The Disney Channel hit a winning streak from 2000 to 2009. The network featured original programming they marketed to tweens and teens in the form of sitcoms and animated series that were originals instead of based on existing Disney properties, and they flourished, taking over teen magazines, and in some cases, even movie theaters.
During this time, audiences were introduced to a psychic teen (That’s So Raven), a boy whose family time traveled (Phil of The Future), a family of magic-users (Wizards of Waverly Place), and a girl who was trying to live the best of both worlds (Hannah Montana), as well as a dozen more shows.
Hannah Montana and Lizzie McGuire both made it to the big screen, while shows like The Proud Family, Even Stevens, Wizards of Waverly Place, and more found themselves getting Disney Channel Original Movies or spin off series. It was the golden age for the network, and there’s certainly plenty about those wildly popular shows that you don’t know.
Take a trip to a decade past while we give you 16 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Favorite '00’s Disney Shows.
16 The Disney Channel Had A 65 Episode Rule
In an effort to always keep their content fresh, the Disney Channel, beginning in the mid '90s, had an unofficial rule for the network: no series could exceed 65 episodes. This meant their creative teams would always be developing new content, and that kids would always have new heroes to look up to.
The first show to break that rule was That’s So Raven. The series became the first of Disney Channel’s original content to get to 100 episodes. That also meant Raven and her friends were some of the first characters Disney audiences got to really see grow up as Raven went on to a fashion internship in later episodes.
Hannah Montana (98, plus a feature film), The Suite Life of Zack and Cody (87), and Wizards of Waverly Place (106) would also break the rule in the next few years.
15 That’s So Raven Paved The Way For Disney Channel
In addition to being one of the few shows at the time to have a family of color leading a Disney ensemble, That’s So Raven reached a ton of milestones for the network.
Prior to the series, most shows didn’t feature the cast as part of the theme song. Raven-Symone recorded the lead vocals for the verses, Orlando Brown recorded the rap, and Anneliese van der Pol sang the chorus. But the show’s final season, Raven-Symone also had more creative control than most Disney Channel stars, working as a producer on the series.
The show was also the first to hit 100 episodes, the first to have a spinoff get greenlit (Cory In The House), and the first to be filmed in front of a live studio audience, something that became more common after the fact. That’s So Raven was also the very first Disney series to reach 3 million viewers, though some of the network's shows would go on to triple that view count!
14 Phil Of The Future Was Supposed To Have A Robot-Mom
With Phil and his family being “of the future,” they weren't exactly like most families in 2004. If the show had stuck with some of its original plot lines, though, it would have been even more unconventional.
Initially, Phil’s mother wasn’t human, but a robot, and her head could be removed from her body. The seam that indicated where her head attached was supposed to be hidden by high collared shirts or decorative chokers - which is precisely why she wears so many of them in early episodes of the show.
The storyline was scrapped, probably because kids would have had a lot of questions about just how Phil and his sister Pim could be human if their mom was a robot, but early promotional material for the show still featured some of the scenes involving robo-mom, and they'll live online forever for everyone to marvel over.
13 Even Stevens Takes Place In A Single School Year
Even Stevens might have aired its 65 episodes and Disney Channel Original Movie over the course of three years, but the episodes themselves were all set in a single school year.
This might seem unlikely, since the show’s Hanukkah episode aired as part of season one, and a Halloween episode aired as part of season two, but it’s the truth! Throughout the course of the series, Louis is always noted as being a seventh grader, while Ren is in the eighth grade. Considering that the show covered school plays, yearbook, the school newspaper, first jobs, major holidays, and a musical episode, the two have quite the intense school year!
In fact, Ren has her “junior high graduation” in The Even Stevens Movie, which is set after the events of the season finale during her summer before starting high school.
12 The Proud Family Was Disney Channel’s First Original Animated Series
There is a distinction to be made here, since the Disney animation team had worked on dozens of animated shows before The Proud Family. Those shows, however, were made for other networks. Things like Pepper Ann and Recess aired on ABC as part of their Saturday morning block, while small screen outings like Aladdin and The Little Mermaid were based on existing properties.
The Proud Family was originally conceived as an addition to Disney’s One Saturday Morning lineup on ABC, but the network passed at the pilot phase. A pilot was then created for Nickelodeon, who was also looking for fresh content for kids, but after viewing the pilot, network executives passed there too.
Enter, the Disney Channel, who liked the concept for the show so much that they decided to make it one of their prime time animated shows. The series ended up crossing over with the Lilo and Stitch animated series, getting its own digital spinoff, and a Disney Channel Original Movie.
11 In A Heartbeat Was Inspired By Real Events
Only lasting for one season, In A Heartbeat might not be as well known as most of the other shows that appear on this list. It featured Shawn Ashmore before he became an X-Man and Lauren Collins before she enrolled at Degrassi, but it also has the distinction of being one of the few Disney Channel shows to be inspired by real life events.
The series followed a group of high schoolers who volunteered as emergency medical technicians (EMTs). They responded to calls for paramedics, they treated people, they took them to the hospital, and they did their own paperwork - just like in a real town in Connecticut.
Darien, Connecticut has Post 53, which has now been operating for over four decades. The program has 20 students enrolled at a time (along with plenty of adult volunteers), who train and work as EMTs. Students have to be at least 14 to apply to volunteer and they work their way up the ranks over the course of four years. They also run fundraising activities for the post, which pays for their operating expenses.
10 Lizzie McGuire Was Cancelled Over A Pay Raise
Before there was Hannah Montana or Wizards of Waverly Place, it was Lizzie McGuire who reigned as the queen of the Disney Channel. She was so popular that her television show spawned books, clothing lines, and launched the big screen career of Hillary Duff. With its popularity, and the big screen movie following the show, the plan was to build a franchise around the show, but that didn’t happen.
Hilary Duff’s mother, who managed her career at the time, spoke to Entertainment Weekly after it was revealed that Duff was leaving the network, and the possibility of a franchise, behind. The reality was that other companies were willing to pay the up and coming star even more for the same amount of work she was doing for Disney, and financially, it didn’t benefit her to continue to work for Disney.
Disney didn’t want to play ball with the actress and her team, losing out on her appearance in potential spinoffs and sequel films.
9 Even Stevens Shot A Pilot Two Years Before The Show
If you thought it looked like the Stevens kids aged a whole lot in the three seasons of the show, you weren’t wrong. That was partly because the original pilot was shot two years before Disney headed into production on the series.
Originally called Spivey’s Kid Brother, the pilot was filmed in 1997. Even though Disney ordered the show to series and renamed it Even Stevens, it spent two years on the development slate before they began filming more episodes of the show. The series didn’t premiere on the network until June of 2000.
In the first episode, the name Stevens was dubbed in over any mention of Spivey, though you can still spot the name in the gym on a banner. Footage from the original pilot was also used during flashback sequences later in the show, really hitting home just how much the cast had grown.
8 Hannah Montana Was Originally A That’s So Raven Spinoff
In season three of That’s So Raven, the episode “Goin’ Hollywood” focused on a teenage celebrity who just wanted a chance to be a normal girl and go to school. Sound familiar? It should.
Alyson Stoner appeared in the episode as an actress on a television series where Raven’s little brother won a walk-on role. Stoner’s character took the chance when meeting “regular” people to try and attend a normal school. The episode, which features very little of the show’s main cast, was meant to be a backdoor pilot for Better Days, but the latter series didn’t end up moving forward.
Instead, the concept was carried over to the character of Alexis Texas, a girl who would be a normal student by day and a superstar by night. She would eventually become Hannah Montana during the development phase, and Alyson Stoner went on to film additional pilots for Disney and appear in other network movies and series.
7 Selena Gomez Was Cast In A Lizzie McGuire Spinoff
Before Selena Gomez broke out with Wizards of Waverly Place, she was almost the star of another Disney Channel series. When Lizzie McGuire was ending production, a spinoff centered around the family of Lizzie’s best friend Miranda was planned. Within the show, Miranda was said to be on vacation with her family for the final episodes. In reality, Lalaine was filming the pilot for What’s Stevie Thinking. Selena Gomez was cast as her little sister, and a pilot was filmed, but it wasn’t ordered to series.
Just a few years later, Gomez was also cast in another Disney Channel spinoff called ARWIN (later renamed to Housebroken), which would have followed the engineer from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody when he moved in with his sister to help with her three kids, though that series didn’t get picked up either.
Instead, Gomez guest starred on Suite Life and Hannah Montana before landing Wizards of Waverly Place.
6 Wizards of Waverly Place Went Out With A Bang
Many viewers think of Hannah Montana as the successor to That’s So Raven’s huge run on Disney Channel, but Wizards of Waverly Place is probably a more accurate one. Like Raven, the Russo family hit a lot of big milestones, even if they didn’t get a big screen adaptation.
Wizards of Waverly Place premiered the same year That’s So Raven went off the air. Though Raven had boasted audiences of three million, which broke records for Disney at the time, Hannah Montana was hitting double that, and Wizards of Waverly Place eventually tripled it.
Hannah Montana’s series finale had just over six million people tuning in back in 2011 to find out if Miley would choose school or a movie role. In 2012, more than 10 million viewers watched the Russo family’s magic competition to become the family wizard. Wizards of Waverly Place remains the most watched finale in the network’s history.
5 Bridgit Mendler Auditioned For Sonny With A Chance
Though Camp Rock was her big break, Sonny With A Chance made Demi Lovato a household name. But another future Disney star almost got their first.
Bridgit Mendler also auditioned for the role of Sonny Munroe on the series, and though she was considered for the role, Lovato ultimately landed the part. Like many before her who made it this close to a lead role on the Disney Channel though, the network wasn’t done with Mendler.
Instead of leading Sonny, Mendler appeared in a guest role in an episode of Jonas before landing a recurring part that would last for three years on Wizards of Waverly Place. During that time she also became one of the leads in the Disney Channel Original Movie Lemonade Mouth and headlined another Disney sitcom, Good Luck Charlie.
4 Emily Osment And Miley Cyrus Hated One Another
Hate might be a strong word for a pair of young women heading into their teenage years, but when they started work on Hannah Montana, Emily Osment and Miley Cyrus definitely didn’t get along.
The pair played best friends and the series, and you would have been hard pressed to find a tween watching the show who thought that friendship didn’t translate off the screen as well. According to Cyrus, who released a memoir titled Miles to Go in 2009, it most definitely didn’t in the first three seasons of the show.
Cyrus detailed “screaming matches” that had to be broken up by on set tutors in the book, but she also revealed just when things changed for them. The two, removed from the Disney set and on location for the Hannah Montana movie in Tennessee, actually began to get along. By the time they started filming season four of the series, they were firm friends, and have willingly talked about their clashes in interviews since.
3 Anneliese van der Pol Turned Down Another Disney Role
Van der Pol played Raven’s best friend for the entirety of the That’s So Raven run, but she was up for another Disney role at the same time. She also auditioned to be the voice of Kim Possible, and was offered the part.
Van der Pol couldn’t do both roles because of the demanding schedule and filming in front of live audiences for That’s So Raven, so she had to choose. She opted to go the live action route, and Christy Carlson Romano, who had already worked for Disney on Even Stevens, became the voice of Kim.
Funnily enough, both actresses went on to star as the stage version of Belle in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway following their Disney Channel roles. Van der Pol actually returns to the role of Chelsea Daniels for Disney starting July 21 when the That’s So Raven sequel series, Raven’s Home, premieres - creating another first for That’s So Raven: the first Disney Channel Original series to get a follow up a decade later.
2 Phineas And Ferb Was In Development For 16 years
Long before the popular animated series made it to the Disney Channel, creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh were working on the storyline and characters. In fact, the two spent 16 years coming up with ideas for the show and pitching them.
Povenmire and Marsh are veterans of the animation business, having worked on shows like Spongebob Squarepants and Rocko’s Modern Life. When they aren’t actively working on a show, they’re dreaming up ideas for new shows. The two have spoken at conventions and in interviews for Phineas and Ferb, revealing that the first drawing of Ferb was even done on the back of a napkin in a restaurant - and then they spent over a decade pitching the concept to everyone before Disney eventually bought the show.
The duo have since created Milo Murphy’s Law, where they have employed a lot of the voice talent they’ve worked with on other shows. It currently airs on Disney XD.
1 Taylor Momsen Was Almost Hannah Montana
Taylor Momsen, who had previously been on the big screen in How The Grinch Stole Christmas, was one of the final candidates for the role. Interestingly, she’s actually younger than Miley Cyrus, who was sent home from her audition after being told that she was too young to pull off the Hannah Montana part of the role.
Cyrus had actually auditioned for the role of Lilly Truscott first, the role that eventually went to Emily Osment, but producers asked her to come back and read for the role of Chloe Stewart, who would become Miley Stewart when Cyrus was cast.
Momsen has no regrets about losing out on the role, as she’s been open in interviews over the last few years about not thinking she would have been able to maintain Disney’s squeaky clean image during the show’s run, not comfortable pretending to be someone she’s not. Instead, she went on to a role in Gossip Girl for a few years before requesting to be written out of the show to pursue her music career with her band, The Pretty Reckless.
Did we hit you with some new Disney Channel knowledge? Or are you a Disney Channel expert? Let us know if there’s any behind the scenes trivia we missed in the comments!
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