The Evolution of Disney Channel: Where Are the Stars Now?

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Collection of Disney Channel Stars (Ross Lynch from "Austin and Ally", Debby Ryan from "Suit Life on Deck with Zack and Cody", Mia Talerico from "Good Luck Charlie", Cole and Dylan Sprouse from "Suite Life with Zack and Cody", Emily Osmet from "Hannah Montana", and Calum Worthy from "Austin and Ally".

As generations grow, some faces that are familiar to some, are puzzling to others.  

So many celebrities and young stars have gained fame from being on a channel more formally known as Disney Channel. 

This television program carries many forms of entertainment for children, while each episode ends with a heartfelt lesson to be learned about life. 

Every half-hour long episode is specifically made for girls as well as boys who are learning how to grow up with everyday struggles and how to roll with unexpected punches life throws their way.

Many shows on Disney Channel have people continuously coming back to watch them again and again. These include: Hannah Montana, Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Austin and Ally, Phineas and Ferb and many more.

However, many of the stars on these shows are all grown up, and headed toward bigger and better things. 

The unfortunate truth behind this, is that once these names leave the comfort of Disney Channel, many people forget about the people and faces behind these names.

For example, Ross Lynch, who plays Austin Moon on Austin and Ally, now sings in a band with his brother, Rocky Lynch. Not only is he continuing with his passion of singing, but he also stars as a lead character in the Netflix original show, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Another star who gained her fame on Disney is a woman named Debby Ryan. Beginning on The Suite Life on Deck, she was slowly able to earn a lead role in Disney Channel Original Movies named Radio Rebel and 16 Wishes.

Later on, Ryan even had the opportunity to direct and help produce her own Disney Channel show named Jessie, covering how a young girl who grew up on a military base was able to become a nanny for a family in New York City. 

What some people do not recognize is Ryan was also able to continue her passion of acting and star in a show available on Netflix named Insatiable, proving to fans everywhere she can stretch her acting ability beyond a sitcom laugh track. 

Ryan is also married to Twenty One Pilots’ drummer Josh Dun. 

Hannah Montana is one of Disney Channel’s classics with the stars Miley Cyrus and Emily Osment. Cyrus and Osment started the show at the age of 13. Cyrus is now 27 years old and recording hit songs; she also appeared in the most recent season of Black Mirror. Osment starred on her show Young and Hungry from 2014 to 2018; she is also recording music under the pseudonym of “Bluebiird.”

How are people letting shows and celebrities such as this continue to be left unrecognized?

The simple fact is that not enough people are old enough to appreciate what Disney Channel used to be. With apps like Disney Plus, why are these younger people not appealed to the classic shows? 

Disney Channel used to be something families could watch together on a rainy, Sunday morning. 

With their attention grabbing trailers for movies such as Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie, Jump In, Teen Beach Movie, and many others, it left kids something to look forward to. 

“I would watch a lot of Disney movies with my children,” said Civics and Psychology teacher Mike Hilstrom. 

Freshman April Pixley said, “I watched some of the newer shows, like “Jessie”, and “Suite Life on Deck”. 

Pie chart consisting of the favorite shows and their popularity from students at Air Academy.

After showing Pixley various pictures of a variety of Disney stars, she was able to correctly identify ⅙ stars. It is very likely that she is unaware of what they are doing now.

Another freshman anonymously said, “That’s the girl from iCarly,” not knowing that iCarly is not a part of Disney Channel. 

This PG television channel leaves such a nostalgic feeling on many people’s hearts, and there are so many good memories that are behind each episode. 

Along with large belly laughs and heart-tugging moments, Disney Channel provided a nice outlet for many people and students going through the everyday struggles of growing up and getting older. 

Some would argue there is nothing more comforting than relaxing with a few friends and blankets and watching a couple of shows. 

Senior Dylan Cornejo explains, “The boys and I love to chill and watch Jessie, Phineas and Ferb, and Wizards of Waverly Place; the boys love Selena.” 

However, for certain people, Disney Channel provided more than just entertainment, it built relationships and memories.

Some of these relationships go beyond schools and neighborhoods, but even venture off to the sets themselves. 

English teacher, Pearl Sonnenschien, “On a ‘daddy-daughter trip with my dad and sister, we flew to California for spring break during my seventh-grade. [My dad] had a few connections who were able to get us tickets to see a live recording of a Hannah Montana episode and even got the chance to meet the cast after the episode.”

These memories had lived on with [her] for so long; after her sister and her dad met the Suite Life with Zack and Cody cast, she even remembers Cole Sprouse eating pudding casually as they took a picture together. 

Because of Disney Channel, Sonnenschien was able to meet people she had looked up to and make memories with her family that she will hold onto forever. 

There are such good lessons to learn behind each show, yet Disney Channel is not all about getting children addicted to keeping their eyes on the screen.

Disney Channel takes a lot of steps to promote healthy living and a great lifestyle, such as making sure to pay careful attention to one’s hygiene, try new foods, and ensure kids are getting outside and getting exercise, or giving back (i.e. planting trees). They displayed those actions with series like Pass the Plate, This is the Time I, and Disney Channel Games. 

It is very important that we can all hold on to Disney Channel and all the memories and opportunities it had opened for each of us.

There are so many positives to watching and experiencing the smile Disney Channel has put on the faces of so many children, as well as adults.

Although Disney Channel has changed, it is still here to teach us lessons and help us walk our way through our teenage years.