Ah Disney Channel Original Movies. Recently Iâ€™ve been on a nostalgia trip going back and watching the TV movies that appeared on the Disney Channel back in the 1990s and early 2000s. For those of you that donâ€™t know Iâ€™ll give a little history lesson.
Back when the Disney Channel service became available on cable (remember the original cable TV not the modern one, but the special old school cable TV?) in 1983 Disney experimented with original television movies. On average the network would have about 3-4 movies a year. While I was looking up the list of Disney Channel Original Movies on Wikipedia I noticed a correlation between the # of DCOMs and the era of the Animation Renaissance. The year before Little Mermaid came out there were 7 DCOMs that aired that year. After Little Mermaid came out that # got smaller and smaller. 1990 had around the same #, but by the time Beauty and the Beast came out the average was back to 3-4. This 3-4 average continued until 1999 which marked the end of the Animation Renaissance when the Disney Channel had the largest amount of movies it had in a year with 8 movies. After this the DCOM exploded and in the future the network would try and have 1 movie a month! This led to interesting film choices such as getting a Halloween related movie in October and a Christmas related one in December and even a race relations one in February for Black History Month. This trend continued and slowed down a bit with a new average of 4-6 movies a year by 2004 and 2005.
The reason why I brought this up is that this is very similar to the animation slowdown back in the 1950s and 1960s where Walt had branched out beyond animation and into theme parks and television and started to focus the companyâ€™s efforts on those endeavors and the # of animated films decreased while the # of live action films and TV shows increased. This is where we get the corny formula comedy films of â€œThe Shaggy Dogâ€, â€œAbsent Minded Professorâ€, other Fred Mac Murray movies, The Love Bug, as well as the media of teenage stars such as Annette Funicello and Hayley Mills (remind you of anything? At least Annette and Hayley were talented unlike another Disney pop star I know!)Â
This correlation and relationship with the theatrical films fascinates me! My overall opinion of these movies is that some of them mostly the earlier ones in the 80s and 90s are good, some are a little corny, but they have a certain charm about them like the 50s and 60s movies. The more modern ones like the early 2000s are open to much more criticism seeing as many of them lack the charm of the predecessors and arenâ€™t even well made in terms of story or thematic structure. Itâ€™s that kind of bull crap that made me hide in a pile of classic Disney Animated movies and classic live action films and TV and had me playing Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 over and over again( Wait, is that really a BAD thing?) Oh well so I am going to review a handful of these movies. The reviews will include Tiger Town, Susie Q, Smart House, The Zenon Trilogy, Johnny Tsunami, Phantom of the Megaplex, Eddieâ€™s Million Dollar Cook Off, and to finish it off the High School Musical Trilogy!!!!!! (I know the last one is theatrical but it might as well be a DCOM).Â