Back in ye oldin days of the late 90s and early 00s, Disney Channel Original Movies were not about kids building better boys or the talking fake children of Air-Bud. No, instead we had movies that were extremely creative but also covered some very deep topics or controversial ones in some instances. I decided to make a short list of just a few that I believe every kid should watch growing up to teach them some important perspectives on the world they live in.
11. Gotta Kick It Up!
One of the first Latino-American movies for Disney Channel (predates Cheetah Girls). The story, starring America Ferrara, revolves around a group of Latino girls who fight to keep the School’s Dance Team. When a new biology teacher agrees to become the coach, no funding, and no parents approval, it is up to this group of girls to believe in themselves despite the odds. They also add a little Latin rhythms into their dance routines! si, se puede!
10. Miracle in Lane 2
A tribute to a true story, Frankie Muniz stars as Justin, a kid born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus who longs to find something he can participate in even while bound to a wheelchair. When he discovers an old soapbox car, he decides to do whatever it takes to participate in the sport. Making the car user friendly, Justin competes in races despite the possible health risk with the support of his family. The movie focuses on the point that anyone is capable of anything. It also focuses on the tougher topic of siblings living with disabilities as Justin’s brother Seth feels like an outcast due to all of the attention needed for his brother.
Andrea Carson is the kind of girl who doesn’t let stereotypes keep her from living her dream. An amazing take on a classic Girl Power genre, Andrea’s father idolizes her twin brother’s motorcross skills yet finds her interest in the sport lackluster due to her ‘being a girl.’ When her twin brother breaks his leg and their father travels to Europe, Andrea secretly takes his place with the help of her mom to prove girls can do anything they put their mind to.
8. Right On Track
Based on a true story (I met the real girl when she came to visit my high school!), Right On Track is about two sisters who prove the male-dominated world of drag racing wrong when they join the kids league. This movie teaches young girls the importance of following their dreams no matter what the obstacles as well as rivalry between siblings. PLUS I DID NOT KNOW UNTIL THIS SECOND THAT BRIE LARSON STARRED IN IT. WOW GIRL POWER FROM DAY OF CAPTAIN MARVEL YOU GO.
7. Pixel Perfect
When Roscoe’s (Ricky Ullman) friend Samantha’s band isn’t doing so hot, he uses his crazy technology skills to create a holographic lead singer. Loretta, the holograph, is the picture of beauty according to the technology Roscoe used to fuse her together from various magazine covers and soon brings the band to a raving success. That is when Samantha starts to feel extremely disregarded as Loretta takes the spotlight, especially when it seems Roscoe starts to develop feelings for the gorgeously fake singer. Meanwhile Loretta is trying to learn the concept of being ‘herself’ and understanding the concept of individuality as a new ‘human.’ I feel like this movie showcases that looks aren’t everything and sometimes even the people who may look like they ‘have it all’ are still struggling inside.
6. Double Teamed
Based on another true story of two twins who become professional basketball players. The movie focuses on the obstacles they face going to a new school for volleyball in order to attempt to gain college scholarships, only then to be brought on by the basketball team. The movie focuses on how success isn’t easy and has to be worked towards. From broken ankles to relocation for the team, they face it all.
5. Full-Court Miracles
Based on the true story of Lamont Carr, a basketball star who gets benched after a knee injury, and his journey of becoming a coach for a Jewish Orthodox school’s basketball team. It teaches the importance of overcoming grief as well as a unique take on Jewish Orthodox life and the importance of heritage.
4. You Wish!
The whole premise of the movie is basically to be careful what you wish for! A.J. Trauth and Spencer Breslin star in this movie about an older brother (Trauth) who feels like he constantly lives with his little brother (Breslin) in the spotlight. When he wishes him away, he soon discovers that his entire life would be completely different without him. It is up to Trauth to do whatever it takes to get his little brother back and life as he knew it back to normal. Great story about family.
3. Buffalo Dreams
When Josh Townsend gets uprooted again and relocated to New Mexico due to his father’s job. This new small town has close ties with the local Navajo clan and when Josh finds himself volunteering at the tribal buffalo reserve he meets Thomas, the grandson of the Navajo clan elder, who isn’t fond of newcomers. It’s a great movie about Native American heritage, the importance of the land around us, and how different cultures can come together and learn from one another. I don’t know exactly why, but this movie use to be my like ultimate favorite and I would get so excited when I heard it was going to be on.
2. Tiger Cruise
Hayden Panettiere stars in this Original Feature that literally does not get anywhere near as much credit as it should. The entire movie is about Maddie whose father is a Commander on the Tiger Cruise Ship against Maddie’s wishes. Maddie is tired of being a Army brat and is determined to bring her father home after a family weekend at sea aboard the ship. Then 9/11 hits and suddenly the ship full of family and friends must be on high alert and possibly go into combat. Fascinating take on the 9/11 attacks and it is all from the point of view of family members involved in the attack.
1. The Color of Friendship
This is by far, in my opinion, the deepest movie that Disney Channel Originals have ever created. The Color of Friendship is about Mahree, a white South African girl who decides to travel to America on an exchange program in the thick of South Africa’s apartheid during the 70s. She comes to find out her host family, D.C. Congressman Dellums and his family (most importantly his daughter Piper), are black. Piper and Mahree are equally shocked by each others skin color and things take a rocky start. But when the girls start to look past their biased opinions, they discover friendship can found even in the most unlikely of places. Follow along with their journey of overcoming their differences as well as the brutal events of the apartheid that rock both their lives in the US and Mahree’s country back home.