The days of studio wars, strict image management, and calculated media appearances are over in Hollywood, right? Maybe in some circles, but Disney has an image to protect and they will stop at nothing to make sure that the innocence of their stars remains in tact.
The House of Mouse has been known to suppress, dictate, coach, and manipulate their stars in order to give off the squeakiest of clean appearances. This didn't only happen in the good old days, either-- such extremes still take place to this day. Young stars like Bella Thorne and the Jonas Brothers were subjected to all kinds of bizarre rules and policies during their time with the studio.
Have you ever wondered why so many former Disney channel stars jump headlong into rebellion after they leave their mouse-ear-wearing days behind them? It’s a pretty good bet that much of it is because of the strict policies that they had to adhere to.
With that said, here are the 15 Messed Up Rules That Disney Stars Need To Follow.
15 Every Contract Comes With A Strict Morals Clause
Disney’s movies widely appeal to children, so the studio ensures that their stars do the same. It is deeply important to Disney that their actors portray a squeaky clean image at all times, which they ensure by including a super strict morality clause in all of their contracts. These clauses allow Disney to drop their actors like a hot potato should they get up to any embarrassing, immoral hijinks.
Of course, it’s up to the studio whether or not they fire someone based on their bad behavior. For example, when Vanessa Hudgens found herself in the middle of a flurry of bad press following the leak of a revealing photo, Disney weighed the risks of keeping or firing the High School Musical star, and decided that they had more to gain by just laying low until the scandal blew over.
Similarly, when Demi Lovato publically sought help for mental health issues, Disney could have used their morality clause against the her. However, villainizing a young woman for seeking health treatment would have looked terrible in the press, so once again the studio’s hands were tied.
14 Their Social Media Posts Require Permission
Of all the possible movies, the first film to receive the social media ban hammer was Shrek 2. Stars Cameron Diaz and Mike Meyers were forbidden from revealing details about the animated fairy tale on their social media accounts.
If a strict social media clause seems extreme, that’s only because the internet has granted us all access to the stringent policies that stars are forced to put up with. Before the world of leaked videos and spoiler alerts, actors were still given strict instructions on what they were and were not allowed to reveal to the press. These social media clauses are just another aspect of Hollywood’s tight-lipped media policies.
That doesn’t mean that actors are completely cut off from their social media, however. In fact, it might be the opposite. Studios rely on celebs’ posts to get fans hyped for their upcoming projects. The difference here is that those posts are required to contain only details that have been approved by the studio.
13 They're Told What To Wear
It’s not easy being a pop star... especially when that pop star is expected to dress in cutesy outfits and have long flowing blonde hair-- the exact opposite of Miley Cyrus’s naturally chestnut-toned hair.
Not that, but she never really enjoyed her stint as a golden-haired songstress. Cyrus claims that she was just happy to be wearing “sparkly clothes.” However, she also believes that her dual-personality character probably added to some of her current insecurities.
As Cyrus began to develop her own music career, she was forced to live very much like her onscreen counterpart — touring in her “sparkly clothes” and blonde wig as Hannah Montana, but then also performing as her own carefree, brown-haired self.
The singer found it difficult to balance both roles, much like Hannah Montana herself.
12 They Are Relentlessly Pushed Into Making Music
Can you name a Disney Channel actor who hasn't doubled as a pop star? That’s certainly a tall order, and there’s a very specific reason for that. Disney strongly (and we do mean strongly) encourages their acting talent to pursue a musical career along with their family-friendly acting gigs.
Take, for example, Shia LaBeouf, who was once considered to be the “male Hilary Duff” but chose not to follow the same ground trodden by his Disney predecessors. LaBeouf admitted that he had never really felt like he fit into the Disney mold from the very beginning, adding to his desire to break away from the House of Mouse’s rigid expectations for what an up-and-coming Mouseketeer should be.
To achieve his goals of standing out from the mouse-eared pack, LaBeouf decided to headline projects that were a stark contrast to his Even Stevens days.
11 Disney Can Legally Own Rights To Their Names
When Miley Cyrus signed on to play Hannah Montana and her anonymous counterpart Miley Stewart, she was more than happy to use her own name on the show-- what teenager wouldn’t be.
However, she and her family hadn’t exactly thought things through. She agreed, allowing Disney to use her real first name on the show… only to learn she had given up the rights to her own name in the process.
Realizing the dangers that could befall a naïve teenager and her unsuspecting parents, her mother hired lawyers to watch out for her daughter from that point forward. Cyrus credits her mother’s protective nature with her ability to retain the rights to her own music as she got older and more experienced in the industry.
10 They're Told Exactly How To Talk... And What Tone To Talk In
Former Disney actors are known to go a little wild once they leave the nest. (Who can blame them with all these draconian rules thrown at them?) If you’ve been on the internet anytime, then you probably know that Bella Thorne may be the wildest ex-mouser yet. However, she also had to put up with more than her fair share of silly Disney Channel rules.
During her tenure as CeCe on Disney’s Shake It Up, Thorne was given detailed instructions on how to appeal to Disney’s wide-eyed fans. One of these orders was to hide her husky voice with a higher-pitched falsetto during interviews. This was intended to give off a “good girl” vibe.
However, she finally decided to be her true self knowing that her fan base was at risk, choosing to retain those fans who stuck with her through her more scandalous attitude instead.
9 They Aren’t Allowed To Write Risque Lyrics
Ah, the Jonas brothers-- the innocent, purity ring wearing singing brothers. Except not really. Joe Jonas has been more than a little vocal about the prim hoops that he and his brothers were forced to jump through during the height of their Disney Channel fame. According to Jonas, not even song lyrics were safe from Mickey’s ever-watchful eye.
The boys thought the focus on their “celibacy” was all rather awkward and weird… especially when the studio would swoop in and force them to change even the slightest of their so-called "inappropriate" lyrics.
Jonas claimed that even mentioning being alone in a room with another human being was too hot for Disney to handle. The brothers fought back, though, and eventually just began turning in whatever music they felt like.
8 There's Not A Lot Of Room For Negotiation Salaries
Miley Cyrus just couldn’t catch a break during her time with the House of Mouse. Cyrus maintains that, though she played a pop princess on TV, her real teen years were much less privileged.
In fact, she was once the lowest paid actor on her own show. Cyrus and her parents had no idea just what they were dealing with at first, and that manifested itself into a lot of obstacles on the starlet’s initial road to success.
Cyrus doesn’t seem to show any ill will toward the situation, however, and simply believes she just “didn’t know any better.” In fact, she is rather proud of her humble home and comfortable clothes (when not performing, of course). The only real excess she allows herself is her collection of rescue animals, which, honestly, is pretty adorable.
7 Mouseketeers Had To Pay For Damaged Ears
Money problems were an issue for many Disney Channel stars, especially in the days of the original Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. The Mouseketeers were just children, many not even in their teens yet, but they were responsible for their image like any modern Disney star. This included everything right down to their infamous mouse-eared hats.
Should one of the kids leave their famous headwear lying around the stage, and should said headwear then get trampled, (something that apparently happened on a semi-frequent basis) $50 would be deducted from their next paycheck.
That would be $460. 48 in 1955. Naturally, losing nearly $500 over a silly hat would rattle any kid. This only had to happen once (or maybe twice) before the kids learned to keep their ears firmly on their heads and their guard up at all times.
6 They Are Forced To Take Classes On Scandal And Social Media
As previously noted, when Disney stars are let off the leash, they often wreak havoc in the media. Many may wonder how they manage to keep their inner wild child at bay while employed with the studio. The answer to this is that they are trained on how to avoid the “pitfalls of fame.”
Between the pressures of media attention and the privilege of fame and money, many young stars find it difficult to cope as they begin to outgrow their squeaky clean image.
Teaching a bunch of sheltered, famous children how to avoid scandal is… probably a pretty good idea. Or it would be, if that were all it was-- but Disney takes things further than that, of course. The studio has begun training their stars on how to use social media and even how to maintain a healthy diet. It seems like these kids can't ever escape the Mouse.
5 They Have To Avoid Tough Interview Questions By Playing Dumb
So, if all the innocence is a forced act and these kids aren’t the bubbly pop stars they pretend to be, then how have they fooled the public all these years? The answer to this is literally playing dumb, apparently.
Pesky reporter questioning a Disney star’s purity? Being grilled about drugs or alcohol? Disney kids could navigate the muddy waters of the media with ease thanks to all that training. All they have to do was change the subject. One example that Joe Jonas gave was to simply pretend to remember a sweet story about his dog and spout out some nonsensical, off-topic anecdote about his pupper.
Not only that, but the brothers would split up answer duty, with certain brothers taking serious questions and others speaking on the meaning of those carefully edited song lyrics. That’s all it took to maintain a shining reputation in the public eye.
4 Some Are Forbidden From Taking On Any Other Projects
Snow White was Disney’s first ever full length animated movie. In fact, it was the first full length animated film ever. Thus Disney was devoted to keep the magical allure of their sweet heroine alive at all costs. This meant that Snow White's voice actress Adriana Caselotti’s voice had to remain unique to the fair princess… for all time.
To prevent breaking the spell of the film, Caselotti’s contract dictated that she not take on any other projects after her portrayal of Snow White-- ever, in any medium. Caselotti was forbidden to appear in TV, film, or radio from that point on.
The death of the young voice actress’s career is even more disappointing when you realize how frequently the studio reuses voice actors all the time-- even stretching back to those early days.
3 Mouseketeers Weren’t Allowed To Show Their Bodies
Annette Funicello joined The Mickey Mouse Club’s Mouseketeers when she was only 12 years old. She started off as the quintessential Disney sweetheart, but quickly grew into the bikini-clad beach babe that she would ultimately become famous for.
Not yet ready to give up their most popular Mouseketeer, Disney kept Funicello on even after her body became too risque for the straightlaced studio. However, they had a few incredibly bizarre tricks up their sleeve.
Poor Funicello (and the rest of her female co-stars) were forced to bind their breasts before each taping of the show in an attempt to make themselves look younger and more innocent. The girls had a few tricks of their own, however, and would cut holes into the incredibly tight shirts that they were forced to wear under their sweaters.
2 Disney Gets Paid When Their Stars Die
Not even in death are Disney stars released from the studio’s suffocating grasp. Should anything happen to their greatest assets, the studio takes out incredibly lucrative insurance deals on their biggest stars. That’s why, following the devastatingly untimely death of Star Wars’ Carrie Fisher, Disney was set up to rake in an astonishing $50 million.
Not only did the studio benefit from Fisher’s work before her passing and not only could they resurrect the star through the magic of CGI, but they are owed millions of dollars simply through the actress’s passing.
The insurance coverage isn’t actually meant to be heartless-- it isn’t simply to benefit from the death of a star. The coverage is designed for the studio to recoup losses should an actor be unable to fulfill their contract for any reason. However, naturally, death falls under that umbrella.
1 They Aren't Allowed To Smoke
Disney stars aren't allowed to smoke in any Disney — or even Disney-related — film. This includes Lucasfilm, Pixar, and Marvel. Any film that Disney touches is forbidden to include smoking on screen.
The Disney ban has been the company’s policy for years (excepting the early, early years, of course) but the push to exclude cigarettes across the board is a relatively new one. Chairman CEO Bob Iger announced the initiative in 2015 in an attempt to prevent the movies from becoming bad influences on young viewers.
However, Iger left a few exceptions open. For example, should the movie depict a historical figure who is super known for their smoking habit, then under those very specific circumstances a Disney film would be allowed to depict that character smoking. Prior to the ban, 43% of Marvel films depicted smoking. This is a drastic change from the squeaky-clean image created by Disney’s ownership.
Can you think of any other harsh rules that Disney stars are forced to live under? Did you know that the House of Mouse was so strict? Sound off in the comments!