8 Of The Disney Channel’s Biggest Stars, Then And Now

It's 25 years since the channel debuted, launching countless careers.

Disney Channel

by grazia |
Updated on

If you're anything like us, the Disney Channel was a big part of your childhood. Whether you watched it before or after school, or both, or over the whole weekend, shows like That's So Raven and Hannah Montana or, later on, Shake It Up and Sonny With A Chance provided perfect family entertainment.

Now that the Disney channel has reached the grand old age of 40, we're looking back on the channel's biggest stars, reaching to the past to see how they looked in the Disney heyday, and how they're doing now as successful, young artists still working in the industry.

Honestly, we feel old. Buckle up...


Disney Channel Stars, Then And Now...

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CREDIT: Disney Channel

Cole and Dylan Sprouse then...

After appearing in Big Daddy – they both played Julian 'Frankenstein' McGrath – and Cole's role of Ben Geller in Friends, the twins hit the mainstream in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, following the double trouble of two brothers living in a swanky hotel.

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Cole and Dylan Sprouse now...

Cole has continued to find success in acting, particularly in hit show Riverdale. Dylan has shown less eagerness to remain in the industry – although he has appeared in short films - and is the co-owner of a meadery in Brooklyn.

Cole has recently claimed that their mother pushed them into acting at a young age because she needed the money, telling Alex Cooper on the Call Her Daddy podcast, 'My mother was an incredibly wonderful and artistic woman, but she was financially the most irresponsible woman ever.'

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CREDIT: Disney Channel

Hilary Duff then…

Who didn't love Lizzie McGuire? Hilary played the girl next door who had two loving parents, an annoying brother, two best friends, a nemesis and an imaginary cartoon sidekick. The show ran for two seasons and 65 episodes.

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Hilary Duff now...

Hilary enjoyed a vaguely successful recording career after leaving the programme, as well as appearing in A Cinderella Story and Gossip Girl. After finding success in Younger – and earning her character her own spin-off – Hilary's dreams of a Lizzie McGuire spin off were dashed when the project was shelved early into filming. In the last few years she's stared in How I Met Your Father, the spin off to How I Met Your Mother.

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Demi Lovato then...

After a childhood spent on Barney & Friends, Demi became a tween queen through her appearance in the Disney Channel's Camp Rock films and a stint as Sonny in Sonny With A Chance.

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CREDIT: Joel Ryan

Demi Lovato now...

Post Disney, Demi found huge success in the music industry with songs including Skyscraper, Heart Attack, Confident and Cool For The Summer. She even had a cameo in this year's Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga.

But the singer, who is non binary and uses the pronouns they/them as well as she/her has spoken of her struggles with mental health eating disorders, drug and alcohol addiction, alongside an alleged rape which blighted her time at Disney.

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CREDIT: Disney Channel

Selena Gomez then...

Selena played Alex Russo, a spunky New Yorker who happens to be a wizard in training in The Wizards Of Waverley Place. The series ran on the Disney Channel from October 2007 to January 2012.

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CREDIT: Joel Ryan

Selena Gomez now...

With films like Monte Carlo, The Fundamentals of Caring and The Spring Breakers under her belt, Selena has proven herself as a bankable star, and also found success as a singer with her band – Selena and the Scene – as well as solo. Most recently she won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for her work on Only Murders In The Building. With 412 million Instagram followers, she is one of the most followed people in the world.

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CREDIT: Disney Channel

Zendaya then...

Zendaya first rose to international attention of Shake It Up, a Disney channel series focused on the exploits of two wannabe dancers, played by Zendaya and Bella Thorne. She stayed with the channel until 2018, starring in spy series K.C. Undercover.

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CREDIT: Joel Ryan

Zendaya now...

It is remarkable that it took only two years for Zendaya to make the jump to the mainstream. Following a role in the Spiderman franchise, she won an Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama for Euphoria - the youngest ever actress to receive the award.

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CREDIT: Disney Channel

Zac Efron then...

Zac became a sensation and international teen idol thanks to his role as Troy in the Disney Channel's three-strong High School Musical franchise. He was an actual god during that time. Even if he didn't actually sing in the first one...

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CREDIT: Joel Ryan

Zac Efron now...

After roles in The Greatest Showman, Baywatch and Extremely Wicked and as Ted Bundy in Shockingly Evil And Vile, Zac took a step back and embraced nature in Netflix series Down To Earth With Zac Efron, which won him a daytime Emmy. Next up he's due to appear in the film Iron Claw about the Von Erich family of wrestlers.

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CREDIT: Disney Channel

Miley Cyrus then...

By day, she was Miley, student, friend, daughter, sister. By night, she was Hannah Montana, the world's biggest popstar.

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CREDIT: Joel Ryan

Miley Cyrus now...

After hanging up the wig, Miley launched a film and music career, with hits including Can't Be Tamed, Party In The USA and Malibu. She performed 2019's Glastonbury, and her latest album, Endless Summer Vacation debuted in the Billboard 200 at number three.

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CREDIT: Disney Channel

Raven-Symoné then...

Raven was already famous before taking the lead in That's So Raven, thanks to her role in The Cosby Show. But in playing a high school psychic with a tendency to get into trouble, she cemented her status as a Disney star.

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Raven-Symoné now...

Raven has returned to the channel, starring in That's So Raven spin-off Raven's Home. She has been a regular on The View, and recently popped up on the US version of Celebrity Gogglebox.

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If that didn't make you feel nostalgic enough, then fire up Disney +, watch some of your old favourites and raise a glass (of orange squash?) to Disney Channel. Happy birthday!

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