Disney is a big part of pop culture, and that influences goes beyond theme park castles, princesses, and happily-ever-afters. Disney movies and television shows have jump started the careers of many of movie stars and music idols.
Britney Spears was a sweet, down-to-earth child when she was cast as a Mouseketeer on the 1990's The Mickey Mouse Club, the second reboot of the classic Disney series. While on the show, Britney revealed her talents for singing, dancing, and acting. Within a few years of her debut on the show, she went on to become on the biggest pop stars in the world.
Her big hits include Baby One More Time, Toxic, Lucky, and Crazy. Britney received the introductory Icon Award at the 2017 Radio Disney Music Awards, where she was celebrated for bringing beloved music to generations of Radio Disney fans since 1998.
As the child of singer Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley Cyrus was born into a show business family and is the goddaughter of Dolly Parton. She rose to a fame all her own on The Disney Channel mega-hit series Hannah Montana in 2016 playing a young girl named Miley Stewart who was leading a double life as rock star Hannah Montana. Walt Disney Records released an album of Miley's recordings that were credited to the fictional character, and a feature film was made called Hannah Montana: The Movie.
Miley's career has skyrocketed through the years, and the star is now an outspoken vegan and animal rights activist. She met her long-time love and fellow vegan Liam Hemsworth while starring in movie The Last Song. She has made a splash as a judge on The Voice recently, and her latest album, Younger Now, harkens back to her early pop stardom.
Since she got her start as a child actress on Barney & Friends before acting on Disney Channel shows, Selena Gomez has enjoyed a meteoric rise to pop stardom. Her first role at Disney was an episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and she went on to play a character named Mikayla in Hannah Montana. She starred in the Disney Channel series Wizards of Waverly Place.
Growing up in front of the world was something Selena has referred to as a blessing, and she told The New York Times that growing up on the Disney Channel was like the biggest high school in the world. She gracefully transitioned to releasing her own albums and touring the world as a solo singer. Some of her hits include The Heart Wants What It Wants and Come & Get It.
Sarah Polley is an accomplished filmmaker, but she first rose to international fame in the beloved Disney 1990's series Avonlea. Sarah hasn't worked with Disney as an adult, but her career as an actor, writer, and director thrived. She concentrates her talents on writing and directing now. Her film, Stories We Tell, won critical acclaim. It focuses on stories within Sarah's own family, particularly her mother who passed only days after Sarah's eleventh birthday.
Before Avonlea, Sarah appeared in a few other Disney films, including One Magic Christmas. However, she had a somewhat complex relationship with Disney after executives asked her to remove a peace sign she wore to an awards ceremony in 1991 when she was a preteen. She later asked to be written off Avonlea, but she returned for a couple of episodes, including the finale. She wrote the recent hit mini-series Alias Grace, and she is happily married with two small children.
Zendaya, whose is also known by Zendaya Coleman, is a singer, actress, and dancer who debuted on they Disney Channel TV show Shake It Up in 2010. She also starred in the Disney made-for-TV movies Frenemies and Zapped. She came back to star in the Disney show K.C. Undercover, and she has since said she made that choice because of the need she felt to help address what she says was the lack of diversity at Disney.
The talented performer also designs clothes and is outspoken about being a vegetarian because of her desire to protect animals. Zendaya won a lot of new fans as a contestant on the sixteenth season of Dancing with the Stars. More recently, Zendaya has played Michelle Jones in Spider-Man: Homecoming and K.C. Cooper in K.C. Undercover.
Since rising to fame on Disney's Lizzie McGuire, Hilary Duff has been a pop star. In addition to playing the title character on the hit show, she also starred in The Lizzie McGuire Movie, a hit feature film. She starred in the Disney Channel made-for-TV movie Cadet Kelly. She had an extensive relationship with Disney, who also produced her music, including a Christmas album called Santa Claus Lane.
Unlike many former child-stars, Hilary has led a mostly scandal-free life and is now a happy mother to a young boy. Her latest album, Breathe In, Breathe Out, included the single Sparks. She most recently starred as Kelsey Peters in Younger.
Justin Timberlake's meteoric rise to stardom began when he appeared as a Mouseketeer on The Mickey Mouse Club when he was a preteen in the mid-1990's. He had a string of hits with 'N Sync before achieving success as a solo artist. His hits like Sexyback need no introduction. Although he once had a high-profile romance with fellow former Mouseketeer Britney Spears, he is now happily married to actress Jessica Biel, and he is the father of a young child.
In addition to singing, dancing, and acting on The Mickey Mouse Club, Timberlake later played Jason Sharpe in Model Behavior, a Disney made-for-TV movie. He is the new narrator of The Hall of Presidents attraction at Walt Disney World.
Keri Russell was a Mouseketeer in the 1990's The Mickey Mouse Club, and she made her film debut in Disney's Honey, I Blew Up the Kid. Years later, she appeared in Disney's Bedtime Stories. Keri has jokingly referred to herself as the coolest one of the star-studded Mickey Mouse Club.
Since her days as a Mouseketeer, Keri has starred in television shows like Felicity and movies like the critically acclaimed Waitress. She most recently starred on The Americans. Keri received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017.
Ryan Gosling is a critically acclaimed actor that most people don't associate with Disney, but he was among the young preteens who would go on to be superstars on The Mickey Mouse Club in the 1990's. He had a resemblance to Macaulay Culkin as a child, a fact that was spoofed on the show.
Originally from Canada, Ryan moved to the U.S. for The Mickey Mouse Club. He also guest-starred on Disney shows like Flash Forward and Avonlea. Gosling has been nominated twice for Academy Awards for his work in Half Nelson and La La Land. He is set to return to Disney in the upcoming Haunted Mansion.
Hayley Mills was one of the first Disney superstars. After her first turn in the classic flick Pollyanna, she starred in a series of charming, fun Disney movies in the 1960's. She is perhaps best known for The Parent Trap, but she starred in other Disney movies like Summer Magic, In Search of the Castaways, and That Darn Cat.
In the 1980's, Hayley reprised her iconic twin roles, Susan and Sharon, in three sequels: The Parent Trap 2, Parent Trap III, and Parent Trap: Hawaiian Honeymoon. She also appeared in the Disney Channel original series Good Morning, Miss Bliss, which would later change networks and be renamed Saved by The Bell. (Hayley only appeared in its first season.) Hayley's dynamic career has continued since her days as a Disney star, and she recently appeared on stage in Party Face.
Since she first appeared on the original Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950's, the world took notice of Annette Funicello's sweetness, charisma, and undeniable star power. However, she started out life as a very shy child who took music and dance lessons to overcome her shyness. Walt Disney discovered her at a dance recital, and she went on to be a Disney star. She was so popular she was given the starring role in many serials within the show.
In addition to acting in The Mickey Mouse Club, Annette provided the theme song to Disney's The Parent Trap and starred in the feature film Babes in Toyland. Funicello passed away at the age of 70 in 2013 after battling multiple sclerosis for over 20 years.
Kurt Russell has been in a dozen Disney movies. His first was Follow Me, Boys! in 1966. He signed a contract with Disney and appeared in such films as The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Miracle, and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band. Russell even provided his voice-acting talents to the 1981 Disney animated tear-jerker The Fox and the Hound.
Russell went on to a full-fledged movie star. He has enjoyed one of Hollywood's longest-lasting romances with Goldie Hawn since 1983. Before rising to fame with his Disney collaborations, he was a child actor who had guest appearances on shows like Dennis the Menace and Gilligan's Island. Russell has since continued to make appearances at Disney events, and his wine is even sold at Disneyland.
Lindsay Lohan's talent was undeniable from the moment she first hit the silver screen in the remake of The Parent Trap. She played twins Hallie and Annie, and interest in the child star rose as she took on subsequent movies with Disney. She appeared in Freaky Friday and Herbie, Fully Loaded for Disney.
While Lindsay grew up in the public eye, things weren't all happy and light with her family. Her dad spent time in prison, and well-publicized drama ensued when Lindsay faced addiction while still a young actress. She is doing well these days and expressed interest in a comeback. She also has shown interest in returning to Disney to portray Ariel in a live action version of The Little Mermaid.
Raven-Symoné got her start as a tyke on The Cosby Show. Her star power rose when she got her on Disney series, That's So Raven. She reprised her Raven Baxter role in its sequel series, Raven's Home and also starred as Galleria Garibaldi in The Cheetah Girls movies.
Raven has had a dynamic show business career throughout most of her life. In addition to starring in multiple series, she has released four studio albums and a variety of other songs and soundtracks. She was a host on The View for a while. She continues to act and has a recurring role in Black-ish.
Like several other big stars today, Christina Aguilera started her entertainment career as a Mouseketeer on The Mickey Mouse Club in the 1990's. She also scored a big hit for Disney when she did the theme song Reflection for Disney's Mulan.
Aguilera has enjoyed a string of hits for about 20 years now. She enjoyed mega-success with such songs as Genie in a Bottle, Beautiful, and Say Something. Although Aguilera hasn't work for Disney in quite some time, she has posted photos of her young family at Disneyland and Disney On Ice.
Demi Lovato made her Disney Channel debut on a short series called As The Bell Rings, and she really hit it big in Camp Rock. She also starred as the title character on the Disney Channel original series Sonny with a Chance. She later returned to Disney to sing Let It Go for Frozen.
Lovato confessed she got into drugs during her Disney days, and she has openly discussed her drug use and struggled with an eating disorder. She got treatment for her problems and is now thriving. Lovato is now known for her empowering song like Skyscraper and Confident. She returned to Disney for its pro-social, green campaign Friends for Change. She recorded the theme song for the initiative called Send It On alongside other stars.
Other Disney Stars
Disney has supported many other stars since it was founded on October 16, 1923. Here are some other stars with strong ties to Disney.
- Taylor Swift - Swift is one of the most influential and beloved entertainers in the world. She has not yet starred in a Disney movie. However, earlier in her career, she did appear in some of the company's hit movies and TV shows. She had a cameo in Hannah Montana: The Movie and Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. She had a guest-starring role in Disney's TV show Take Two with Phineas and Ferb. She also photographed as Rapunzel by Annie Leibovitz for the Disney Dream Portrait Series.
- Bella Thorne - Co-starring with Zendaya on Disney's Shake It Up and again for Disney's TV movie Frenemies, Bella Thorne was a multi-talented young star when she first gained media attention. Show now stars on the Freeform show Famous in Love.
- J.C. Chasez - J.C. Chasez rose to fame as one of the member of 'N Sync in the 1990's. Before he was in the beloved boy band, he also worked with Justin Timberlake on The New Mickey Mouse Club. He also acts and had a solo album Schizophrenic. He was also a host for Randy Jackson's America's Best Dance Crew.
- Ross Lynch - Since his start as Austin Moon on the Disney Channel show Austin & Ally, Ross Lynch has gotten attention for his singing and acting talents. He also appeared in the Disney Channel's film Teen Beach Movie. He is one of the founding members of the band R5.
- Tony Lucca - Also a star on The Mickey Mouse Club, Tony Lucca is a successful indie singer-songwriter. He appeared on The Voice as a contestant, where he covered Baby One More Time, the big hit by his fellow Disney alumnus Britney Spears. Keri Russell, his former girlfriend and fellow Mouseketeer, voted for him on The Voice. He now tours, and he writes and releases his own music.
- Bridgette Andersen - Andersen starred alongside Hayley Mills in the Disney made-for-TV film The Parent Trap 2, the sequel to the 1960's classic. She also appeared in other popular films like Savannah Smiles, but sadly passed away in her early twenties from a drug overdose.
New Class of Disney Stars
Disney is certainly not slowing down any time soon. For example, The Mickey Mouse Club came back for a fourth reboot of the classic show, and the talented roster of performers may include stars of tomorrow. Current Disney shows like Stuck in the Middle and Best Friends Whenever also feature many talented young performers.