Disney movies have thrilled generations, but it wasn't until the 1980s that the company made a decision to create original cable and TV movies. Once they did, though, they found a market eager for more original content. Catch up with all of the Disney titles that you may have missed with this comprehensive list of their made-for-television movies.
Popular Disney Channel Original Movies
As with any film company's output, some titles have become more popular than others. These eight movies are some of the Disney Channel's best.
High School Musical
This trilogy of movies focuses on a popular high school basketball star (Zac Efron) and the shy, intelligent new student (Vanessa Hudgens) -- a couple that discover they both share a secret passion for singing. The series made Efron and Hudgens household names and was by far one of the franchise's most popular movie series. High School Musical was released in January 2006, followed by High School Musical 2 in August, 2007. The finale, which was released on the big screen in October, 2008, grossed more than $90 million in the U.S. alone.
Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie
Viewers of the TV series fell in love with the mischievous, yet lovable Alex (Selena Gomez) who always seemed to be using the system of wizardry to her advantage -- instead of using it to make the world a better place. In Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie, Alex wrecks her family's life while they are on vacation when granted a wish that her parents had never met. The movie follows Alex and her brothers, Justin and Max, as the trio tries to undo the damage caused by the spell. When released in 2009 it was cable's second-best performing movie with 13.5 million viewers.
Music and Disney seem to go hand-in-hand and Camp Rock is another of their popular, music-themed movies featuring the then-current talent on their roster -- namely the Jones Brothers and Demi Lovato. The story line is simple: a talented, undiscovered singer is on the outside of the music world, just waiting to be discovered. The story unfolds at a music camp for gifted teens, and once discovered the teen girl hired by the camp to work in the kitchen becomes a singing sensation. Released in 2008, Camp Rock, the first of three movies in the series, was watched by 8.9 million viewers when it premiered. The second movie in the series, Camp Rock Two: The Final Jam, was the largest cable movie release of 2010.
Princess Protection Program
When her small country is taken over by a dictator, a young princess (Demi Lovato) is transferred to rural Louisiana by the Princess Protection Program. The comedy and drama unfolds as the princess learns how to act like a normal American teenager. In the process, the princess gives her American friend and roommate (Selena Gomez) a few lessons in how to act a little more properly. When the movie was released in 2009 it captured 8.5 million viewers making it the year's most-watched scripted title on cable.
Filmed in Canada, Cadet Kelly follows the life of 14-year-old Kelly Collins (Hilary Duff) whose easygoing life is turned upside down when she is placed in an upstate New York military school -- a move instigated by her mother's new husband. Kelly enlists in the school, where her freewheeling ways immediately offend her militaristic, 17-year-old squad leader, Romano (Jennifer Stone ). The movie premiered with 7.8 million viewers, a high for the network at the time.
The Cheetah Girls
The Cheetah Girls follows the ups and downs of the music industry for a four-member teen girl singing ensemble (Raven Symone, Lynn Whitfield, Sabrina Bryan, and Adrienne Bailon) named the Cheetah Girls. The girls attend Manhattan high school for the performing arts and are trying to become the first freshmen to win the talent show. During the talent show auditions, they meet a record producer who wants to turn them into superstars -- and the problems begin as the group starts to unravel. The success of this movie and its sequel prompted a third film. The first two movies drew in 6.5 million and 7.8 million viewers respectively.
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension
Perry's worst fear comes true when Phineas and Ferb realize he is Secret Agent P, but that soon pales in comparison during a trip to the 2nd dimension where Perry learns that Dr. Doofenshmirtz is truly evil and successful. Clueless to Doofenschmirtz's real motives, Phineas and Ferb unwittingly help him in his diabolical plan and Perry must find a way to save the world. Phineas and Ferb the Movie was released in 2011 and ranked as cable's number one animated entertainment telecast for the year.
Halloweentown is the first of several Halloweentown films, featuring a benevolent witch named Aggie Cromwell (Debbie Reynolds). During her annual visit to her daughter's home, Aggie reveals that her daughter and grandchildren have magical powers. The three young grandchildren are then sent off to Halloweentown to learn their trade, while Aggie battles with evil forces conjured up by her daughter's old flame, a warlock with a nasty habit of transforming children into zombies. The movie was released during the 1998 Halloween season and was the most-watched basic cable program for the day.
Disney Premiere Movies
From the inception of the Disney Channel in 1983, their original television films were called Disney Premiere Films. After mid-1997, these movies were called Disney Channel Original Movies. Over 50 titles fall under the Disney Premiere Films label, including the Parent Trap sequels and Escape to Witch Mountain.
Disney Channel Original Movies by Year
Disney Channel Original Movies address a number of different subjects and often teach a valuable lesson while entertaining viewers. Most of them are also just plain fun.
- Cloud 9: Ashley Tisdale is one of the producers of this snowboarding movie where an unlikely pair together bring out the best in each other.
- Teen Beach Movie: The film features Maia Mitchell and her boyfriend Brady, two surfers who are mysteriously carried into a 60s beach movie by a mysterious wave. A sequel is planned for 2015.
- Frenemies: Based on the four-book young adult series Frenemies by Alexa Young, the movie is three intertwined stories of friends who become enemies and in some cases, friends again.
- Radio Rebel: Debby Ryan plays a shy high school girl who becomes a confidant, outspoken 'Radio Rebel' during her daily podcast created in the privacy of her bedroom.
- Let It Shine: This musical follows the antics of a shy but talented rapper and musician whose powerful lyrics are relayed by his best friend to the girl of his dreams.
- Girl vs. Monster: Skylar Lewis learns her parents are monster hunters when she unwittingly releases some contained monsters. She must recapture the monsters before they harm her parents.
- The Suite Life Movie: If you did not get enough of Zack and Cody from their TV show of the same name, follow along as they become part of an evil professor's Gemini twin project.
- Lemonade Mouth: Five high school students overlooked by the system become friends during detention. The five talented musicians create a band, release their music and find their destiny.
- Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension: The animated duo of Phineas and Ferb find themselves traveling across dimensions and battling to save the world, again.
- Geek Charming: Since she wants to win a popularity contest, high school diva Dylan Schoenfield lets a film club classmate document her popular life. Unfortunately for her, the movie records her decline and fall from popularity.
- Good Luck Charlie, It's Christmas!: Based on the Disney TV show Good Luck Charlie, the family gets separated while on a family vacation and chaos ensues when some family members hitch a ride with an older, unusual couple.
- Starstruck: When, by chance, a 'normal' teen girl gets to spend a day with a famous TV star, they actually begin to like each other. However the girl's heart is broken when she hears what he says on national TV.
- Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars: Even though Harriet Welsch is a gifted writer, she is forced to compete with the future prom queen to become the official blogger of their high school class.
- 16 Wishes: Debby Ryan stars in this classic 'be careful what you wish for' story. Granted 16 wishes for her 16th birthday, she comes to understand that what she wished for may not be what she really wants.
- Den Brother: A confident hockey player is forced to become a den 'brother' for his younger sister's Girl Guide troop.
- Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam: The sequel to Camp Rock featuring musical performances by the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato.
- Avalon High: The daughter of two Knights-of-the-Round-Table scholars realizes she is not attending Avalon High School by mistake. Instead, she is part of a much larger story involving King Arthur.
- Dadnapped: Emily Osment plays Melissa Morris, daughter of a best-selling author who is preoccupied with the characters in his books. When art becomes life, Melissa's father is kidnapped by overzealous fans and she must find a way to rescue him.
- Hatching Pete: Two high school students are the school's mascot, but one does all the work while the other one takes all the credit.
- Princess Protection Program: A teen princess and an average American girl learn from each other when they are forced to spend time together.
- Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie: The Russo family from the successful TV show of the same name take a luxury vacation that's full of surprises.
- Minutemen: Three high school boys build a time machine so they can save others from the humiliation they have endured.
- Camp Rock: A talented girl has to work in the kitchen in order to attend the exclusive Camp Rock, but ultimately she proves that it's her talent that matters, not her social standing.
- The Cheetah Girls: One World: The girls head to India to star in a Bollywood movie.
- Jump In!: Despite being pressured by his father to become a boxer, Izzy discovers competitive jump roping and finds it a more enjoyable and demanding sport.
- Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board: In a story centered around catching a great wave in Hawaii, Johnny finds a way to reach out to new family member 12-year-old Chris while keeping the family and family business afloat.
- High School Musical 2: Troy and Gabriella struggle to keep their relationship strong while school is out for summer, while also worrying about college.
- Twitches Too: In this sequel to Twitches, real-life sisters Tia and Tamera Mowry realize the work from the first movie is not complete since their father may be alive after all.
- High School Musical: The first in the series, this romantic comedy aimed at the younger set follows two high school students from different cliques who end up getting the lead roles in the school play.
- Cow Belles: In an effort to force his wealthy teen daughters to grow up and be responsible, their father forces them to work in the family business. But it is the girls who save the day when company funds go missing and the girls take on the task of finding out what happened.
- Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior: Wendy (Brenda Song) discovers she is the reincarnation of a famous female warrior and her destiny is to save the world.
- Read It and Weep: Freshman Jamie Bartlett is a shy out-of-place girl who creates an alter-ego in her private journal, which becomes a national best seller.
- The Cheetah Girls 2: The girls head to Spain to take part in a music festival.
- Return to Halloweentown: In this Halloweentown sequel, benevolent witch Aggie's grandchildren are heading to University where a new set of adventures await.
- Now You See It: When a budding reality show finds a star magician it gets more than it bargained for when the truth about the young magician is revealed.
- Buffalo Dreams: When school boy Josh Townsend is forced to once again move with his father, he escapes an arranged job by volunteering for the tribal buffalo reserve. The lessons he learns will last a lifetime.
- Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama: Based on the popular cartoon, in the movie Kim Possible finds a new love interest, Eric, much to the chagrin of her sidekick (and secret admirer) Ron Stoppable.
- Go Figure: When 14-year-old Katelin Kingsford (Jordan Hinson) discovers a renowned Russian figure skating instructor is teaching at a nearby private school, she will do whatever it takes to become a student even if it means joining the hockey team.
- Life Is Ruff: Follow the adventures of 13-year-old Calvin Wheeler as he trains a hard-to-handle Labrador/St. Bernard-mix named Tyko rescued from the local animal shelter.
- The Proud Family Movie: Penny and her family are lured on a cruise ship for an all-expenses paid vacation by the evil Dr. Carver who wants the secret to the new Proud Snack. Havoc ensues when the doctor creates clones of the family and sends them back home.
- Twitches: Two teen witches, separated at birth and adopted by two different families, meet on their 21st birthday and are forced to use their powers to save the world, a world where their birth mother still lives.
- Pixel Perfect: It seems like a great idea: use holography to create a new pop star. Unfortunately the hologram takes on a life of its own, alienating at least one band member.
- Going to the Mat: Thinking his musical talent is his ticket to social acceptance, Jace, the new, and blind, kid at school shows off on the drums in music class, only to find out his teacher is blind. Desperate to fit in, he heads to the wrestling mat.
- Zenon: Z3: In the third installment of the Zenon trilogy, 17-year-old Zenon Kar competes to win the Galactic Teen Supreme contest and celebrate at the Moonstock Festival.
- Stuck in the Suburbs: Bored with her quiet suburban life, teenager Brittany gets a jolt of excitement when her phone is switched with the phone of a teen pop singer.
- Halloweentown High: Teen witch Marnie Piper convinces the Witches' Council to allow a group of Halloweentown students to attend high school in the mortal world, but with a few stipulations.
- You Wish!: High school student Alex is unhappy because his life is always overshadowed by his little brother, but all that changes when he gets a lucky coin from a strange old man.
- Right on Track: This racing drama, based on a true story, chronicles the life of two determined sisters who overcome the prejudices of a male-dominated sport to become world-class drag racers.
- The Cheetah Girls: An all-girl musical group learns the ins and outs of stardom the hard way as they become famous almost overnight.
- Double Teamed: Another fact-based drama, this one tells the story of sisters who switch from volleyball to basketball because their father wants them to win college scholarships. Despite having little enthusiasm for basketball, the pair succeeds.
- Cadet Kelly: A girl who likes to bend the rules finds herself in military school, where she clashes with her squad leader.
- Tru Confessions: Trudy 'Tru' Walker has an awful life so she jumps at the chance to follow her dream and star in a TV show, but that's when she learns what it really means to be a family.
- Get a Clue: Lindsay Lohan plays a privileged 12-year-old gossip columnist for the school newspaper, who sets out to solve a real mystery when a teacher turns up missing.
- Gotta Kick It Up!: Marshal Middle School, destined to be without a dance team until the new Biology teacher agrees to coach, competes in a big way when they learn the secrets of Latin rhythm.
- Zenon: The Zequel: Although 15-year-old Zenon should know better, she continues to meddle, this time helping a group of homeless aliens.
- Motocrossed: Based on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, this is the story of a girl named Andrea Carson who loves motocross, even though her father finds her unsuited for the sport since she is "just a girl."
- The Luck of the Irish: Junior high basketball player Kyle Johnson fights for a gold charm to protect his family from an evil leprechaun.
- Hounded: A silly story about a boy who is harassed by a cute and tiny dog that turns out to be a nightmare.
- Jett Jackson: The Movie: A freak accident causes 16-year-old Jett Jackson and his on-screen character, Silverstone, to trade places, forcing Jett to save the world while Silverstone must learn to deal with teenage life.
- The Jennie Project: Based on the book Jennie by Douglas Preston, this movie is about a chimpanzee who uses sign language to communicate.
- Jumping Ship: In this 2001 sequel to Horse Sense, Michael has big plans to show his cousin Tommy a good time aboard a luxury yacht, but problems arise when he mistakenly charters an old fishing boat and the pair is chased by modern-day pirates and forced to abandon ship.
- The Poof Point: When their parents start to grow younger after a part is accidentally left out of a time machine, the children realize they must resolve the issue before their parents reach the 'poof point' and disappear.
- Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge: In the second movie in the Halloweentown series, witch Marnie hosts a Halloween party for her mortal friends and tries to impress the cute new boy, Kal by showing him her grandmother's magically-hidden room. What Marnie does not realize is Kal is the son of nemesis Kalabar who takes the opportunity to steal the grandmother's magic spell book.
- 'Twas the Night: In this comedy, Christmas is almost ruined when a teen boy and his irresponsible uncle decide to take Santa's high-tech sleigh for a ride.
- Up, Up, and Away: Although his parents are superheroes, Scott Marshall has no super powers of his own, but that does not prevent him from being called upon the save the world in this classic comedy.
- The Color of Friendship: Based on actual events, this is the story about the friendship of two girls; one from the United States and the other from apartheid-affected South Africa.
- Alley Cats Strike: Bowling takes center stage when a group of hip teen outsiders become involved in an inter-school rivalry.
- Rip Girls: Filmed in Australia, this coming of age story follows the transformation of Belle who discovers her talent as a photographer while also learning the truth about her mother.
- Miracle in Lane 2: Based on the life of Justin Yoder, a boy who was born with spina bifida, and his love and participation in the sport of soapbox racing.
- Stepsister from the Planet Weird: In this film, an alien stepfather and stepsister wreak havoc on the all too ordinary life of teen Megan Larson.
- Ready to Run: Corrie Ortiz, an energetic 14-year-old, dreams of becoming a jockey in the predominantly male sport of thoroughbred horse racing, even though her father died in a racing-related accident.
- Quints: Jamie Grover, a 13-year-old girl, does whatever it takes to get attention after her mother gives birth to quintuplets.
- The Other Me: Based on the book Me Two by Mary C. Ryan, The Other Me is about a teen who clones himself as a genius and ends up using his clone to pass school.
- Phantom of the Megaplex: Loosely based on The Phantom of the Opera, the film explores strange occurrences at a megaplex on the night of a major movie premiere gala.
- The Ultimate Christmas Present: When two teen girls find a weather machine that belongs to Santa Claus, they use it to make a snow day. But when the machine breaks it causes an out-of-control snowstorm.
- Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century: This is one of several movies based on the Zenon books by Marilyn Sadler. A teen girl is returned to Earth after she begins investigating suspicious situations on her space station home.
- Can of Worms: The main character in this Halloween movie is contacted by aliens after he sends a message into outer space. The film is based on a novel of the same name by Kathy MacKel.
- The Thirteenth Year: When Cody Griffin turns 13, his body begin to change and he discovers that his birth mother is actually a mermaid.
- Smart House: Based on the short story The Veldt by Ray Bradbury, this science fiction story is about a smart house that turns against its owners.
- Johnny Tsunami: A young surfer decides to try his hand at snow-covered slopes instead of ocean waves.
- Genius: All-around genius and 14-year-old college student Charlie is tired of being friendless. In order to make his life exactly how he wants it, Charlie reinvents himself by taking on a bad-boy image and enrolling in the local junior high.
- Don't Look Under The Bed: This Disney horror film is a story where the main character, a girl named Frances Bacon McCausland, calls on her brother's imaginary friends to banish a mischievous bogeyman.
- Horse Sense: Punished for not treating his rancher cousin well on a recent visit to Los Angeles, Michael Woods is forced to spend a month at the ranch.
- You Lucky Dog: Kirk Cameron plays a dog psychiatrist famous for being able to read dog's minds, and he must use this skill to figure out the real story when a dog is left with a fortune.
- Brink!: Andy "Brink" Brinker, an in-line skater, is forced to make some hard decisions when he discovers his family is having financial problems.
- Halloweentown: Three young witches are sent to learn the family trade of witchcraft, as trouble brews back at home.
- Northern Lights: Starring Diane Keaton, this film follows the unfolding adventures and mishaps when Keaton is charged with raising her estranged brother's nine-year-old son.
- Under Wraps: Follow the exploits of a mummy revived just in time for Halloween.
Capturing the Market
Disney seems to have found the magic recipe for creating successful films appropriate for tweens and young teens. Just as the company has cornered the market on children's films, so have they attracted the attention of older children and families who enjoy light-hearted fare, often with a message..