Until I reached the age of 8 years old, I was without the Disney Channel. I had Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, but where I lived at the time did not have a TV provider with the Disney Channel on their cable package. It cost extra. Once in a while there would be a short period of time where they would offer a preview of the Disney Channel. In that little time I reveled in the world of Disney. Finally, when I was 8, my family moved, not only from a small apartment to a big house, but to a place where the TV provider’s cable package included Disney. I no longer had to depend on just Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network for my go-to television, which were fantastic in their own right. I could finally enjoy Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and the rest of what Disney had to offer. What I didn’t know was just how serendipitous my timing was.
You see in the late 90’s something epic happened to the Disney Channel. It became so much more than animation in a big way. They started creating original programming. Along with all new original television series like The Famous Jett Jackson, Bug Juice, The Jersey, and So Weird, the Disney Channel produced movies known as DCOM’s (Disney Channel Original Movies). One of the very first to be released, Under Wraps, premiered about a month before I moved into my new home (at least it was the first one I saw). From that point on (especially in the early 00’s) DCOM’s became a thing.
When a preview for a new DCOM played on the Disney Channel I would anticipate sitting at my house on a Saturday night watching the new movie (they usually premiered on Saturday nights). After they first aired, Disney would replay them several times over the next week, month, few months, etc. I would end up watching my favorite ones numerous times. Some of the greatest and most classic DCOM’s in the opinions of me and my friends who also watched these films religiously were Brink!, Johnny Tsunami, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, and Halloweentown. In fact there’s always been a debate over whether Brink! or Johnny Tsunami was better (it’s a tough call but I’ll always go with Brink!). Also, out of those 4 movies, Johnny Tsunami, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, and Halloweentown had sequels (Zenon and Halloweentown actually had three movies each). That’s how you know they were good.
Brink! tells the story of a group of in-line skaters from Southern California named the “Soul Skaters” (because they skate for fun) and a rival group of sponsored in-line skaters, “Team X-Bladz”, who always compete against each other. When head Soul Skater Andy “Brink” Brinker discovers his families financial struggles, he decides to sell out and join Team X-Bladz leading to plenty of turmoil between him and his friends. Eventually though, he realizes that his friendships and love of skating are more important than the money.
In Johnny Tsunami, teenage surfer, Johnny Kapahala and his family move from Hawaii to Vermont due to his father’s job and he must learn to adapt to a whole new culture. In his new town there are two schools, the private one which he attends where everyone skis and the rival public one where everyone snowboards. When Johnny figures out snowboarding is more his style, trouble ensues with his school and classmates, eventually leading to a competition over the mountain both groups use for skiing and snowboarding.
Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century is about teenager, Zenon Kar, who lives in a space station in the year 2049. When she gets in trouble with the space station’s commander, her family punishes her to live with her aunt on earth. After moving, she soon discovers that the space station is in danger, and it’s her job to save her friends and family on board.
In the ghoulishly themed Halloweentown, Marnie Cromwell never understood why her mother wouldn’t let her or her brother and sister celebrate Halloween. With a visit from her grandmother though (played by famed actress Debbie Reynolds), the truth unfolds as she learns she is a witch with special powers and her grandmother lives in a place called “Halloweentown”, where it’s Halloween 24/7. She secretly follows her grandmother home in the hopes that her grandmother can train her as a witch as she intended on her visit (Marnie’s mom put her foot down). Once they arrive though, they begin to become aware of the trouble threatening Halloweentown and what Marnie and her family must do to stop it and save the town.
These four DCOM’s are legendary to those like me who saw them when they came out. I had other favorites too like, Smart House, Alley Cats Strike, Phantom of the Megaplex, The Luck of The Irish, Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook-Off, Cadet Kelly, Double Teamed, and more. Those four set the stage though. Even now, Disney Channel continues to release original movies. Slated for release this year are sequels to the recently popular Teen Beach Movie and Disney film Life-Size (released in 2000 starring Tyra Banks and Lindsay Lohan) as well as newcomer Descendants.
DCOM’s were a big part of my life growing up and I’m sure many others can say the same. With relatively recent favorites like High School Musical, The Cheetah Girls, and Camp Rock (and their sequels), old favorites, like the ones I already mentioned (and so many others), and future favorites that we’ve never heard of yet, DCOM’s have spanned and will continue to span generations for years to come (hopefully at least…as long as Disney keeps making them). I only wish Disney made the old ones available to watch on Netflix or something rather than during the wee hours of the morning on their channel (and I don’t have DVR either). Until then, all I can do is appreciate the nostalgia that sets in every so often reminding me just how good it was to watch classic Disney Channel Original Movies.