For many of us, Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs for the cool kids) were the bread and butter of our childhood. The movies were the perfect blend of teenage dramatics, fantasy, and of course, they were super cheesy.
DCOMs were also where we were unknowingly introduced to people who would go on to become huge stars. Movies like High School Musical even went on to launch (and sink) many careers. Would anyone have guessed the actress from Rip Girls would go on to be a huge star and date Joe Jonas? Read on to see where the cast of High School Musical and your other favorite DCOMs are today.
I think we can confidently say High School Musical wouldn’t have had the success it did without teenage heartthrob Zac Efron as Troy Bolton. That shaggy haircut was all the rage with teenage girls back in 2006.
Efron’s wanted to leave the past behind though and graduated on to bigger and better roles such as Neighbors, Baywatch, and is even going to be in an upcoming movie about serial killer Ted Bundy.
Vanessa Hudgens played the girl next door, Gabriella, when she landed her breakout role in High School Musical. She had the looks, the pipes, and the total package for Disney to market.
That went downhill quick after nude photos leaked and she stepped away to help change her image and pursue more grownup roles. She most recently starred on the short-lived sitcom Powerless and has become the certified queen of Coachella.
Playing Sharpay Evans in High School Musical was not Ashley Tisdale’s breakout role. She was starring simultaneously on The Suite Life Of Zack And Cody. The show even made a parody of her character.
Since the end of her reign on Disney, Tisdale has stepped away from acting and focused more on music. She runs a YouTube channel where she records “The Backyard Sessions” where she brings on star-studded guests to sing with her.
Lucas as Ryan Evans was easily the most underrated character of the show. I mean, he had the talent and stood up to his evil sister when he needed to.
After the High School Musical series ended, he went on to find more fan appreciation as a young Lex Luther in Smallville, and as Toby Kennish in the ABC family drama Switched at Birth. In his spare time, he produces short films.
Corbin’s first leading role was in a film alongside a young Kristin Stewart called Catch That Kid. Kristen went on to star in Twilight, while Corbin took the more wholesome route and starred as Chad Danforth in High School Musical.
Corbin has tried acting in numerous other roles but none found him the same success as when he was with Disney. He did make it as runner-up for the seventeenth season of Dancing With The Stars.
Monique Coleman was basically an industry vet when she took on the role of Taylor McKessie a.k.a. Gabriella’s best friend and voice of reason.
Monique has landed small roles on shows like Bones, Here We Go Again, and We Are Family, but has largely stepped away from the spotlight. Now, she loves her work as a motivational speaker because “it’s Taylor f***** McKessie coming to tell you that you can do it.”
The shy piano player and composer from High School Musical doesn’t look so shy in real life. Olesya Rulin played Kelsi Nielsen in all three films but still had to work at Nordstrom to pay the bills.
She had a major glo-up and went on to star as Abby on the show Greek. In her spare time, you can catch her hanging out with former HSM star and real-life bestie, Monique Coleman.
Chris Warren Jr.
At first, you might say “who is Chris Warren Jr.?” then you remember oh, of course, he’s Zeke, the guy who SHATTERED gender stereotypes by shamelessly admitting his love of cooking crème brûlée. What would we have done without him?
Since then, he’s most notably played Ty Hensdale on The Fosters. Warren Jr. also made headlines when he had to sue his parents for stealing more than $330,000 from him.
Yes, back in 2003, before she was gracing our screen in other teen movies, Brie Larson was living in the fast lane as a DCOM star. Larson played the character of real-life junior drag racer Courtney Enders in Right on Track.
Fast-forward a few years later and Larson received the Best Actress Oscar for her role as a mother in Room, and now she is slated to become Captain Marvel.
There are two types of people in this world. People who know Hayden Panettiere as the little girl from Remember the Titans, and people who know her as the military brat in the DCOM Tiger Cruise.
Hayden has always seemed to star is more serious, dramatic roles, so it’s no surprise she’s found her niche on TV dramas. She starred on Heroes and just finished her run on the musical drama Nashville.
Bryan Cranston was just starting his tenure on Malcolm In The Middle when he starred in the DCOM ‘Twas The Night. Bryan played an irresponsible man who steals from Santa Claus and (shocking) finds a heart by the end of the film.
Obviously, his career didn’t start and end on Disney. He went on to earn an Oscar nomination in 2016 and made it big as Walter White in Breaking Bad.
Before Taran Killam was killing it on the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, he was in DCOMs. If you’ve watched him on SNL then you know he’s got some serious pipes. Taran played a pop singer trying to change his image on the DCOM Stuck In The Suburbs.
Those pipes would come in handy after Taran left SNL because he went on to star as King George III in the musical Hamilton.
Kaley Cuoco was pretty young when she landed the role of Bridget on 8 Simple Rules, but she starred in a DCOM before that. Cuoco played an aspiring bowler in the TV movie Ally Cats Strike.
Despite being so popular back in the early 2000s, she’s best known for her role as Penny on The Big Bang Theory. She even had a relationship with her costar Johnny Galecki that made every nerd’s dream come true.
Raven Symoné was one of Disney’s original golden child stars. She got her start on The Cosby Show but quickly became known for other roles such as the star of That’s So Raven. But that wasn’t her only Disney role. She played Zenon’s best friend in the DCOM Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century.
She’d also go on to star in another DCOM franchise, The Cheetah Girls. Now, she’s busy as a co-host on The View.
One of the original (and best) DCOMs on this list is Gotta Kick It Up!, a true story of a middle school dance team. A young America Ferrara was part of the group of Latina actresses that starred in the movie.
While most of the actresses went on to do nothing with their careers, America went on to win both a Golden Globe and an Emmy for her role on Ugly Betty. She was probably yelling “sí se puede!” (yes we can) the whole way home.
Shia LaBeouf was a certified Disney star on multiple levels. He played Louis Stevens on the comedy Even Stevens and the DCOM based on the show, The Even Stevens Movie. He also starred in two other DCOMs: Hounded and Tru Confessions.
Disney must have given Shia some serious experience because he transitioned easily to blockbuster films and starred in the Transformers series and an Indiana Jones sequel.
Yes, you’re seeing this correctly. Camilla Belle was indeed the actress who played Sydney in Rip Girls. The 2000 DCOM was loved by any down-to-earth girl who lived on a beach and wanted to learn how to surf.
Camilla was only 13 when she starred in Rip Girls and has had a full career since. She appeared in When A Stranger Calls, 10,000 B.C., and she had a Jonas Brothers song written about her. Goals.
Of course, Lindsay Lohan would have a few DCOMs under her belt. Although she made her film debut in 1998 with The Parent Trap, she continued working with Disney for straight-to-TV movies. DCOMs like Life-Size and Get A Clue were easily some of her best work.
As we all know, she went on to greatness when she starred in Mean Girls, then quickly spiraled downhill. Now, she’s busy partying in Mykonos.
For many of the stars on this list, you almost forget they got their start in a DCOM. With Demi Lovato, it’s the exact opposite. Demi has had to carry the weight of being a troubled Disney star since her breakout role in Camp Rock and Camp Rock 2.
The DCOMs landed her a contract with Hollywood Record and turned her into the powerhouse singer she is today, but it’s come with a price filled with drug addiction and mental illness.
Finn Wittrock looks the exact same now as when he starred in Halloweentown High. The Halloweentown series is practically royalty when it comes to DCOMs so it’s no surprise he went on to greatness.
Since then, he’s gone on to have roles in movies such as Unbroken and The Big Short. Finn has also earned himself an Emmy nomination for his work on American Horror Story: Freak Show.
Another member of Disney Channel fame, Hilary Duff, wouldn’t just stop at starring on her own Disney show. Alongside playing funny teen Lizzie McGuire, she starred in the DCOM based on the show, The Lizzie McGuire Movie. If you’re a true DCOM fan then you also know she played a military school cadet in Cadet Kelly.
Nowadays she’s busy being a mom and played a character on TV land’s Younger.
Christy Carlson Romano
Another Disney channel veteran, Christy Carlson Romano was basically the headlining name when it came to DCOMs. Christy was already riding high off her success as Ren in Even Stevens. She also went on to star in Cadet Kelly and voice the lead character in Kim Possible.
After her time on Disney came to a close, she took her acting and voice to Broadway where she played Belle in Beauty and the Beast.
Considering how dead-pan and sarcastic Kat Dennings is, I’m surprised Disney even let her on their network. Things must have been must different when she was younger. Kat starred in the DCOM The Scream Team as a teenager trying to free her grandfather’s spirit from an evil ghost.
Of course, now we know her better from her roles in the Thor franchise and the CBS sitcom, 2 Broke Girls.
The actress, who we now know mainly from her roles in C.W.’s The Originals, also got her start on Disney. Danielleappeared in the 2010 DCOM StarStruck.
In it, she played a small-town girl from the Midwest who travels out to L.A. and (spoiler) genuinely falls in love with a Hollywood pop star. If that plot sounds familiar, it seems like Disney was running out of ideas in 2010.
We’ve talked about Raven Symoné, but what about Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century herself? Kristen Storms played the space-age character in numerous DCOMs. After the series came to a close, she stayed with Disney and moved on to voice Bonnie Rockwaller in Kim Possible for five years.
Kristen then moved on and joined the cast of General Hospital in 2005 as Maxie Jones. She had to cut her time on the series short though after being diagnosed with endometriosis.
Pretty Little Liars fans were shook when they found out that the guy who plays Ian was also their crush way back in the ’90s in the DCOM, The Luck Of The Irish. In the film, Ryan Merriman plays a basketball player who slowly turns into a leprechaun.
As far as DCOMs go, it was pretty high-tech when they turned Ryan’s hair red, made his ears pointed, and shrunk him down to size.
If you can look past Raven Symoné trying to steal all the attention in The Cheetah Girls, you’ll see the real star of the show, Adrienne Bailon. She had the full package: dancing, acting, and singing.
After her time on Disney, she went on to reality-TV fame by dating Rob Kardashian for two years and appearing on multiple episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. She’s moved on from reality though and now co-hosts the talk show The Real.
One of Disney Channel’s earliest DCOMs was Wish Upon A Star. The movie was a classic plotline where two seemingly-opposite sisters switch bodies and go through the hardships and learn to love each other more in the end. Katherine played the older sister, Alexia, opposite a very young Hayden Panettiere.
Of course, Katherine then went on the become one of Hollywood’s biggest divas and acted on Grey’s Anatomy and multiple classic romantic comedies.
Emmy Rossum has had quite the career. She is now well-known for her role as the Fiona Gallagher on Shameless. Emmy made it big in 2004 when she starred as Christine in the film version of Phantom of the Opera.
Long before all that fame, she got her first big role in the 1999 DCOM, Genius, where she played a smart girl who exposes another genius pretending to be a “bad boy.”
Before Mischa was making every teenage girl jealous as Marissa Cooper in The O.C. she was starringin the 2002 Disney Channel movie A Ring of Endless Light. The film was adapted from a book by Madeline L’Engle.
Since she left Disney and The O.C., Mischa has had a relatively steady acting career. Most importantly though, she’s signed on as a new cast member in the MTV show The Hills: New Beginnings.