“Let’s watch a Disney Channel movie!” is a phrase familiar to anyone who was watching Disney Channel in the early 2000s. The original movies on the channel (known as “DCOMs”) were required viewing each time they aired. Disney Channel has produced well over a hundred original movies since the first, Under Wraps, premiered in 1997. These DCOMs often introduced us to big future stars like Keke Palmer, Danielle Panabaker, Michael Trevino, Taran Killam, Brenda Song, and many more. Some even launched massive global franchises like High School Musical and Descendants. Since we are all stuck at home in quarantine, we thought now would be the perfect time to look back on our favorite underrated DCOMs, which can be watched on Disney’s streaming service Disney+. We purposely focused on DCOMs that weren’t musicals (that’s a whole separate post!) and restricted ourselves to six top choices (very, very difficult for our Disney-loving staff). Without further ado, here are six DCOMs worth checking out.
Smart House (1999)
Long before households were filled with sounds of Alexa and Siri telling us everything we wanted to know, there was PAT. Short for “Personal Applied Technology,” PAT (voiced by Katey Sagal) was the integral workings of a smart house that the Cooper family won as part of a sweepstakes. I always loved how technology played such a gigantic part of the movie and oddly predictive of how we would implement it into our homes. It seemed so futuristic in 1999, and now we’re advancing even further over two decades later. Of course, it may also be the reason I’m a wee bit afraid of Alexa! Jokes aside, Smart House continues to be one of my favorite Disney Channel Original Movies. Beyond technology, it’s a heartwarming look into families and the unpredictable changes and losses they sometimes face, with a modern Willy Wonka-like take.
Stuck in the Suburbs (2004)
In the early 2000s, there was Justin Timberlake, in the early aughts it was Justin Bieber, and now it’s Shawn Mendes. However, none of those “teenage heartthrobs” have come close to one Jordan Cahill (played by Saturday Night Live‘s own Taran Killam in an early role). Also starring Danielle Panabaker (The Flash) and Brenda Song, this movie follows Brittany and new friend Natasha as they wind up with their idol Jordan’s phone and evidently change his entire life: his looks, his relationships, and almost destroying his singing career. Stuck in the Suburbs is a classic fanfiction-turned-movie before fanfiction was a thing. Even while ruining Jordan’s life, they still manage to do some good in it. There were some points in my life where I had wished I could swap phones with my idol and run his life, later becoming friends with them. It’s an underrated DCOM that’s a feel-good film. Plus, some of the original songs in the film, like “More Than Me,” “On Top of the World,” and “Make a Wish” are still bangers even 16 years later (and thankfully available on Spotify).
Jump In! (2007)
This 2007 classic follows Izzy Daniels (Corbin Bleu), a young boxer from Brooklyn who is training to be a champion to make his dad proud. However, at his neighbor Mary’s (Keke Palmer) urging, Izzy decides to pick up the creative art of Double Dutch to help fill a fourth empty spot on her team. As Izzy grows to love the sport, he finds himself having to choose what’s more important to him – following in his dad’s footsteps or carving out a path of his own. This was one of my absolute favorite movies as a kid. I think everyone at some point or another was able to relate to having a sense of pressure to make your parents proud. The messages of acceptance and following your dreams promoted in this movie never failed to give me a wholesome feeling when the credits rolled. This feel-good movie truly has a little bit of everything – romance, drama, redemption, and of course some pretty sweet double dutch moves. Not only did this nostalgic DCOM give us young Corbin Bleu and Keke Palmer, but some truly iconic songs as well. I can just hear the soundtrack in my head … “push it, push it. To the limit, limit. ‘Cuz we’re in it to win it, in it to win it, oh yeah.”
Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (1999)
No, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century was not a fever dream. Zenon follows the story of Zenon (Kirsten Storms) and her best friend Nebula (Raven-Symone), who live on a space station in the 21st century. Zenon messed with the code on the space station so much that she was “grounded” to Earth. Though she didn’t like the planet at first, she grew to love it. It’s basically the most 90’s movie ever complete with the cheesiness and frosted tips. Plus, Proto Zoa and his band Microbe’s hit song “Supernova Girl” still gets stuck in my head. (Zoom Zoom Zoom!) It was also one of the first DCOMs to inspire sequels, with Zenon: The Zequel and Zenon: Z3 released in 2001 and 2004, respectively.
Cow Belles (2006)
The Michalka sisters were one of Disney’s dynamic duos when Cow Belles was released. The movie showcases Aly and AJ as two wealthy girls who are forced to work at Callum Dairy in order to learn some important life lessons. When money from the company goes missing, the girls investigate to save the day. I really enjoy this movie because I feel that it teaches important lessons young kids could probably benefit from today. Life doesn’t always hand you everything you want, sometimes you have to work for it. Upon looking back over the film, I never realized that Michael Trevino (The Vampire Diaries, Roswell: New Mexico) plays love interest Jackson. It’s hard to see him as anything else but a hybrid now. Most of the DCOM’s are cheesy but in the best way and I really recommend this movie for some well-deserved nostalgia.
Read It And Weep (2006)
Back in the early 2000s, Disney Channel had a thing for talented siblings. One pair who stood out was Kay and Danielle Panabaker. Danielle has already been mentioned once on this list for her starring role in Stuck in the Suburbs (not to mention Sky High), but her sister Kay was also a Disney actor, with both a DCOM debut in 2005’s Life is Ruff and her recurring role on the classic Disney Channel show Phil of the Future. It seemed high time for both actresses to team up for a DCOM. Read It And Weep follows Jamie Bartlett (Kay), a teen who gets through her humdrum life by imagining she has a glamorous alter ego named Isabella (Danielle). Isabella does all the things Jamie is scared to do, from talking to crushes to destroying mean girls with her magic powers. Jamie writes Isabella’s adventures down in a diary, but when her journal is accidentally published, these private stories become a bestselling book. Now Jamie must deal with the fallout as it soon becomes clear the book is based on the real people in her life. It also features DCOM veteran Jason Dolley in his first Disney role (he later starred in Minutemen, Hatching Pete, and the series Cory in the House and Good Luck Charlie). This DCOM is funny, heartfelt, and wacky, with the scenes featuring Danielle and Kay together being a real highlight.
What other DCOMs did you enjoy watching as a kid (and let’s be real, probably as an adult too)? Let us know in the comments!