follow-up the original movie and a variety of merchandise was distributed in honor of the two films. Despite its success, with Demi moving on from her Disney career and the Jonas Brothers splitting up to pursue their own endeavors, Camp Rock is another great DCOM sadly forgotten (but still super cool).
2. Halloweentown (1998)
Halloweentown is one of the most classic Disney Channel Original Movies to date. The film pops up on Disney Channel multiple times every year during the Halloween season, and despite its crazy success, which prompted three sequels, Halloweentown is only remembered throughout October before its locked away in a perpetual vault for the remainder of the year.
The story is about Marnie Piper, a 13-year-old girl who just wants to celebrate Halloween with her siblings, Dylan and Sophie, like normal children. Her mother, Gwen, is incredibly against this, as well as the idea of Marnie attending a Halloween party, which sparks both confusion and anger from the young teenager.
When Marnie’s grandmother, Aggie, arrives, as she does every year during the Halloween season, the children are thrilled to see her. Their mother, however, is never pleased with Aggie’s visits because she is incredibly encouraging about participating in the holiday’s festivities. This is because, unbeknownst to the trio of kids, they all have magical heritage, which means that they’re witches. Aggie is adamant about training her eldest grandchild to embrace her destiny by telling her of a land called Halloweentown.
Halloweentown is a place filled with all sorts of monsters, ghouls, and other mythical beings that live in harmony with one another. When this causes Marnie’s imagination to soar, there’s little that can stop a child from pursuing such a magical thought. From this, the unique series was born, with five installments gracing children’s screens everywhere. These included Halloweentown, Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, Halloweentown High, and Return to Halloweentown.
1 . High School Musical (2006)
The 3-part High School Musical series is easily the most popular set of films that the Disney Channel has ever created. Released on January 20, 2006, the film would go on to do many things: be the most successful Disney Channel Original Movie ever, propel a myriad of its cast into full-blown stardom, and release albums that topped the charts.
The romantic musical meets comedy film starts out when Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez, two very different teenagers, meet at a ski lodge party. There, they are volunteered by the DJ to get up on stage and sing karaoke together, immediately displaying their raw talent. Once the pair must go back to their respective lives and schools, they discover that Gabriella is now transferring to East High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Troy is a star basketball player.
Gabriella is well-liked by some of the people she meets, and absolutely despised by others, but her chemistry with Troy is undeniable. Troy feels the same way, as his thoughts linger on the girl he originally met at the ski lodge, and he begins considering if he might enjoy singing more than the sport he’s been playing his entire life. This inner conflict propels the plotline forward and eventually brought it around to entertaining two sequels: High School Musical 2 and High School Musical 3: Senior Year, as well as a spin-off entitled Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure.
The film series, which had a cast comprised of Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, and Lucas Grabeel, among other well-known names, was revolutionary for DCOM. So why does it make this list of unforgotten Disney Channel movies? Simply put – after the third installment was released in 2008, despite being a massive hit, the trilogy had finished out and sort of just fell off the face of the Earth (although it does still make appearances on the Disney Channel if you’re feeling nostalgic).