The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon have fought a long-standing ratings war throughout the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s to attract the attention of children and teens around the world.
In the '90s, Nick was unstoppable with its lineup of cartoons such as Doug, Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life, Hey Arnold!, CatDog, and The Wild Thornberrys. Then along came the '00s, when Disney’s live-action comedies Even Stevens, Lizzie McGuire, That’s So Raven, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and Hannah Montana became unstoppable.
With so many shows trying to attract an audience with the exact same age range, it’s not shocking that, throughout the years, Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel experienced some overlap in between their ideas – either intentionally or by accident. There are only so many story tropes that are exciting yet appropriate for children, and while these networks did their best to make their lineups of shows and movies as distinctive as possible, it just so happened that certain projects looked suspiciously similar to others from time to time. At the end of the day, these two channels gave us our entire childhoods, so we can’t complain.
These are the 7 Times Nickelodeon Copied Disney (And 8 Times Disney Copied Nick).
15 DISNEY’S BIZAARDVARK (COPIED NICK’S ICARLY)
Bizaardvark premiered on the Disney Channel in June of 2016, and it was centered around two best friends who reached fame by posting videos on an internet channel. If it sounds familiar, that’s because the plot is remarkably similar to iCarly, which was a massively successful TV series on Nickelodeon that aired for 7 seasons between 2007 and 2012.
Disney fans may argue that the “girl who is famous for posting videos on the internet” premise is too general to justify Bizaardvark as a rip-off of iCarly. However, for networks like the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon that compete so directly, it definitely felt at the time like Disney was trying to capitalize on the fact that iCarly had ended by creating an extremely similar TV show of its own.
14 NICK’S SPECTACULAR! (COPIED DISNEY’S HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL)
The Disney Channel broke every single ratings record with its High School Musical original TV movie, which premiered in 2006 and went on to become a worldwide phenomenon. By 2007, High School Musical 2 was already airing on the network, and High School Musical 3 brought the franchise to actual movie theaters.
It wasn’t that surprising when, in 2009, Nickelodeon announced that it would release its very own TV musical, Spectacular!, about teenagers in a show choir.
This rip-off was so shameless, Nickelodeon didn’t even try to hide it.
In a statement to the New York Times, Nickelodeon president Cyma Zarghami acknowledged that Spectacular! was being released in the heels of High School Musical, saying that Disney “tapped into a genre that had been sleepy. Now, it’s a genre that is open for everybody.”
13 DISNEY’S SO RANDOM! (COPIED NICK’S ALL THAT)
While it is true that Nickelodeon’s All That was a sketch comedy show that took a lot of cues from NBC’s Saturday Night Live, it never actually felt like a fully-fledged rip-off due to the distinctive nature of both shows. SNL has undeniably always been made for adults, while All That was made for kids and teenagers.
Between 1994 and 2005, Nick’s All That launched the careers of Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, Amanda Bynes, Nick Cannon, and Gabriel Iglesias, all of whom went on to star in their own shows and become pop culture staples.
Of course the Disney Channel wanted in on the action!
In 2011, Disney took a shot at creating its very own kid-friendly sketch comedy series, called So Random! - a spinoff from Sonny with a Chance. However, it was not well-received and only lasted for one season, as opposed to All That’s ten seasons.
12 NICK’S ICARLY (COPIED DISNEY’S HANNAH MONTANA)
After already having so many successful live-action comedy series, Hannah Montana became peak success for the Disney Channel as it premiered in 2006, being not only a record-breaker in ratings but also a merchandising juggernaut. Miley Cyrus, who played the show’s title character, was also marketed as a product, going on tour and releasing music constantly.
It is undeniable that, around this time, Nickelodeon decided that it was time to move on from its focus on cartoons and start seriously investing on live-action properties.
In 2007, Nick released iCarly, a series about a popular but relatable girl starring Miranda Cosgrove, who could sing as well.
There is little doubt that iCarly was a direct response from Nickelodeon to the success of the Disney Channel with Hannah Montana, and both properties were constantly compared to one another by fans.
11 DISNEY’S JONAS (COPIED NICK’S THE NAKED BROTHERS BAND)
In 2007, Nickelodeon released The Naked Brothers Band, a musical comedy starring Nat and Alex Wolff, real-life brothers who were in a band together and played fictionalized versions of themselves in the show. The series went on for three seasons and spun video games, soundtracks and many other projects.
Only one year later, in 2008, an idea must have hit the Disney Channel: we already have a great relationship with Joe, Nick and Kevin Jonas – the Jonas Brothers – from their appearances in Hannah Montana and Camp Rock.
Why not give these real-life brothers who are in a band a show where they play fictionalized versions of themselves?
Disney’s Jonas, which was also known as Jonas L.A., did not work. It went on for two seasons, but was received poorly by audiences.
10 NICK’S EVERY WITCH WAY & WITS ACADEMY (COPIED DISNEY’S WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE)
The 2000s were all about Harry Potter, but it was the Disney Channel that brought child-friendly wizardry to cable TV first. Wizard of Waverly Place, starring Selena Gomez, premiered in 2007 and became an instant phenomenon for Disney. The show accumulated more than 100 episodes launched Selena’s career as an actress and singer for years to come.
In 2011, Nickelodeon Latin America decided to hop on the “wizards who go to normal high school” premise by releasing the Grachi telenovela, which became a massive success. Then, in 2014, the North American version of Nickelodeon decided to adapt the Hispanic telenovela as English-speaking properties, yielding series such as Every Witch Way and WITS Academy.
In the end, Grachi, Every Witch Way, and WITS Academy were all suspiciously similar to Wizards of Waverly Place, but Nick got away with it, because after all, they were all TV attempts to capitalize on Harry Potter, weren’t they?
9 DISNEY’S OFF THE WALL (COPIED NICK’S FIGURE IT OUT)
Nickelodeon’s Figure It Out game show became a staple on 1990s television by dropping colorful slime on its contestants. The show ran from 1997 to 1999 and was later revived for a 2012-2013 run, totaling 6 seasons. Unsurprisingly, in 1998, the Disney Channel added a game show where kids competed through a series of weird and unusual challenges.
If Disney’s Off The Wall game show sounds familiar, that is because it definitely looked and felt like a Figure It Out rip-off.
The Disney Channel game show was canceled a year later, in 1999, which is ironically also when Figure It Out ended its first run. The slime factor, however, went on to become a signature element for Nickelodeon, which even a few years ago would still occasionally drop slime on presenters for its Teen Choice Awards show.
8 NICK’S THE NAKED BROTHERS BAND (COPIED DISNEY’S HANNAH MONTANA)
iCarly wasn’t the only Nickelodeon show to premiere in 2007 with the clear mission of responding to the Disney Channel’s massive success with Hannah Montana in 2006. The Naked Brothers Band, which was centered around the Wolff family of musicians, also seemed a little too close to the Hannah Montana storyline surrounding the Cyrus clan.
2007 was a year in which Nickelodeon was seemingly desperately trying to match the Disney Channel’s branding effort surrounding Hannah Montana.
With The Naked Brothers Band, Nick had the opportunity to release soundtracks, video games, movies, and even sell merchandise – all elements that Disney was mastering with Hannah Montana. However, The Naked Brothers Band never really got even close to the appeal garnered by the Disney property, and only produced 39 episodes in total.
7 DISNEY’S STUCK IN THE MIDDLE (COPIED NICK’S THE LOUD HOUSE)
Nickelodeon’s The Loud House was about the middle child in a family of eleven kids. The Disney Channel’s Stuck in the Middle was about the middle child in a family of seven kids. The Loud House’s protagonist broke the fourth wall, and so did the protagonist in Stuck in the Middle. The Loud House’s Lori, the eldest sibling of her family, was weirdly similar to Stuck in the Middle’s Rachel, who was also the eldest sibling of her family. See the parallels here?
Nick’s The Loud House premiered in 2014 and ran on the network until 2016, which was the year when the Disney Channel premiered Stuck in the Middle.
Despite both properties having similarities to Malcolm in the Middle, which came out first, there are many elements that support the notion that Disney was more directly inspired by the Nickelodeon show.
6 NICK’S BIG TIME RUSH (COPIED DISNEY’S JUMP IN! / HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL)
The Disney Channel’s Jump In! was a 2007 TV movie that was centered around Izzy, a young boxer whose father used to be a boxing champion, who suddenly is drawn to compete in a Double Dutch tournament. The premise of a sports jock who leaves a sport to go to something otherwise considered “girly” had been extremely successful for Disney in High School Musical, in which Troy, a basketball player, joins the school’s theater production.
It was not surprising when Nickelodeon decided this theme a try.
In 2009, the network released Big Time Rush, which was based on four hockey players who are put together to form a boy band. Despite having a very similar premise to other Disney properties, Big Time Rush worked out well for Nick, yielding four seasons, soundtracks, concerts, and even a TV movie.
5 DISNEY’S DESCENDANTS & ZOMBIES (COPIED NICK’S MONSTER HIGH & EVER AFTER HIGH)
Mattel created a merchandising juggernaut as it launched its Monster High brand in 2010 and the companion Ever After High brand in 2013. Nickelodeon quickly established a partnership with Mattel and aired several Monster High and Ever After High specials on the network, propelling the franchise to even higher standards.
The Disney Channel spent years trying to craft its own kid-friendly “freak chic” franchise, and it finally found a way to do so with the 2015 TV movie Descendants.
As Gizmodo pointed out, it’s hard to deny that the visuals in Descendants are identical to the Monster High aesthetic, and Disney took it even one step further during its latest TV movie release, Zombies, which is not only visually but also thematically similar to Monster High and Ever After High.
4 NICK’S CLARISSA EXPLAINS IT ALL (COPIED DISNEY’S THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB)
One of the most popular properties on the Disney Channel in the 1990s was The Baby-Sitters Club, which was a perfect fit for the Disney brand since it aimed to teach kids lessons and explore their emotional growing pains. The show was based on a series of novels and was produced by HBO, but the franchise became a staple under the Disney umbrella after premiering in 1990.
One year later, in 1991, Nickelodeon came out with a show called Clarissa Explains It All, which was all about exploring the difficulties that kids and teenagers face in school and teaching them how to deal with things.
Nick’s Clarissa Explains It All could not have been more similar to The Baby-Sitters Club in nearly every way, but it turned out to outlive the original show by a couple of years.
3 DISNEY’S THE SUITE LIFE OF ZACK AND CODY (COPIED NICK’S DRAKE & JOSH)
2004 was all about Nickelodeon’s Drake & Josh, the tale of two stepbrothers with completely opposite personalities who are forced to live and go through the motions of life together despite having little to nothing in common. In 2005, a show with an extremely similar premise was released on the Disney Channel, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, with the twist that the two boys with opposite personalities were twins.
In both Drake & Josh and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, one sibling is popular, mischievous, and has a way with the girls, while the other is nerdy, responsible, and awkward.
Drake and Zack are immature but lovable, Josh and Cody are smart but clumsy. It’s hard to argue against the fact that Disney seemingly just wanted its own Drake & Josh.
2 NICK’S THE OTHER KINGDOM (COPIED DISNEY’S WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE)
Nickelodeon’s The Other Kingdom, which was released in 2016, was about a fairy who is sent to attend regular high school and has to contain her powers in order to live as a human in the real world. If that premise sounds familiar, it is because that is literally the entire point of the Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place, in which young wizards are forced to attend high school and keep their wizardry abilities a secret.
Disney has mastered the mixing of fantasy and reality in its programming, but Nickelodeon has, for the most part, struggled to meet the same success when exploring supernatural story tropes.
The Other Kingdom was yet another attempt to bring “magic” to Nick, but the show was not even renewed for a second season.
1 DISNEY’S GOOD LUCK CHARLIE (COPIED NICK’S ICARLY)
It’s true that the merchandising and licensing machines that surrounded iCarly were very inspired by the universe that Disney built around Hannah Montana, but it’s not like Nickelodeon also didn’t inspire several lookalikes as well.
Besides Bizaardvark, which did not work at all in the Disney Channel’s favor, there was another – and actually successful – attempt to bring to the network the premise of “girl who documents her life through videos”: Good Luck Charlie.
Like iCarly, Good Luck Charlie is all about a girl with a camera. The most significant difference is that Good Luck Charlie’s Teddy is filming everything to show Charlie what happened during her childhood, while iCarly is actually capitalizing from her videos. However, the intention behind both premises is the same: to document what happens in the lives of these protagonists and their families.
Are there other Disney and Nick shows that are shocking similar? Let us know in the comments.