The Disney Channel's been know to skyrocket the acting, music, and dance careers of hundreds of child, teen, and adult stars – many of whom continue to bask in the adoration of millions of fans to this day.
Whether its finally getting that big break in the lead role of a live-action sitcom, lending their voice yo an animated series or winning audiences over with a dance or vocal performance here and there – some of the most currently successful Hollywood idols have Disney to thank for their rise to fame. Even some of today's “edgiest” performers have gotten their kick-start in the industry from dabbling in G-rated, family-friendly roles on the network.
While many a big-time actor (or singer) can look back on their Disney days with fondness – not everyone's having it as easy. Sadly, there are a sizable handful who consider the channel as the prime of their career – slowly drifting from the limelight as they outgrow those teeny-bopper Mouse ears. Others, while starting out small in the network, never really get their big-time break like the lucky, chosen few of their co-stars.
As a blast from the past, here are 8 Washed-Up Disney Channel Stars (And 7 Still Making It Big).
15 Washed Up: Christy Carlson Romano
Who doesn't remember Kim Possible, and our crazy childhood dreams of being a part-time high-schooler and a part-time crime-fighting spy?
Everyone's favorite teenage heroine was voiced by the one and only Christy Carlson Romano, who was also responsible for the catchy tunes of the series, along with "Teacher's Pet” - dedicated to the channel's animated series of the same name.
On top of lending her voice to both cartoon characters and memorable jingles, Romano also starred alongside Shia LaBeouf in Even Stevens and then-Disney Queen Hilary Duff in Cadet Kelly.
Romano's time in the network's spotlight didn't last too long, unfortunately. Since then, her repertoire has consisted of small television films and a few appearances on Broadway – including a stint as Belle in Beauty and the Beast and Kate Monster in Avenue Q.
14 Making It Big: Zac Efron
Zac Efron's come a long way from his B-balling days on the classic Disney Channel creation, High School Musical. With his talent for the performing arts and strikingly good looks, Efron falling out of the Hollywood spotlight would've been a grand disappointment for his many devoted fans.
Thankfully, Efron's kept it up since his phase of sweaty songs in gym shorts, starring as fantastic actor and comedian in a myriad of hit films including 17 Again, Neighbors, and The Disaster Artist.
That's not to say this ex-Disney star has completely dropped the showtunes – having played Link Larkin in the movie adaptation of the popular 2002 musical, Hairspray, and performing alongside Hugh Jackman and Zendaya in the PT Barnum biopic, The Greatest Showman.
He is reported to play the infamous serial killer, Ted Bundy, in an upcoming project titled, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.
13 Washed Up: Orlando Brown
We all remember Orlando Brown as the funny and “adorkable” Eddie of That's So Raven – he played his role fantastically, and had some pretty sick rapping skills to top it off, too.
However, since his days on the classic Disney Channel sitcom, Brown hasn't been doing all too well with the law. In only early 2016, the former Raven star was arrested for allegedly beating up his fiancee in the midst of an argument at a parking lot.
But that's not all – once taken to the station, Brown was also found to be carrying illegal substances, bumping up his charges from a “misdemeanor” to a “felony."
Sadly, this wasn't Brown's first time headlining the tabloids, having been arrested for possession in 2007, found drunk driving in both 2011 and 2013, and caught threatening a woman and her child in 2014. Oh, Eddie – where'd you go wrong?
12 Making It Big: Miley Cyrus
While not exactly the same squeaky-clean image of Hannah Montana nowadays, Miley Cyrus is still definitely making news in the pop culture limelight, busting out Top 40 tunes and bizarre stage outfits by the dozen.
Starting off her mid-2000s career with every middle-schooler's popstar dream, the "Can't Be Tamed" sensation has continuously ridden the waves of entertainment fame to this very day – starring in a number of Hollywood films, musically touring the globe, and controversially shedding her Disney Channel image with scandalous antic after antic in the public eye.
Though her publicity stunts aren't the most revered, Cyrus has at least managed to stay a relevant, unpredictable A-lister among an unfortunate pool of forgotten Disney stars. She is currently a coach for The Voice – being the youngest judge in any version of the series – as well the loving partner of Australian actor Liam Hemsworth.
11 Washed Up: Cody Linley
Cody Linley stole hearts as the cute and charismatic Jake Ryan from the Hannah Montana series, during which his pre-teen viewers were taken on a roller-coaster ride of an on-again, off-again romance with the titular character.
While getting a break on one of the channel's biggest shows – Linley's Disney stardom was a short-lived acting stint. His Hannah Montana days lasted a mere 10 episodes, before the writers wrote off his on-screen romance with Miley for good.
Since then, Linley re-appeared on our television sets as a contestant on the fourth season of Dancing With The Stars, performing alongside the dancer, actress, and singer, Julianne Hough. Once again, his on-screen appearance sadly did not last, getting voted off the series in the ninth week.
His most recent projects have included roles in small movies, including sequels to the infamous Sharknado franchise.
10 Making It Big: Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato started out in the Disney Channel scene as your usual clean-cut, cookie-cutter actress in one of the network's biggest musical films, Camp Rock. While following through with the channel's usual young-star formula – good looks, family-friendly reputation and the willingness to dance and sing - Lovato surprised plenty of viewers with an unexpectedly powerful vocal range and an edgy-yet-still-PG rockstar image that stood out among the plethora of blinged-up, sparkling pop stars.
As a shock to many, the rising Disney sensation was later revealed to be struggling with depression, self-harm, and an eating disorder, entering rehab at the age of 18 and admitting to both substance abuse.
Fast forward to today, and the 25-year old star has dropped a new chart-topping studio album, become a judge for the American X-Factor, and has mentored teens and young adults on the issues of mental health and substance abuse.
9 Washed Up: Alyson Stoner
Armed with not only a memorable name but stand-out hip-hop dance moves, Alyson Stoner rose to Disney Channel fame as she performed her way through the Camp Rock movie series and lent her comedic acting talents to That's So Raven and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.
From 2007-2015, she was also notable for playing the ever-so-cheery Isabella on the popular animated series, Phineas and Ferb.
While she'll always be remembered for pop-and-lock-ing it on the channel's various programs, Stoner never really landed any bigger roles or opportunities to showcase her talent on the network.
She has now currently returned to her dance roots – teaching aspiring performers at the Millenium Dance Complex in Los Angeles. She also features her work – along with a number of unrelated vlogs – on YouTube, under the username: “TheRealAlysonStoner”.
8 Making It Big: Selena Gomez
It's near-impossible to not hear the name, “Selena Gomez”, and not have one of her catchy Billboard hits play itself in your head (or one of her Pantene commercials, whatever works). Gomez has managed to keep her career successfully afloat, even years after her live-action debut on the Disney Channel hit Wizards of Waverly Place.
From her snarky role as the charming Alex Russo to executive-producing the Netflix hit, Thirteen Reasons Why, Gomez has managed to keep her relevance in the TV and film scene – while gradually peeling away her G-rated Disney image (Spring Breakers, anyone?) and staying away from controversy.
Gomez has also made waves in the music industry, having released five studio albums, gone on five worldwide tours, and created collaborative chart-toppers with other artists such as Charlie Puth and Marshmello.
7 Washed Up: Moises Arias
Moises Arias was best known on the Disney Channel as the snarky, mischievous Rico of the network success, Hannah Montana. The young star nailed his role as the smart-talking series regular, being one of the most memorable characters of the series.
Unfortunately for Arias, his time as the series funnyman was a fleeting success in the Disney acting field – being his biggest role on the network. Not all was lost with his career, however, as he went on to land a few supporting roles in a handful of independent and big-budget films, including Ender's Game, The Kings of Summer, and The Stanford Prison Experiment.
Back in 2014, Arias found himself in the middle of social media-controversy, when a couple of images surfaced featuring the 20-year old actor lying in bed with 13-year old performer Willow Smith.
6 Making It Big: Shia Labeouf
Ah, Shia LaBeouf. The man's made headlines with not only his leading roles in Blockbuster hits (Michael Bay's Transformers and David Ayer's Fury, to name a couple) but his outrageous – and frankly, insane – public antics, ranging from wearing a paper-bag mask on the red carpet to obnoxious, scream-filled “performance art” and public intoxication.
Still – Labeouf's career hasn't shown signs of decline to this day, with more upcoming movie roles and two award nominations for his role in the 2017 film, American Honey.
His raucous Hollywood image is a definite leap from his days on the Disney Channel series, Even Stevens, where he played Louis, the youngest (and most mischievous) member of the Stevens family.
Lucky for LaBeouf, shedding the squeaky-clean facade helped him rise to prominence as he entered bigger film projects in later years – though without avoiding the inevitable tabloid reports here and there.
5 Washed Up: Lalaine
Avid watchers of the Disney Channel back in the day couldn't have missed one of its most classic teen sitcoms – Lizzie McGuire.
Not only was the series a grand success on the network, garnering multiple awards and nominations – but it also kick-started the career of someone who was soon to be one of the channel's greatest teen stars: Hilary Duff. Since the young actress' iconic role as 13-year old Lizzie, Duff had gone on to pursue a blessed acting and music career, turning the teen idol into a household name.
Sadly, the same couldn't be said for her Lizzie co-star, Lalaine. While landing the role as one of the series' leading characters – Miranda Sanchez – her career in the acting biz didn't score nearly as much success, limited to only small-time television and web-show roles.
She was also arrested for the possession back in 2007.
4 Washed Up: Mitchell Musso
Mitchel Musso's role as Hannah Montana's Oliver Oken was easily a series favorite. Playing the lead role of Miley's closest male comrade, Musso won fans over with his hilariously over-confident antics and occasional musical performances.
As the success of the series came to a close, Musso pursued other projects on the network, gaining the lead role of King Brady in the 2010-2013 sitcom, Pair of Kings, and a hosting gig the channel's 2011 hidden camera series, PrankStars.
Sadly, his triumph on the channel was abruptly cut short. On October of 2011, Musso was arrested for drunk driving, causing his character on Pair of Kings to be written off and the cancellation of the incredibly short-lived PrankStars.
Since then, Musso's been out of the limelight in both the music and acting field.
3 Making It Big: Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake made his mark in the Disney scene as a young, innocent member of The Mickey Mouse Club – eventually dating pop icon and co-star, Britney Spears, and moving on to make classic '90s earworms (and rocking that ramen-noodle hair) as a member of the ever-loved N*SYNC.
Since then, he's been “bringing sexy back” with solo music hit after hit, topping the R&B charts, and eventually delving into more acting projects – which included Friends With Benefits, In Time, and The Social Network.
As of now, Timberlake has definitely earned his spot as one of pop culture's most iconic stars in decades past, winning multiple Grammy, Emmy, and Billboard Music awards. He's even engaged himself in a number of environmental and social charities, and has endorsed plenty of commercial products, including those of Sony and Givenchy's men's fragrance.
Not bad for a former Disney Channel star!
2 Washed Up: Raviv "Ricky" Ullman
Ricky Ullman – who now goes by his real name, Raviv Ullman – was best known on the Disney Channel as the titular character from the live-action sci-fi sitcom, Phil of the Future.
The series featured Ullman as a 15-year old high-schooler who somehow gets trapped in the year 2004 – with his original timeline being the year 2121. The show did well during its run, managing to snag a few award nominations, though it lasted only two seasons.
He eventually moved to bigger and more mature acting projects, however minor. Since his major break in the Disney club, he later made appearances in Law & Order: SVU as well as the medical drama, House – during which he dropped his stage name, Ricky, to use his real one.
1 Making It Big: Ryan Gosling
Ryan Gosling's got to be one of the most revered actors of today, charming movie audiences everywhere with not only his stunningly good looks – but equally amazing acting chops, to boot.
The Canadian actor began his grand on-screen career as a member of The Mickey Mouse Club – featuring comedy sketches, music videos, and live performances by its mainly pre-teen and teenage cast.
Since then, Gosling had gone on to tackle other family-friendly projects – including starring in episodes of Nickelodeon's Are You Afraid Of The Dark? and Goosebumps.
His adult life saw him moving on to independent film, before soon getting his big break in larger cinematic releases, including The Notebook and Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Today, he is the winner and previous nominee of multiple critic awards, and has starred in highly-acclaimed films such as 2016's La La Land and 2017's Blade Runner 2049.
Which of these successful Disney stars are your favorite? Which ones do you hope will make a comeback? Let us know in the comments!
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