By Wali Mbekeani
A long, long time ago, Disney Channel movies ruled the world. Who could forget the galactic hit, "Zoom, Zoom, Zoom?" For those who miss - or missed - that golden age of Disney Channel movies, here’s our list of movies you probably forgot defined your childhood.
1. "Wish Upon a Star"
White knee socks, polka dot miniskirts and you can’t forget the white pumps. Before we knew her as Izzy on "Grey’s Anatomy," Katherine Heigl played Alexia Wheaton, the sister who had everything: the perfect boyfriend, perfect body - and of course that red jeep. In comparison, her younger sister Haley’s life as a social outcast was borderline tragic... That is until she makes a wish to be Alexia, and they swap bodies. At first they screw with each other’s lives, but in the end this "Freaky Friday" moment brings them closer together. A match made in sibling hell that we can all relate to.
Haven’t seen it? It's streaming now on Netflix!
We all wanted to be a genius after this one. Charlie Boyle could control hockey players on ice by just activating a sticker button on his rollerblades. He was also already in college and trying to defy gravity. But then Charlie fell in love with the daughter of the Northern Lights coach. So he did what every normal kid would do... He pretended to be a bad boy, enrolled in a local junior high school under the name of Chaz Anthony, and enlisted the girl’s tutoring services.
Even though this double life didn't last, his friends come to accept him as Charlie Boyle and he got his girl in the end. But not before figuring out how to control gravity and bringing the Northern Lights hockey team to victory. The most memorable moments include when Charlie and Claire using their activated skates to make the players do ballet during the middle of the game. And of course, the kiss they share while floating in the air.
3. "The Paper Brigade"/"Gunther and the Paper Brigade"
Gunther’s “I don’t give a crap” attitude and his easy cool should not be forgotten. Neither should his love for tie dye and plaid. Just a kid but already buried in debt, Gunther was someone we all could relate to. We rooted for him to get the girl and we rallied behind him when he was pit against neighborhood troublemakers, bullies, vicious pups, and Crazy Old Man Cooper (remember the vicious ducks?) Most memorable moments include when Fish blows a 14-inch gum bubble, and Crazy Man Cooper throughout the whole movie. Oh Gunther, we feel your paperboy struggles.
Of course "Brink!" is on the list. How could it not be? Erik Von Detten was the ‘90s. With his floppy hair and a soul as gold as his locks, we followed him and the crew through his rivalry with the evil Val and his eventual exile after he decides to join the X-Blades (poor kid was just trying to raise money for his Pops). But in the end he gets his friends back and wins the competition. What does Val win? A face full of chocolate milkshake and a worm sandwich. Soul Skaters!
5. "My Date with the President’s Daughter"
A boy asks out a girl who happens to be the President’s daughter? Although highly unlikely we don’t care. From the moment they zoom out from Hallie’s window to reveal she lives in the White House and that legendary intro song kicks in, we’re hooked.
We can’t help but love Duncan (Will Friedle) in his desperate attempts to get Hallie to the spring dance and all the stops they make along the way (remember when he uses magic to save him and Hallie from a biker gang?) Or Hallie, who just wants some freedom for the night. Least favorite characters include the Vice President’s sleazy son who wants Hallie for himself, and Biker Steve who whisks Hallie away on his motorcycle. But the meddling younger sister who can’t stop eating? She is beloved.
6. "Smart House"
Oh Ben! Good old Ben was so excited when he won a competition and moved his sister and his widowed father into a computer programmed mansion named Pat. At first Pat is the mother and friend Ben’s family has been missing. She even lets Ben throw a house party complete with “video screens” (yes, it’s the ‘90s), confetti and of course a soul train line. But when Ben reprograms Pat to be more motherly, Pat goes mommy hungry and uses her computer tricks for lockdowns instead of parties and smoothies. Sure, at first it was hard to look at a computer afterward, but this classic is definitely worth revisiting.
7. "Johnny Tsunami"
We all shed a small tear when poor Johnny (and no his last name is not Tsunami, that’s his awesome grandpa) Kapahala is forced to move with his family to the harsh cold of Vermont. Luckily, he’s able to turn to the closest alternative to surfing: snowboarding. He rebels against the skiing culture of his private school and falls in with the cool snowboarders of the nearby public school. With the help of Sam, aka The Famous Jett Jackson, he learns to adjust. Let’s not forget Johnny’s Grandpa who out of nowhere turned out to also be insanely good at snowboarding. If you somehow missed it, I suggest you watch for Grandpa Tsunami’s laugh alone.
8. "The Thirteenth Year"
Boy turns 13. Boy develops scales and fins. Boy finds out he’s adopted. Cody’s thirteenth year kind of sucked. On the other hand he did get to kiss his crush and move in with his mom so it all came out pretty even for everyone. Except maybe for his crush Sam since the two had to part ways in the end. There’s breaking up with your boyfriend, and then there’s releasing him into the sea. At least it was fun while it lasted.
Also, did anyone catch K. Stew in the fountain line?
9. "Horse Sense"
The Lawrence Brothers, anyone? They were practically the poster boys for Disney Channel Movies. Joey Lawrence plays a spoiled, city boy who is sent to Montana to work on his aunt’s ranch as punishment for neglecting his little cousin (the youngest Lawrence) when he comes to California. There’s also the sequel, Jumping Ship. The brick sized cell phones alone make this Disney movie quite the throwback.
10. "The Color of Friendship"
Disney got real with this one. It said, "yes kids, there are white Africans." Politics, diplomacy, apartheid, and racism are just some of the many topics covered in this Disney Channel movie that’s actually based on true events. The movie also earned the network an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s program.
Most intense moments include Mahree and Piper’s fight about apartheid South Africa and Piper’s dad hearing the black nicknames Mahree told Piper.
11. "Luck of the Irish"
The only thing scarier in this movie than Pat was Seamus. Of course now when you watch it you can’t help but wonder: why a kid would be responsible for a coin that holds EVERYONE’s luck? Why is there only one coin? Why didn’t they chain it to his neck? But it’s still a favorite by many and not a bad lesson in celebrating heritage.
12. "Model Behavior"
Not only did she look exactly like a famous model, but she got to swap her boring life as a social outcast for one where she gets to make out with Justin Timberlake. This movie was every gal’s dream.
13. "Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century"
Zetus Lapetus, Zenon is unforgettable. She’s one of the most badass Disney heroines. Protozoa and his spiky bleach blonde hair, hologram teachers, and intergalactic relationships, from beginning to end it made you want to live in space. Least favorite characters include Margie and her heinous orange fur sweater and Mr. Wyndom and his creepy henchman Mr. Lutz.