Disney Channel has proven to be a prolific breeding ground for A-list celebrities. A disproportionate number of recent A-listers can trace their origins back to Disney's The Mickey Mouse Club.
While some have taken Disney Channel's propensity to produce A-listers as evidence of the pivotal role that a platform with the right exposure plays in a showbiz career, others have pointed out that many of the Disney child stars who later became A-listers made it to Disney Channel in the first place, because they were more talented than average.
This assertion appears to be supported by the fact that many of the child stars already had upwardly mobile careers before they debuted on the Disney Channel. For instance, Miley Cyrus had made her debut with a minor role in the movie Big Fish before she auditioned for the Disney Channel TV series Hannah Montana, and Lindsay Lohan had signed to Ford Models before she starred in Disney's The Parent Trap.
While Disney launched some stars to super-stardom, others achieved only modest success, while some unfortunately flopped.
We present Disney Channel: 8 Stars Who Became A-Listers (And 8 Who Completely Flopped).
16 A-Lister: Britney Spears
Singer and actress Britney Spears is one of the top A-list celebrities who got their start as a child actor on theDisney Channel's The Mickey Mouse Club. Britney first auditioned for The Mickey Mouse Club when she was eight years old, but was rejected as she was too young. However, the casting director was impressed with her talents, and introduced Britney's mother, Lynne Irene Bridges, to an NYC talent agent who recommended that the child prodigy be enrolled for professional training as a performance artist.
She finally joined the cast of The Mickey Mouse Club in 1992 when she was 11 years old. Her castmates included Ryan Gosling, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Aguilera.
Britney shot to international stardom following the success of her first three albums.
Baby One More Time (1999), Oops!... I Did It Again (2000), and Britney (2001) came out once she signed with Jive Records in 1997.
15 Flopped: Emily Osment
Emily Osment achieved fame as a child and teen star, appearing as Gerti Giggles in Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002) and its sequel Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003). She co-starred with Miley Cyrus as Lilly Truscott in the Disney Channel sitcom Hannah Montana (2006-2011) and in its 2009 movie adaptation. She also appeared as Melissa Morris in the Disney Channel Original Movie Dadnapped (2009), and as Cassie in The Haunting Hour: Don't Think About It (2007).
She failed to transition into an equally successful career as an adult.
She made efforts in the late 2000s with Wind-up Records to establish a successful music career but failed. She released a number of singles and her first album Fight or Flight (2010). She returned to acting and appeared in a number of TV shows, including Cleaners (2013) and the ABC TV series Young & Hungry (2014).
14 A-Lister: Lindsay Lohan
Before Lindsay Lohan's career peaked in the 2000s, she had signed to Ford Models as a child and appeared in the TV series Another World (1964-1999) at 10 years old. She rose to A-list stardom after she appeared as a teenage star in Disney's drama movie The Parent Trap (1998). She also appeared in Disney's fantasy comedy Life-Size (2000), and in the Disney Channel Original Movie Get a Clue (2002).
She was widely acclaimed for her roles in Freaky Friday (2003), Mean Girls (2004), Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005), and Just My Luck (2006).
She won the 2004 MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Female Performance.
She also landed a record deal that led to her debut solo album Speak (2004). Her promising career was eventually ruined by persistent negative publicity due to substance abuse issues, DUIs, and erratic behavior that caused her to lose major roles.
13 Flopped: Mitchel Musso
Mitchel Musso made a promising start as Oliver Oken in the popular Disney Channel TV series Hannah Montana (2006). He also starred as King Brady in Disney's sitcom Pair of Kings (2010-2013). After his early acting success, Musso went on to release several singles, hoping to follow in the footsteps of his brother Mason Musso, the lead vocalist for Metro Station.
His self-titled album released in 2009 on Walt Disney Records debuted on the Billboard 200 at #19, but he soon ran into problems. He fell out with Disney and lost his leading role in Pair of Kings after he was arrested in October 2011 for a DUI. He issued an apology to his fans but Disney wrote his character out of Pair of Kings anyway. His show PrankStars (2011) was also cancelled.
12 A-Lister: Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus, born Destiny Hope Cyrus, came to the limelight through her role in the popular Disney Channel TV series Hannah Montana (2006-2011). Before she landed the role, she had appeared as Kylie in the TV series Doc (2001-2004), and as Young Ruthie in Tim Burton's Big Fish (2003).
Miley was 12 when she auditioned for a role in Hannah Montana. She originally auditioned for the role of a friend of the main character but was invited to audition for the leading role.
She was selected for Hannah Montana because of her singing and acting abilities.
Disney released the double album Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus in June 2007. The first album was the soundtrack for the Hannah Montana show, while the second album was Miley's debut. The album topped the Billboard 200 chart and sold more than three million copies worldwide.
11 Flopped: Orlando Brown
Orlando Brown got his breakout role as Eddie Thomas, Raven-Symone's pal, in the Disney Channel show That's So Raven (2003-2007). Brown had previously appeared as a child actor in the TV sitcom Family Matters (1989-1998), playing the orphaned Jerry Jamal Jameson. He also appeared as Max on the ABC sitcom Two of a Kind (1998-1999), and as Tiger in the comedy movie Major Payne (1995).
His early success was ruined by troubles with the law. He was arrested in 2016 on charges of domestic battery and substance possession. He lost the opportunity to reprise his role as Eddie in That's So Raven's sequel Raven's Home (2017) reportedly due to uncomplimentary remarks he made about Raven.
He was arrested again in January 2018 for battery, resisting an officer and possession of controlled substances.
10 A-Lister: Shia LaBeouf
The Transformers movie series star Shia LaBeouf got his start as Louis Stevens in Disney Channel's Even Stevens (2000-2003).
His role as Louis Stevens earned him a Young Artist Award nomination in 2001.
He then earned a Daytime Emmy Award for the same role in 2003. Before his breakout role in Even Stevens, LaBeouf had appeared in The Christmas Patch (1998), his movie debut. He appeared in several Disney Channel Original Movies, including Hounded (2001), Tru Confessions (2003), and The Even Stevens Movie (2003) before taking roles in blockbuster movies.
He played the role of Sam Witwicky in the Transformers series and appeared as Mutt Williams in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).
His most recent movies include Borg vs McEnroe (2017), American Honey (2016), and Fury (2014).
9 Flopped: Raviv Ullman
Israeli-American actor, Raviv Ullman, better known as Ricky Ullman, got a shot at fame with the starring role of Phil Duffy in the Disney Channel sci-fi sitcom Phil of the Future (2004-2006). Although Phil of the Future was aired on Disney for only two seasons, it achieved critical success and got multiple award nominations.
Ullman also played Sam in ABC's TV movie Searching for David's Heart (2004), and appeared in a number of independent movies, including The Big Bad Swim (2006), Driftwood (2006), and Prom Wars (2008).
However, he has not been able to land any major roles in recent years. He got only a recurring role as Kip in the Lifetime sitcom Rita Rocks (2008-2009) which was canceled after only two seasons. His acting career has subsequently been limited to theater performances, including off-Broadway productions.
8 A-Lister: Zac Efron
Zac Efron took up acting at an early age with his father's support and encouragement. He appeared during his high school days in several theater productions, such as Peter Pan (The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up). He also appeared in several TV series, such as Firefly (2002-2003), CBS’ The Guardian (2001-2004), and the Lifetime TV movie Miracle Run (2004), which earned him a Young Artist Award.
His breakthrough came when he landed the leading role of Troy Bolton in the Disney TV movie High School Musical (2006), and its sequels High School Musical 2 (2007), and High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008).
Efron has appeared in other musical and comedy movies. He played Link Larkin in Hairspray (2007) and the 17-year-old version of Mike O'Donnell in 17 Again (2009). Efron's most recent movies include Baywatch (2017), The Greatest Showman (2017), Neighbors 2 (2016), and Dirty Grandpa (2016).
7 Flopped: Andrew James Trauth
Andrew James Trauth (A.J. Trauth) was cast as the teenage character Alan Twitty in the Disney Channel series Even Stevens (2000-2003).
After his debut as Ben in Search for the Jewel of Polaris: Mysterious Museum (1999), he voiced Josh Mankey in the animated action series Kim Possible (2002-2007) and starred as Alex Lansing in the Disney movie You Wish! (2003). He guest starred in 2003 as Jordan in a Season 8 episode of 7th Heaven, and appeared in 2004 as Scott in an episode of The WB sitcom Reba (2001-2006).
Other than marrying fellow actress Leah Pipes in 2014, his acting career appears to have stagnated in recent years.
In 2005, he appeared as Henry in an episode of House M.D., and as Mitch in The WB drama Pepper Dennis (2006). He also appeared in a guest role in an episode of Nickelodeon's The Amanda Show.
6 A-Lister: Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake's singing and acting career started off on Disney's The Mickey Mouse Club in 1993, although he had earlier appeared on Star Search in 1992, at the age of 11. It was at The Mickey Mouse Club that he met Britney Spears, as well as other castmates such as Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, and his future 'NSYNC bandmate JC Chasez.
He shot to stardom as one of the lead vocalists of the boy band 'NSYNC. He made his solo debut with Justified (2002), which included popular songs such as "Cry Me a River," and "Rock Your Body." His second solo album LoveSounds (2006) topped the Billboard 200, and included "My Love" and "What Goes Around... Comes Around."
He took a leave from his music career between 2008 and 2012 to pursue acting. He appeared in movies such as Friends with Benefits (2011) and In Time (2011).
5 Flopped: Bridgit Mendler
After voicing Lucy in the Indian animated movie The Legend of Buddha (2004), Bridgit Mendler joined other young stars on Disney Channel, playing Juliet Van Heusen in Wizards of Waverly Place (2007-2012). She also played Teddy Duncan in Disney's sitcom Good Luck Charlie (2010-2014) and starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie Lemonade Mouth (2011). She appeared as Candace in NBC's Undateable (2015-2016) and as Ashley Willerman in the TV series Nashville (2012-2018).
She released her debut album Hello My Name Is... in 2012, and the lead single "Ready or Not."
Her album achieved a modest success, peaking at #30 on the Billboard 200.
Her subsequent singles, including Hurricane (2013), and her EP Nemesis (2016) were not so successful. She has since been involved in philanthropic and humanitarian projects.
4 A-Lister: Ryan Gosling
Canadian singer and actor Ryan Gosling also started out as a Mouseketeer on Disney Channel's The Mickey Mouse Club (1993-1995). He later appeared as Jamie Leary, Chris' older brother, in a 1995 episode of the horror TV series Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1990-2000). He also appeared as Greg Banks in an episode of the horror TV series Goosebumps (1995-1998).
Gosling made his movie debut as the Jewish neo-Nazi Daniel Balint in The Believer (2001), and went on to appear in Murder by Numbers (2002) and The Slaughter Rule (2002).
Gosling gained wider recognition through his portrayal of Noah Calhoun in The Notebook (2004). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Dan Dunne in Half Nelson (2006), and also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his role as Sebastian Wilder in the musical La La Land (2016).
3 Flopped: Debby Ryan
Debby Ryan had appeared on Barney & Friends in 2006, and in the movie Barney: Let's Go to the Firehouse (2007) before she starred as Bailey Pickett in the highly successful Disney Channel sitcom The Suite Life on Deck (2008-2011) and The Suite Life Movie (2011), both spin-offs of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody (2005-2008). She starred as Abby Jensen in 16 Wishes (2010) and got her own Disney Channel TV series Jessie (2011-2015).
She was a founding member of the indie band The Never Ending. The band released its debut single "Mulholland Drive" in 2014 and a debut EP the same year.
Amid her struggles with a crumbling career, she was arrested early in 2016.
She got a DUI and released after posting a bail of $100,000. Later in the summer of 2016, she was sentenced to three years of probation and community service.
2 A-Lister: Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez had appeared on the children's TV series Barney & Friends before she landed a recurring role as Mikayla Skeech in the Disney Channel series Hannah Montana. However, it was the leading role as Alex Russo in the Disney Channel sitcom Wizards of Waverly Place (2007-2012) that was pivotal in establishing her career. The sitcom won Primetime Emmy Awards' Outstanding Children's Program in 2009, and the 2009 movie adaptation also won the Outstanding Children's Program award in 2010.
Gomez starred in the Disney movie Princess Protection Program (2009) which won the 2009 Teen Choice Awards for Choice Summer TV show.
Selena Gomez & the Scene released several successful albums, including Kiss & Tell (2009) and When the Sun Goes Down (2011). Gomez has also had a successful solo artist career, with her album Stars Dance (2013) debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200.
1 Flopped: Kyla Pratt
Kyla Pratt had a promising start, voicing Penny Proud in Disney Channel's animated series The Proud Family (2001-2005). She played the role of Breanna Latrice Barnes in One on One (2001-2006) and appeared as Doris Robertson in Fat Albert (2004) .
She reprised her role as Penny Proud in The Proud Family Movie (2005) and appeared as Maya Dolittle in Dr. Dolittle (1998) and its sequel Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001).
Pratt’s character Maya was the protagonist in several movies including Dr Dolittle 3 (2006), Dr Dolittle 4: Tail to the Chief (2008), and Dr Dolittle 5: Million Dollar Mutts (2009).
Although she performed a cover version of "Circle of Life" in the DisneyMania album, and sang "It's All About Me” for the soundtrack of The Proud Family, she did not make a strong push for a music career. She also hasn’t landed any major acting roles in recent years.
Do you know of other Disney Channel child stars who became A-listers and others who flopped? Share with us in the comments below.