Disney Channel’s Memorial Day weekend marathon of Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMS) was a blast and I’m sad it’s over, but the good news is that they will continue to air classic DCOMs all throughout June, leading up to the premiere of the 100th DCOM at the end of the month. While Disney Channel had experimented with music in their films (Zenon is a perfect example), it wasn’t until Hilary Duff became a music star that they began to make music an almost mandatory component of all of their films. This fourth part of our DCOM Guide focuses on the films that use music the most effectively. For more DCOM fun, be sure to check out our previous guides (Part 1: Science Fiction, Part 2: Sports, Part 3: Spooky Films).
The Cheetah Girls
The first DCOM to focus on music was 2002’s The Cheetah Girls, starring Raven Symone from the brand new series That’s So Raven plus three members of the girl group 3LW. Galleria, Chanel, Dorinda and Aquanette are best friends with dreams of being pop stars together with their girl group, The Cheetah Girls. While working to be the first freshmans to win the school’s talent show, they get discovered by a talent agent. But when their label wants to change who the girls are, they will have to rediscover themselves and what makes their friendship work.
The Cheetah Girls 2
Now juniors, The Cheetah Girls want to continue working towards success on their summer break. But when Chanel’s mom whisks her away to Barcelona, she finds a way to bring all her friends with her. While there, the girls enter a music festival competition and a Spanish pop star’s mother attempts to take down the competition by breaking up the group. But when they discover that they aren’t as strong on their own, the girls will have to find a way to put their drama aside to work together again.
The Cheetah Girls: One World
With a scheduling conflict while filming College Road Trip, the third and final Cheetah Girls film writes Raven Symone’s character off as being away at college. Chanel, Dorinda and Aqua travel to India when they are cast in a Bollywood musical, but upon arriving they discover that there is only one part and they will have to compete against each other to get it.
High School Musical
The most famous DCOM of all time is without a doubt High School Musical, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Brainy Gabriella and jock Troy throw the school off balance when they get the lead roles in the school musical, breaking the mold of who their peers expect them to be. Peer pressures and a jealous drama queen try to tear the couple apart as they fight to stay true to themselves. The original film was an unexpected hit, with “Breaking Free” reaching number 1 on the Billboard music charts. This film was also the very first ever sold on iTunes, ushering in a new era of digital media consumption.
High School Musical 2
For a film with the word “High School” in the title, there is very little school in High School Musical 2. During summer break, the main characters from the first film get jobs at a country club where drama queen Sharpay practically lives. She has won the club’s annual talent show year after year, but with the crew working together on a team performance, can she stand a chance? Despite a weaker plot, the sequel offers more fun than the original film plus some great new songs. The third High School Musical film doesn’t qualify as a DCOM since it was released to theaters, but a fourth is reportedly in the works.
Before Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato were touring together as solo artists, they starred in Camp Rock, a film designed to appeal to Jonas Brothers fans that also launched Lovato’s career. Mitchie’s dreams of going to Camp Rock come true when her mother gets a job as the camp’s caterer. But while honing her craft, Mitchie faces pressure to fit in amongst the wealthy campers that can afford to attend. However, she proves her worth when Connect 3’s lead singer, Shan Gray, discovers her talent and performs with her in the Final Jam.
Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam
Mitchie and her friends return to Camp Rock the next summer only to find that a new camp, Camp Star, has opened up across the lake. When the appeal of the new flashy camp lures campers and councilors away, Mitchie and her friends find themselves mentoring the younger campers while preparing for a televised competition between the two camps.
Teen Beach Movie
Ross Lynch from Austin & Ally stars as Brady, a surfer boy who loves spending time with his best friend Mack and obsesses over a 1960’s beach movie musical called “Wet Side Story.” During a bizarre surfing accident, Brady and Mack find themselves inside the movie, unintentionally changing the plot and attracting the affections of the film’s two lead characters. As the film changes, the teens must find a way back to their own reality in order to set things right.
Teen Beach 2
It’s senior year and Mack and Brady can feel their future plans pulling them apart. But Lela and Tanner from “Wet Side Story” find a portal to our world, they get distracted trying to help them fit in until they can return them to the film. Meanwhile, characters from the film are disappearing without the film’s leads to hold it together. Brady and Mack must now find a way to get them back before “Wet Side Story” is gone forever.
The biggest thing on Disney Channel right now is Descendants, which comes close in popularity and merchandise opportunities to matching High School Musical‘s level of success. Mal, Evie, Jay and Carlos, the children of famous Disney villains, have grown up on the isolated Isle of the Lost. But when Prince Adam orders that students on the Isle be allowed to attend Auradon Prep where all the royalty goes to school, the villainous teens find themselves in a position to avenge their parents. But they will have to figure out where they truly belong in order to discover their true heart’s desire. A sequel is planned for 2017 and an animated web series, Descendants: Wicked World, is airing during Disney Channel commercial breaks.
Bridgit Mendler from Good Luck Charlie headlines this DCOM about five teenagers who form a band after a night in detention. As their school works to weed out extracurricular activities and arts programs, the band names themselves Lemonade Mouth and leads the students against the new policies. But a New York City competition is where the band hopes to prove that they have what it takes to make it as musicians.
Let It Shine
Cyrus is an aspiring rap artist who hides his ambition from his disapproving pastor father. During the day he directs a choir, but at night he works in a club. When he enters a music contest anonymously, his best friend passes of Cyrus’ work as his own in order to win over a beautiful singer. But their friendship gets put to the ultimate test when Cyrus develops feelings for her and decides to reveal himself as the true genius behind his lyrics.
When Sarah travels to Hollywood to visit her grandmother, she goes out of her way to stalk her favorite pop star Christopher Wilde. But when he accidentally hurts his fan, Christopher tries to cover up the encounter from the tabloids by taking Sarah with him. While alone, she gets to know the real teen behind the celebrity persona and learns how tough it can be to live in the spotlight.
Samantha’s band, the Zetta Bytes, are finding the road to success challenging since she is not a dancer. When her friend Roscoe creates a hologram lead singer for the band named Loretta, the band becomes a huge hit and is signed to a record deal. But when Loretta develops a mind of her own and catches Roscoe’s real affections, Samantha’s jealousy gets in the way.
Stuck in the Suburbs
While watching a music video shoot, two suburban teenagers accidentally end up with the cell phone of a pop star name Jordan, holding it hostage until he agrees to meet with them in person. To get his attention, they mess with his life by calling his appointments and getting him a whole new look. But when they discover that the star’s life is completely manufactured by his record label, they unintentionally set free the musical artist inside of him. Brenda Song costars in this film a few years ahead of the success of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.