In the mid-late 90s our local cable provider finally made the Disney Channel part of our basic cable set up. By this time I was already in Jr. High and High School but my sister was still in grade school and I saw my share of the Disney lineup.
One thing I remember was the introduction of Disney Channel Original Movies.
Originally, the Disney Channel would introduce a new original made for tv movie every few months, but after several years it became a monthly event, introducing the newest film on Friday after hyping it for a month and then airing it all throughout the weekend.
While the first Disney Channel Original Movies were in 1997, I didn't really watch any of them until Smart House premiered in summer 1999.
Smart House stars Katy Sagal and tells the story about a boy named Ben in which him and his family (consisting of dad and little sister) win a state of the art smart house, in which everything is controlled by a computer named Pat which can create holograms of stuff to enlighten your time and imagination. While Ben's dad is out on a date with the house creator Sarah, Ben and his sister throw a fun party at the house, thanks to Pat who can instantly clean it all up when dad gets home. However dad finds out about the party and is disappointed in both Ben and Pat. Pat then becomes stricter and stricter, even regulating what food the family is allowed to have! After viewing clips of the news on the television, Pat decides the outside world is too dangerous for anyone to live and locks the family in her house, creating a human looking hologram of herself as well. Will they be able to reprogrammed Pat and escape her controlling clutches?
Another Disney Channel Original Movie that premiered in 1999 was Johnny Tsunami. In this one, we are introduced to Hawaii surfer kid Johnny as he is suddenly uprooted to live in snowy Vermont. In order to fit in at his new private school he must trade in his surfboard for a pair of skis, but he finds he enjoys the snowboards that the public school kids ride much more. Not understanding that the local snow mountain is split in 2 - one side controlled by the skiers while the snowboarders are stuck to a different side, Johnny rides with the skiers anyway, upsetting Brett and the popular boys at his private school and resulting in a fight. To make matters worse, Brett's crush Emily has been hanging around with Johnny. While at home, Johnny's parents are fed up with his lack of fitting in and accepting their new home and announce they're moving to Iceland. Not wanting that, Johnny and his friend sneak off on a plane to Hawaii to visit once again with Johnny's grandfather who shares an old family story that inspires Johnny to go back and challenge the skiers to a race, where if he wins, they all share the snow mountain.
In 1999 we were also introduced to Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century, which eventually had 2 sequels. In the first film, Kristen Storms stars as free-spirited teenager Zenon who lives with her friends and family on a space station in space. After getting trouble though, Zenon is exiled to live with her aunt on Earth, however she soon learns that her home in space is to be deconstructed piece by piece. Wanting to expose the person behind it and their greed, she stows away with rockstar Protoza and his band as they are about to become the first band to play in space, playing on Zenon's space station. In the 2001 sequel, Zenon the Zequel, Zenon is put on monitoring duty as a punishment, comes across what appears to be an alien transmission, however no one believes her. She believes the transmission is aliens singing Protoza's song "Zoom Zoom Zoom" and stows away on a flight down to earth to find the retired rock star and get him to come back to space and perform for the aliens. In the 2004 sequel, Z3, Zenon is competing in a teen space athletic competition which includes events such as racing across the moon, however one of the contestants is not how they seem.
In 2000, the Disney Channel started releasing a new movie every month. Some of the more memorable ones I enjoyed were Miracle in Lane 2, Stepsister from Planet Weird, and Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire.
Miracle in Lane 2 is based on a true story and stars Frankie Muniz as a handicapped youngster who struggles with having a very athletic sibling and comes to love soapbox racing and dreams of racing and winning. With help from family, they are able to custom-build a car for him and his special needs which includes a special handbrake for him to use. After he gets in a bad crash during a competition though, his family reconsiders letting him race, fearing it might be too dangerous and hazardous for him to continue.
In Stepsister from Planet Weird (which I remember babysitting for a young girl who was so excited to watch this one when it premiered, and then we watched it all night until bedtime), we are introduced to teenage Megan, her younger brother and her windsurf-loving mom. When her mother begins dating a strange man named Cosmo Cola and the two begin to get serious, Megan is introduced to her potential future stepsister Ariel, who is even stranger than her father. Eventually, as the story progresses, we learn that Ariel and her father are aliens, as her father was once a freedom fighter on their home planet and escaped to Earth, despite his daughter's longing for her home. This one was pretty amusing to watch as the kids struggle to understand and accept each other as their parents are about to be married.
2001 and 2002 brought us inspiring girl power fueled movies, including Motocrossed and Double Teamed.
In Motocrossed, we are introduced to Andrea (Andy) Carson and her family of motocross experts and racers. When her racer twin brother Andrew is injured and out with a broken leg, Andrea decides to cut her hair short and masquerade as her brother in order to keep the family team going, despite her father's concern that the sport is too dangerous for a girl. To everyone's surprise, she's actually pretty good at the sport, but what happens when it is revealed that she is a girl and not her brother?
In Double Teamed, is the true life tale of WNBA stars and sisters Heather and Heidi Burge. While one sister feels stuck in the shadow of the other, she decides to try out for theater at their new school, which dad has moved them to in hopes of a better chance at them both getting college scholarships. The other sister is interested in volleyball, until a coach notices her height and insists she gives basketball a chance, saying it will help condition her for volleyball season. Eventually they both end up playing, befriending their rivals and becoming the stars of the school's female basketball team, leading them to victory and eventually going on to play in the WNBA.
With the success of the several Disney Channel original series, they started making movies to use as vehicles for their series stars. Two of which I enjoyed were 2002's Cadet Kelly, starring Lizzy MacGuire's Hilary Duff and Even Steven's Christy Carlson Romano and 2003's Cheetah Girls starring That's So Raven's Raven Simone.
The Cheetah Girls tells the story of four friends from different backgrounds who all enter the school talent competition together and win, eventually catching the attention of some major execs who sign them to a record deal. However the glory of fame seems to affect them all in different ways, threatening to tear them apart. Will they be able to set their sudden fame aside for the sake of their longtime friendship or will the Cheetah Girls be no more?
By this point I was of at college and got out of the habit of watching these movies regularly with my little sister and eventually my younger cousin. But the Disney Channel is still putting out original movies on a regular basis - the most popular of the past few years being the High School Musical series and Camp Rock.
Here's a full list of D.COMs that have been put out over the years - which ones did you see? Which were your favorites?