Disney Channel is a household name that influenced many of our lives or the lives of the ones we love growing up. Once we saw that signature, introductory, Disney Channel film reel, we knew entertainment was coming. Excitement and anticipation were high as we nestled into our couches and waited to see what adventure Disney brought us this time around. Unfortunately, those golden years only lasted from roughly about 1997-2005, until things started to lose their quality.

Nowadays, Disney Channel is producing some run-off-the-mill, cookie-cutter films that are all about who gets the boy, or finding another way to say “it’s not my dream, mom/dad, it’s yours.” As most of us have noticed, this once inspiring channel has lost its motivational essence to unoriginality.

Once upon a time, Disney Channel wasn’t afraid to treat their audiences like adults and show them what’s really up. Revealing flaws within humanity like racism or bullying, and showing how to overcome these circumstances. Once upon a time, Disney Channel taught us something, and 303 Magazine’s Film and TV staff is here to remind you of those movies that brought awareness to the difficult positions many would face as they grew up. So, without further ado, and forgive the slight blurriness:

7 Disney Channel Original Movies That Actually Taught Us Something 

“Motocrossed” (2001)

This film brings the “being a woman in a man’s world” narrative to light in a plot about the Carson family.  The family is extremely supportive of their eldest son, Andrew, and his motocross ambitions, but they aren’t so when it comes to his twin sister Andrea, because of the simple fact that she is a girl, and motocross is a “man’s sport.” However, during a friendly race between the twins, Andrew loses control and gets too injured to compete.  So as their father goes to Europe to check out a new rider to replace his son, Andrea comes up with an idea to impersonate her brother, with the rest of her family’s slow and reluctant agreement to go along with it and help her. During this facade, Andrea (now “Andi”) realizes that the game involves fiercer competition than she previously thought, and she takes a fellow biker, Dean (played by a previously interviewed Riley Smith), on as a mentor in exchange for tips on how to get girls. Andi moves up in the racing world with the help of Dean, and the two naturally get closer as Andi falls for him, however, he remains oblivious to the fact that she is a girl. Of course, in the end, the truth comes to light. Her father, although previously unwilling to accept it, realizes that he is hurting his daughter by holding her back from doing something that she loves.

Moral of the Story: This movie brings to light the almost unwitting, somewhat invisible prejudice against women that still exists today.  It even shows how women are so many times sexualized and not taken seriously in their goals and ambitions in that Andrea is hit on by the father’s chosen replacement rider. “Motocrossed” wasn’t afraid to teach boys, girls and even parents that we shouldn’t put females in to a bubble where they “know their place” and are afraid to branch out, but we should encourage them to follow their heart, no matter the boundaries that seemingly accompany it; teaching them they can do whatever they want, as long as they want it and work for it.

“Brink!” (1998)


This film discussed the reality of getting caught up in something for the wrong reasons. The plot surrounds itself around Andy “Brink” Brinker, who is a part of a group called the “Soul-Skaters;” a group that skates for fun, not money, and their rivals, “Team X-Bladz,” which are a group that skates merely for the “fame” and “fortune.” After “Brink” finds out that his family is having financial trouble with his father being on disability, he decides to take the place of an “X-Bladz” that was recently injured, all the while keeping it from his closest friends. He quickly learns some truths of this rival group and their knack for sabotaging and cheating during competitions, and long story short, everyone gets what’s coming to them. His friends and family find out that he has been lying, he comes clean, has a heart-to-heart with his father, and learns that whatever he does, he should do because he loves it, not because of the money; not to mention, the cheaters get fired (justice!)

Moral of the story: “Brink!” teaches kids that even though they may feel peer pressure to fit in or a responsibility to take care of their parents through financial trouble, they shouldn’t lose the integrity of who they are in the process, oh and of course, honesty is the best policy.

“The Color of Friendship” (2000)

This film takes place in the year of 1977 and bravely centers around the topic of racial blindness and racial prejudice. Piper is the child of a black Congressman, Ron Dellums (played by Carl Lumbly), who is a strong opponent to the oppression of people in South Africa, and after becoming interested in the cause, Piper wants nothing more than to host a South African student, not crossing her mind that the student would be… Mahree Bok, a white South African whose family ignorantly benefits from the oppression in their country. Although not entirely blind to the racial prejudices of the world, Mahree finds herself too comfortable with her position in life to notice what is really going on in the lives of the black Africans she loves so dearly. When Mahree comes to America to stay with the Dellums, both are surprised and disappointed at their encounter, and both Mahree and the Dellums’ family must work to overcome the stereotypes and prejudices of each other, to bridge the gap between their families, and eventually build a lasting friendship.

Moral of the story: This movie teaches the extremely important lesson, to kids from all types of families, to look outside their circumstances, to be aware of the issues around the world so that they won’t be taken by ignorance of their own disposition, and finally, to not judge a person by the color of their skin; for all of us have the ability to care and love, if we are given the chance and the knowledge.

 “Tru Confessions” (2002)

This movie unapolegetically sheds light on what it’s like living with a disability, or the disability of a family member, more specifically. Shia LaBeouf plays Eddie, the twin brother of Trudy (“Tru”). Eddie becomes autistic after an incident of oxygen deprivation at birth. “Tru Confessions” shows the struggle that not many people understand. The stress it causes Tru when Eddie gets bullied by her friends, the neglect she feels when her mother shows Eddie favoritism, the guilt the father feels when he realizes his inability to relate to Eddie and show him the care and patience he needs. Tru, being an aspiring filmmaker, documents all of these things for a contest she enters, and all the while she sees the whole situation in a new perspective, giving everyone an appreciation for the trials that they all face everyday, and showing how Eddie is happy just being loved. I truly applaud the network of Disney Channel in 2002 for courageously making a film that dares to enter the lives of those we so easily write off when they aren’t our own.

Moral of the story: This film expands on the idea of looking beyond ourselves. It encourages people from every background and situation to understand a circumstance — a lifestyle — that very few come to understand. Bullying is a horrific issue in our society, and has been for a long time, and “Tru Confessions” helps humans see the humanity in others, no matter how different they seem. Ignorance becomes us all, and bullying is often a common side effect of this, and Disney Channel helped people avoid it by giving their audience a film that softens the heart, and brings awareness to living/life with a disability.

“Gotta Kick It Up!” (2002)

If the phrase “si, se puede!” makes you want to put on a little red uniform and dance around, then you were a part of the generation that experienced “Gotta Kick It Up!” A Disney Channel movie that told the story of a young teacher that became the dance coach of a group of young latina girls and showcased their journey to overcome societal obstacles and find unity amongst themselves and others.

Moral of the story: As the girls chanted “si, se puede!” or “yes, I can!” it demonstrated how passion and hard-work can triumph over all, no matter what circumstances one seems bound by. Whether it be dealing with being stereotyped, issues at home or fighting to overcome the competitive nature that is often instilled in young women, “Gotta Kick It Up!” showcases the beauty in unification and the support of a team. It shows that it’s not a weakness to find our strength in others, because they can be the source that helps us realize the strength we have inside ourselves.

“Full-Court Miracle” (2003)

Another fearless film, “Full-Court Miracle” is about Alex, a young Jewish boy who has the aspirations to become a basketball star despite his unskilled team and the pressure put on him by his father to become a doctor. While trying to find a solution to his basketball dilemma, he runs into Lamont Carr, a has-been college basketball star who finds himself homeless after leaving his wife and kid to become a professional. Alex convinces Lamont to become their coach, and expectedly, after many trials, they unite as a team, as friends and as a family.

Moral of the Story: This film fearlessly started a discourse about homelessness and religion without thought of the possible offense that their viewers might have taken. It told an important story that taught us perseverance and broadened our horizons on people — Disney Channel motifs that one would be hard-pressed to find on this channel nowadays.

“Going to the Mat” (2004)

Jace is a blind student who is new to his current school. He uses his blindness as an excuse to show-off and to treat people badly — showing how often times people put up a shield. This shield’s purpose was to repel people and keep its wielder safe from facing the judgment he might face by just being himself. Jace becomes a wrestler for his school and, slowly but surely, finds friends all around him, because once he puts down his shield and gets over his insecurities, people start to love him for who he is. His friends speak to how his blindness isn’t important and how people shouldn’t be defined by what they can’t do but by what they can — a life-lesson that is much needed in today’s society and that was well shown in “Going to the Mat.”

Moral of the story: As stated above, “Going to the Mat” unveils the power of laying down one’s shield. Everyone has that protective layer they put up to keep from getting hurt, from sarcasm to shyness; and, however vulnerable and scary it may seem, the rewarding part is receiving that ernest kind of love one only gets from being their true selves. I know it’s a cliché, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. In turn, it also teaches people how to respond to seeing other’s true colors — by looking at the beauty of their light and potential, as opposed to focusing on their flaws and fallbacks.

These are just some of many films during Disney Channel’s prime, film-producing years that spoke to the real trials that humanity faces.  Films that spoke out at a time when Disney Channel wasn’t afraid to talk about what was really important — to reveal the lives of those other than the rich, spoiled kids who just want to be in a band. These films, as well as others during this time period, spoke to religious, racial and familial challenges that so many of our society face. These are the Disney Channel movies that truly taught us something, and I think we can all agree that one day, we hope this kind of integrity will return to the network, and not only Disney Channel, but many others.