Disney Plus: 12 Disney Channel Original Movies To Lay On That Childhood Nostalgia
Which DCOM defined your child?
Zetus Lapetus! Disney+ is right around the corner and bringing with it easy access to hundreds of movies and TV shows, from the mega-popular to the nearly forgotten--like every Disney Channel Original Movie (or DCOM) ever made. This will be the first time the vast majority of these made-for-TV classics will be readily accessible to those of us who don't still have our carefully preserved VHS copies that we saved in those days before DVR existed and--trust us on this one--we absolutely cannot wait to realize just how many of them do not hold up all these years later.
But be that as it may, the chance to relive our childhoods is too fun an opportunity to ignore. So, with that in mind, we've curated a list of the 12 early DCOMs available on Disney+ we're most excited to experience all over again, from the totally odd-ball creature-feature to the meme-making pop culture juggernaut of movies like High School Musical. Which DCOMs defined your childhood? Let us know in the comments.
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1. Under Wraps (1997)
The modern era of DCOMs got their start with a low-budget Halloween special called Under Wraps that was about--wait for it--a mummy. Get it? Because mummies are wrapped up? This little gem set the standard for the DCOMs of the future while also establishing some of the more whimsical themes the movies tended to explore: Fun monsters who are actually friendly, kids learning big secrets, and of course, unexpected friendship. Aw, Disney magic.
2. The Thirteenth Year (1999)
The early years of the DCOM boom were full of weird and experimental concepts--that's what made them so good. In The Thirteenth Year, young Cody Griffin learns that his biological mother is a mermaid who abandoned him on a human ship when he was a baby to keep him safe. A natural swimmer all his life, Cody is surprised to suddenly develop a mermaid tail when he turns 13 years old, a revelation that threatens not only him but puts the mermaid, uh, community--pod? school?--at risk. If you like new twists on timeless classics like Splash and all the camp and absurdity of the '90s, this one's for you.
3. Luck Of The Irish (2001)
What could be more hilarious than a super tall high school basketball star accidentally learning that he comes from a family of leprechauns because he got their magical lucky coin stolen? Absolutely nothing, if you're a DCOM producer in 2001. The ordeal begins when Kyle Johnson starts to shrink and his hair starts to turn red and his mom starts talking in an Irish accent--the whole nine yards. The longer their coin is missing, the more the whole family reverts back to their true leprechaun state, which is big trouble when you've got a basketball championship to win.
4. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (1999)
You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who grew up (with cable, at least) in the '90s who doesn't have at least some vague memory of Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. Whether it's the completely absurd retro-cyberpunk clothes, the made-up exclamations like "Zetus Lapetus," or the catchy pop songs by fictional future popstar Protozoa, Zenon was a meme before memes were even a thing. And for great reason--the whole movie is a perfect time capsule of that very specifically '90s idea of the future--community space stations, holographic vinyl t-shirts, and all.
5. Halloweentown (1998)
It's pretty much impossible to not be charmed by the concept of Halloweentown. What if there were an alternate world, Nightmare Before Christmas style, populated by monsters and magic, where it was always Halloween? And what if your family is secretly from that town? And oh yeah, you also learn that you're secretly a witch? There's just no downside, and there's absolutely no downside to this movie, either. It's perfect.
6. Johnny Tsunami (1999)
DCOMs had a special obsession with "new kid in town" stories and Johnny Tsunami was partially to blame. Super cool surfin' pre-teen Johnny Kapahaala--the grandson of legendary surfer Johnny Bartholomew Tsunami (yes, really)--is forced to move with his family from Hawaii to Vermont where Johnny has to learn how to put his surfing skills to use on the slopes. That's basically it. A kid who loves to surf learns how to snowboard. Trust us, it's awesome.
7. Phantom of the Megaplex (2000)
What if The Phantom Of The Opera was a low budget made-for-TV Disney movie and what if instead of a grand old theater, it was set in a 26-screen megaplex? Oh, and all the characters were frazzled teens and pre-teens who get themselves into all kinds of adorable trouble? That's not exactly what Phantom of the Megaplex is, but it may as well be. This one's a nostalgia double-whammy: One part DCOM, one part reminder of the way movie theaters used to be in the early 2000s.
8. Cadet Kelly (2002)
Disney definitely knows how to capitalize on their rising stars, which is exactly what they did with Lizzie McGuire break-out Hillary Duff with Cadet Kelly. The story of a free-spirited pre-teen being sent to military school by her strict step-father, the poster and tagline ("too cool for rules") tells you just about everything you need to know about this one.
9. Brink! (1998)
Made at the very height of the 9'0s xtreme trend--you know, where everything was radical and had names with lots of x's and z's--Brink! Is the story of a group of rollerblading teens from southern California who call themselves "Soul-Skaters" and square off against a rival blading crew named Team X-Bladez. It turns into a story about whether or not it's cool to sell out or not. (Spoilers: it's not.)
10. The Cheetah Girls (2003)
Like Hillary Duff's rise to Disney Channel stardom, Raven-Symone spun out of That's So Raven for The Cheetah Girls, a DCOM that was actually based on a novel series of the same name. This one actually got a genuine fan following--people love scrappy upper-class teenagers trying to make their pop star dreams come true, apparently. It had several sequels and even a video game on the Nintendo DS, not to mention a very fun soundtrack.
11. High School Musical (2006)
Here we are. The big one. In the pantheon of DCOMs, High School Musical really stands alone and unrivaled. The fact that it's the only DCOM to be getting its very own spin-off streaming TV show on Disney+ should probably tell you everything you need to know about how much of an impact it's had. So, please, get your head in the game and relive this one, if for no other reason than to experience that vintage Zac Efron musical goodness. This one technically breaks our '90s and early '00s theme, but we're willing to make the exception.
12. Motocrossed (2001)
The tried-and-true tradition of Disney very, very loosely adapting Shakespeare plays extends beyond animated features like The Lion King, right into made-for-TV DCOMs like Motocrossed, which kind of, sort of tells the story of Shakespeare's play from around the year 1601, Twelfth Night, except it's about Motocross-loving teen twins who have to switch places when one of them gets hurt. The one who takes up the big competition in her brother's place is on a mission to prove to her dad that she's more than "just a girl," and can dirt bike around with the best of them.