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15 Disney Channel Original Movies That Changed Television Forever

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with the little Mermaid arrive this weekAnd a result Looks at the Disney Renaissance and how it shaped our culture. Today, we’re taking a look at Disney Channel Original Movies, hand-picking our essential picks from across the channel’s history.

If you’ve been a kid in a home with a TV at any time in the past 30 years, you’re probably very familiar with Disney Channel Original Movies, or DCOM. The tradition began with the launch of the Disney Channel as a premium cable channel in 1983, where Disney retained some of its family-oriented films as “Disney Channel Premier Films.” These early live-action films, which often aired on Sunday nights, weren’t necessarily smash hits, but when the Disney Channel moved to basic cable in 1997, everything changed.

Disney’s “Renaissance” throughout the mid-1990s led to highly watched TV shows for those movies on the Disney Channel, and a new generation of content for millennial kids is starting to take shape. Disney rebranded the channel, changing the name of these first movies to “Disney Channel Original Movies,” and thus began the era of DCOM that many of us know and love.


From the years 1999 to 2002, the Disney Channel premiered a new original movie nearly every month, introducing and expanding franchises such as Halloweentown, Zenon: Girl of the 21st CenturyAnd Johnny Tsunami. From 2002 to 2010, Disney dipped in size, but they haven’t slowed down with their high profile releases, and the biggest DCOM in the history of the channel arrived in 2006 with a small movie called High School Musical. Its success was so overwhelming that it left an indelible impact on pop culture and the conclusion of the trilogy became the only DCOM franchise to go from its TV premiere to the big screen.

As the Disney Channel continues to put more equity into its existing series and franchises – Hannah Montana, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, The Cheetah GirlsAnd Waverly Place Wizards, for example – they’re gradually starting to shrink the size of DCOM. From 2013 to today, there has been a significant drop in volume due to the era of broadcasting and the loss of primary cable viewing. These movies and their premieres were once time-bound family-friendly movie nights, but now, Direct-to-Disney+’s strategy is probably the only way to get people to keep watching.

It’s endlessly fascinating to look back at these earlier films and see how they connected to larger cultural moments. Over the course of more than 40 years, there have been many eras of DCOM – so here’s a ride through the most notable ones in Disney Channel history.

Paulo Ragusa


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