Disney, of course, has some amazing and iconic films, but some of the best Disney Channel Original Movies are just built different. I practically grew up on Disney films, and until a ton of classic Disney movies started popping up on Disney+, I straight up thought I might have imagined some of the more niche and wild scenes, or even whole films, that have now found a home on the streaming platform. Buckle up for a trip down memory lane, because these five Disney Channel movies may not have been dreams, but they are major throwbacks to childhood.
Phantom of the Megaplex (2000)
An obvious ode to Phantom of the Opera, this Disney Channel Original takes place at a huge movie theater during an important movie premiere as a masked “phantom” causes commotion and destruction. Three siblings, one who works at the theater, try tracking down the troublemaker. The film features a number of wacky characters, some pretty great movie references, and an awesome character and performance by Mickey Rooney.
As a film junkie, I’ve got to give it up to Phantom of the Megaplex. The movie is a masterpiece, especially for being an old Disney Channel TV movie. Everything from the very specific and strong personality characteristics and mannerisms of the colorful characters who work at the megaplex, to the film references thrown in throughout the movie has made it into my adult life as a vague memory whenever I come across anything that sparks a correlation.
That being said, I have never once met anyone who remembers anything about this film, so much so that I had stopped talking about it and was convinced it was something I made up in my head. I’ve got to thank my Disney+ subscription for this one, because without it I would have continued to gaslight myself into believing it wasn’t real.
Halloweentown’s Kimberly J. Brown plays an only child in Quints whose life drastically changes when her parents become pregnant with, well, quints. Yeah, that’s five babies. Brown often breaks the fourth wall in the film as the narrator to remind the viewer that the film is about her story, not that of her miraculous siblings. Quints is her character’s journey through a life-changing event and finding peace in who she is in both her own life and in other people’s.
While five babies are more likely now through IVF treatments, and there actually is a show about a family with quints that is eerily similar to the plot of Quints, the idea was pretty novel a couple of decades ago. It gives off the same vibes of The Simpsons being able to predict the future. That weird aspect coupled with the fourth wall breaks and a narration that makes the film feel like it’s talking directly to the viewer makes the whole film feel surreal. That’s not even mentioning the fact that Kimberly J. Brown got major credit for the now cult classic Halloweentown franchise, but no one ever mentions her as the main character in Quints. In fact, its presence on Disney+ seems to be some of the only evidence that the movie wasn’t just in my head.
Mom's Got A Date With A Vampire (2000)
While this is definitely a case where the plot is right there in the title, Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire still has some surprises for viewers. After their mom meets a literal vampire in the supermarket, the three Hansen siblings are thrown into a night they are not likely to forget. Getting help from a vampire hunter he sees on TV, the youngest Hansen sets off to free their mother from the blood thirsty vampire.
For a film that's under 90 minutes, Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire has a ton of setting shifts and a whole lot of storyline. It creates kind of a chaotic vibe, and that, added to the recognizable adult cast (one of the aunts from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, the dad from Lizzy McGuire, and The Nanny’s Mr. Sheffield) was enough to make me think I made up the whole movie as a dreamlike sequence.
Smart House (1999)
Ben loves entering sweepstakes. It’s a pretty huge deal when he wins one, as his prize is a whole house that includes a super computer that will cater to his family’s every need. From cleaning up spills to remaking rooms into any virtual reality they could ask for, the house seems like a total dream. When Smart House’s titular character (played by Katey Sagal) wants to be more than a house, though, Ben gets more than he signed his family up for.
I’m just going to preface this by saying that Katey Sagal has an absolute chokehold on me, and it probably stems from watching this film, back when I was a mere 5-year-old child. When I tell Sons of Anarchy and Futurama (which has been revived and will once again star Sagal) fans how much I loved Sagal as a talking house, no one knows what the hell I’m talking about. There’s that, but the reason why I considered the film to be something of a figment of my imagination is probably due to the scene where a smoothie gets slurped up by the kitchen floor.
Don't Look Under The Bed (1999)
Frances is 14 and living in the dull town of Middleberg, until all the alarm clocks in town are sped up by three hours in the middle of the night, all the neighborhood dogs are found on roofs, and Frances starts seeing a mysterious boy that no one else can see. As things start getting even weirder in Middleburg, Frances treks into a horror world featuring its own, very real, boogeyman through an entrance under her bed.
It’s not hard to imagine where a 6-year-old me got her obsession with horror flicks, because this film is an actual nightmare. It is leagues beyond any of the slight scares Disney Originals had to offer up to this time and, honestly, since. There are very real horror aspects throughout the film, like every inanimate object with a face turning to look at Frances when she isn’t looking. This film has everything a good fever dream has, right down to colored fog seeping out from under the bed, so it’s really no wonder why I chalked the scary film up to a bad dream.
As the company keeps bringing new life to older films in the form of Disney remakes, I can’t help but wonder what some of these would look like if done today. I’m not one to hope for remakes of classic films, but in the case of Disney Channel Originals (opens in new tab), I’m probably super down to see it happen. That way, at least, a whole new generation of kids can look back 20 years later and not be totally sure if they can trust their memories when it comes to these films being real, or the result of a very detailed fever dream.
Constantly thinking about books, coffee, and the existential dread I feel from Bo Burnham’s Inside. While writing I’m also raising a chaotic toddler, who may or may not have picked up personality traits from watching one too many episodes of Trailer Park Boys.
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