The big-screen releases from Disney are not the only ones they take pride in. In 1983, the cable channel released their first television movie, and since then, they have been producing a masterpiece for the small screen.
Tiger Town is the first-ever film Disney Channel launched. At the time, it premiered under the banner Disney Channel Premiere Films, which was later changed to Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOM) in 1997. A film about a father-and-son duo who are fans of the baseball team Detroit Tigers. The film went on to win the CableACE Award for Best Dramatic Film.
Tiger Town became the first of numerous TV films produced by Disney. And just like the first film, these TV movies became well-loved with some drawing millions of fans. Here are some of these films.
Best Disney Channel Original Movies
We list down some of the best Disney Channel original movies we’ve all sat through and loved. Find out if your favorite made the list.
1. Halloweentown (1998, 2001, 2004, 2006)
What’s Halloween without binge-watching the Halloweentown series.
Headlined by Debbie Reynolds, Kimberly J. Brown, Judith Hoag, and Joey Zimemrman, Halloweentown is about a girl who learns she’s a witch and decides to use her special ability to save a town that becomes the target of supernatural creatures.
The 1998 film, Halloweentown, was so well-received that it was followed by three equally amazing films. And even now, Halloween just wouldn’t be complete without a Halloweentown series marathon.
2. High School Musical (2006, 2007, 2008)
Admit it, you and your friends had that one moment where you shouted “We’re all in this together” in chorus as you sit through a late-night viewing of the High School Musical series.
While we’re not as musically talented as Gabriela, Troy, Sharpay, Ryan, Taylor, and Chad, we sure could relate to the issues they have to face or the blissful moments they get to enjoy, because we too were once in high school. This—and the amazing songs the movie gave birth to, let’s be honest—is the reason High School Musical became—and still is—one of the most popular Disney Channel Original movies.
High School Musical not only catapulted its lead stars to success, it also gave us a reason to love high school life even more. And oh, in early 2016, Disney announced a fourth installment is in the works, so that’s another film to get excited about.
3. The Color of Friendship (2000)
A film about love and friendship, it’s the message that The Color of Friendship that makes it one of the best Disney Channel original movies.
The 2000 made-for-TV drama film is about a white South African girl named Mahree who becomes an exchange student and finds herself in the home of a black family residing in America. The owner of the house is a black US congressman whose daughter, Piper, Mahree later meets and forms a beautiful friendship.
Based on the true story of African American congressman Ron V. Dellums, The Color of Friendship has taught children and adults alike that friendship is a special bond that goes beyond race. That same year, the film won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program.
4. Brink! (2000)
Erik Von Detten may not be as active now as he was before, with his last project being a voice role in Toy Story 3 in 2010, the movie he starred in in 2000 will forever be remembered.
Brink! is about a young skater who is stuck between staying with his friends or leaving the group in favor of a more popular circle for increased fame and fortune.
The film received praises and was often listed as one of the best Disney TV movies. It is simply one of the top inline skating movies ever made.
5. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (1999)
One of the first futuristic films from Disney, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century was the first in a movie series that spanned three films. It was also the first under the DCOM banner to be turned into a trilogy.
Starring Kirsten Storms in the title role, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century revolves arounf the adventures of Zenon Kar, a 13-year-old girl living on a space station that orbits the earth. When she gets into trouble with the space station’s commander, Zenon gets sent to earth to live with her aunt.
Having been used to life in space, Zenon finds it hard to fit in with the other kids who consider her stories about the space station she was on weird. To help her cope, Zenon’s best friend, Nebula, often communicates with her through a video phone tablet. As she learns to adjust to life on earth, Zenon is faced with another problem when she finds out an evil station general is planning to crash the station, a discovery she shares to her parents but is deemed nonsensical. Now Zenon has to find a way to save her home before it’s too late.
A film about friendship and courage, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century tackles themes that are universal, making it a classic that’s always worth watching no matter what day or year it is.
6. Smart House (1999)
A house turning into an overbearing mother is a story line that sure sounds weird, but watch Smart House and you will forget you called it weird at first.
This 1999 film is about a family that struggles to balance school, work, and household chores after their mother dies. When 13-year-old Ben Cooper hears about a competition that has a Smart House for a prize, he participates in it and wins. But things take an unwanted turn when Ben’s father, Nick, starts to form a romantic relationship with the house’s creator, Sara. Still saddened by his mother’s passing, Ben gets upset over his father’s newfound love. Ben then decides to reprogram the house, which is named Pat, into a seemingly tyrannic mother figure.
Not your ordinary family movie, Smart House is a film about how technology can take its toll on humans and a film about making mistakes and learning from them.
7. Camp Rock (2008)
After Disney had us singing about high school life in High School Musical, the studio had us experience what it’s like to be at a music camp in Camp Rock.
Starring Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers, Camp Rock tells the story of talented teenager named Mitchie who dreams of being a professional singer. Mitchie wants to join Camp Rock, a music camp, but it proves to be financially undoable. So her mother offers to cater food for the camp so Mitchie can join. At the camp, Mitchie learns to meet friends, open up to people, fall in love, and believe in herself.
8. Johnny Tsunami (1999)
Johnny Tsunami is not as disastrous as its name sounds, but it sure will have you surfing a wave of emotions.
In Johnny Tsunami, Brandon Baker is Johhny Kapahaala, a teen living in Hawaii who has to adapt to a new environment after his dad’s job forces his family to move to Vermont.
A movie about fitting in and turning life’s unexpected challenges into experiences that are worth learning from, Johnny Tsunami, safe to say, is still one of the best films to have ever aired on Disney Channel.
Disney is simply a powerhouse of great films, movies that taught us a lot about love, friendship, and love in general. They are films that, when you run out of new films to see, you can always rewatch and you will still find yourself saying your two hours was well spent.