Do you remember these Disney icons from the early 2000s? For most millennials, these actors were a part of this childhood growing up. Or at least something to watch when they should have been doing their homework. Either way, we want to go through the best of the Disney channel faces and see how they have transformed over the years.
Some of these actors have stuck around since the Disney Channel, including names like Zac Efron and Selena Gomez. So we still see their faces today in other TV shows and films. But some old Disney faves did not pursue acting beyond their childhood and it is pretty interesting to see what they look like now. So let’s just jump right in and see these transformations.
Aly Michalka since Phil of the Future
Let’s start off with bubbly blonde Aly Michalka. At the age of 15, Aly landed her first role. Yes, it was of course with the Disney Chanel as Keely Teslow on the show Phil of the Future. Although the show only went on for two seasons, it was enough for Aly to become a crowd favorite and boost her career.
Since the Disney Channel, Aly has featured in a couple of movies. You might remember her as the friend in Easy A, or Savannah in Grown Ups 2. Or you might have seen her as the lead role in the TV show Hellcats. We wish the show lasted longer than one season because we loved seeing Aly play a sassy cheerleader. We’re just sad to see her iconic gold curls go.
Anneliese Van Der Pol since That’s So Raven
Well, we can’t talk about That’s So Raven without also getting nostalgic over Anneliese Van Der Pol. Remember the cute redhead who was clumsy and goofy? You know the one. Raven’s best friend who always said: “This is awkward!” Yeah, that one. This is where she started her acting career.
But Anneliese didn’t have as much luck after the show. She decided to go into Broadway and even landed the role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast. And then in 2016 Anneliese pleased all her millennial fans and confirmed that she would be returning to her role on the spin-off series Raven’s Home.
Adrienne Bailon since The Cheetah Girls
We almost forgot that Adrienne Bailon started her career even before The Cheetah Girls. She was one of the members of 3LW, the girl music group when she signed up to star in the film The Cheetah Girls on the Disney Channel. And then she and one of her bandmates scored two of the four leading roles together. She even ended up playing Alana on That’s So Raven.
Over the years, Adrienne has appeared in a few different shows and performances. But her longest-running success is definitely as one of the hosts of the daytime talk show, The Real, with co-hosts Tamera Mowry-Housley, Loni Love, and Jeannie Mai. And she even started her own jewelry line in November 2018, called XIXI.
David Henrie since Wizards of Waverly Place
We think it is fair to say that David Henrie looks like he has barely aged at all. He was actually a bit older than the rest of the Disney crew when he came onto the network. At the age of 18, he was cast in Disney’s original series Wizards of Waverly Place, as well as the show’s television movie, Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie, playing the role of Justin Russo.
Are you also trying to think why he looks familiar but from somewhere else? Maybe you recognize him more these days from playing Ted Mosby’s future son in How I Met Your Mother. He has also had some appearances here and there in other shows and in 2018 he even directed a coming-of-age movie called This is the Year.
Ashley Tisdale since High School Musical
We can’t decide if we loved Ashley Tisdale more in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody or High School Musical. It is genuinely hard to pick because she is so iconic in both. Both the TV show and movie shot Tisdale to mainstream fame and she quickly became a household name.
Since then Tisdale has released singles over the years but didn’t completely succeed in making it big as a solo singer. She also played a role in Jason Bigg’s movie, Amateur Night. We think it is fair to say that Tisdale’s name and reputation are more known than her current career. But we still hold a soft spot for her in our hearts.
Bella Thorne since Shake It Up
Bella Thorne was already working when she showed up on the Disney block. But it was her role as CeCe Jones on the Disney Channel series Shake It Up that really boosted her career. She played the role from 2010 until 2013. And by then we all knew who she was.
And her career has only continued to thrive. She has been in numerous different TV shows and movies. She even had her own leading role playing a celebrity Paige Townsen on Famous in Love. We want to know if the character’s life is anything close to her own!
Brenda Song since Suite Life of Zack & Cody
Like a lot of actors and performers, Brenda Song started her career as a model at five years old. It wasn’t long after that she began appearing on our screens in various TV shows. And after a few successes in the late 90s, Brenda signed a contract with Disney. She was actually super active within Disney and was a part of different productions. But we can say without a doubt that her role on the Suite Life of Zack & Cody was where we know and love her from.
And her success didn’t stop with Disney. Brenda has actually played in some big movies including The Social Network, Scandal, and New Girl. So we think it is fair to say that Brenda has done pretty well for herself. And at the end of 2014, Brenda signed a deal with Fox and 20th Century Fox Television and has since featured in different NBC and CBS shows.
Corbin Bleu since High School Musical
You definitely remember Corbin Bleu starring alongside fellow Disney man Zac Efron in High School Musical. This was Corbin’s breakthrough role and his first Disney appearance. And it was also Disney’s most successful TV movie at the time. So it was a pretty big deal. And we have to admit that we were all obsessed with it at the time.
After High School Musical, Corbin was pretty successful on the live stage. He was a part of the main cast of the big theatre production of Hairspray at the Hollywood Bowl. It is pretty cool that he performed alongside big names like Nick Jonas and Drew Carey. At the moment he is working on some new projects like the upcoming theatre production of hit film Catch Me If You Can.
Camilla Belle since Rip Girls
By the time Camilla Belle showed up on the Disney scene, she was a well-oiled machine. At the age of eight, she had already had roles in two hit classics, A Little Princess and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. But Disney’s surfer TV movie Rip Girls in 2000 was Camilla’s first leading role.
Since then, Camilla has played different roles in various movies. None of them were particularly big hits but Camilla is still acting. Her most recent role was in a student project film, The Made Whale, which was actually produced by James Franco’s Elysium Bandini Studios.
Jake Thomas since Lizzie McGuire
We can’t mention Lizzie McGuire and not mention Jake Thomas who played her little annoying brother on the show, Matt McGuire. Jake started his career at the age of nine, but he was eleven when he was cast by Disney for the role. He played Hilary Duff’s brother for the entire series from 2001 until 2004, and it was his first major role.
Since Lizzy McGuire, Jake has appeared in numerous TV shows and movies in minor roles. The shows include classics like CSI, NSIC, ER, and Rules of Engagement. His career may not be as thriving as his old co-star but we will always have a soft spot for Matt McGuire and are excited to see him in the upcoming revival.
Debbie Ryan since The Suite Life on Deck
Starting out on the live stage at the age of seven, Debbie Ryan was discovered by Disney Channel around the age of 14. She played the role of Bailey Picket on The Suite Life on Deck from 2008 until 2011. And then she moved to a different Disney series to play the main character in Jessie.
Most recently Ryan played a main role in the Netflix series Insatiable. The show went on for two seasons before being canceled on February 14, 2020. It seems Netflix has taken a liking to Ryan. She was cast alongside Alison Brie in the Netflix film Horse Girl and the upcoming thriller Night Teeth.
Emily Osment since Hannah Montana
Emily Osment is without a doubt most known for her role as Lilly Truscott on Disney’s hit show Hannah Montana. And with a co-star like Miley Cyrus, the duo was (and still is) a crowd favorite. Osment played the role from 2006 until 2011, and then of course in the 2009 Hannah Montana: The Movie. Maybe it’s even time for a reunion?
Putting her acting career to the side, Osment has simultaneously worked on her singing career over the years. At the start of 2019, she released her first single under a new music alias Bluebiird. We’re not quite sure where the alias name comes from but we like it. To date, she has released three songs under the alias.
Dylan and Cole Sprouse since The Suite Life of Zack & Cody
Ok, so firstly we are huge Sprouse brothers fans. How can we not be when we first met them as little boys in the 1999 Big Daddy film. And then as Ross’s son Ben in Friends. But they really shot to fame on their own Disney show, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. The show ran from 2005 until 2008, and the pre-teen audience loved them, turning the twins into ‘heartthrobs’.
These days Dylan is acting a little less than Cole who is a part of the main cast of TV series Riverdale. Cole also played a main role in the 2019 movie, Five Feet Apart. Warning, it’s a tear-jerker if you haven’t seen it yet. And Dylan has gone a little entrepreneurial and became the co-owner & brewmaster of the All-Wise Meadery in Brooklyn.
Keke Palmer since Jump In!
Keke’s acting career always came second to her singing. In 2005, Keke signed a record deal with Atlantic Records. That same year, Keke signed a contract with Disney. We’re not sure exactly what happened to the planned show Keke and Jamal, because it actually never aired. Instead, Disney had Keke act in and record songs for their movie Jump In! with Corbin Bleu.
Over the years Keke has had recurring roles in some shows like Masters of Sex. But most recently she played alongside stars like J-Lo, Cardi B, and Lili Reinhart in Hustlers. The movie which was released in 2019 was a big success and we can all agree that Keke absolutely slayed.
Hilary Duff since Lizzie McGuire
We don’t even know where to start when it comes to Hilary Duff. She has killed it in music, television, and film. And will forever be a childhood icon. But we will never forget where she came from, becoming a teen idol as Disney’s Lizza McGuire which ran from 2001 until 2004. And of course the 2003 Lizzie McGuire Movie. Her career just took off from there, featuring in many teen movies and putting out some hit singles.
And that was just her getting started. These days Duff is a main character Kelsey Peters on the hit show Younger. And Duff announced some of the biggest news of 2019, the revival of her role as Lizzie McGuire on Disney+. We don’t have too many details but we’ve seen some behind the scenes photos of Lizzie and Gordo and we are undeniably excited.
Jason Earles since Hannah Montana
Jason Earles is one of the most interesting Disney crew members that we have. We will start off by mentioning that one of Jason’s first roles was National Treasure in 2004 with Nicholas Cage. Not a bad way to start a career. But Jason’s main job was as Jackson Stewart on Disney’s Hannah Montana. He played the role alongside Miley Cyrus from 2006-2011.
But there’s a bit of a twist when it comes to Jason and his role on Hannah Montana. During the TV show, he was playing a 16-year-old but in real life, he was actually 29-years-old. It is almost like a Benjamin Button situation. It is also pretty amazing to think that he is actually 44 this year.
Raven-Symoné since That’s So Raven
Another major Disney icon is without a doubt Raven Symoné. She actually began acting on The Crosby Show from 1989 to 1992 and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper from 1993 to 1997. And then she entertained us all on Disney’s That’s So Raven from 2003 to 2007. She was even nominated for the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in Children’s Programming for the role.
Now, Raven has a recurring role on the show Black-ish which has been running since 2015. And she has also had various appearances in shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars, Nashville, and Master of None as herself. But our favorite of her recent roles is definitely as influencer Alice Knight on The Bold Type.
Mitchel Musso since Hannah Montana
Mitchel Musso is definitely best known for his Disney roles, yes not just one. He played Oken in Hannah Montana with Miley Cyrus, he played Jeremy Johnson in Phineas and Ferb, and finally King Brady on Disney XD’s Pair of Kings. So he really covered and thrived on the Disney network.
In between his roles, Mitchel also produced music for Disney. More recently in 2016-2018, he has played the voice role of Wally and Jeremy Johnson on Milo Murphy‘s Law. And Zane Daniels on Bachelor Lion. We’re not sure what Mitchel is up to today but we hope to see some more soon.
Lalaine Vergara-Paras since Lizzie McGuire
And then we also can’t forget to include Lizzie McGuire’s best friend, Miranda Sanchez. Lalaine is best known for the role of Miranda, which she played from 2001 until 2004. Unfortunately for us, she didn’t appear in the Lizzie McGuire Movie because of other work commitments. She was actually also in the film Annie and the theatre production Les Misérables.
Since then Lalaine has had a few cameos in different TV shows and films over the years. She even cameoed in Easy A with Emma Stone and Penn Badgley. Most recently, she appeared in the film One Night Alone in the role of Stacey. And she was also involved in the post-production of the movie Definition Please.
Selena Gomez since Hannah Montana
Starting a career at the age of ten, and starring in an Emmy Award-winning TV show we can all agree is a good way to start out. Selena Gomez gained wide recognition on Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place from 2007 until 2012. And how could we forget that Selena was also a part of the Hannah Montana crew, playing the role of pop star Mikayla?
Since then, Selena has only gained more popularity and fame. She moved into some more mature roles around 2012, in movies in Spring Breakers, Getaway, and The Fundamentals of Caring. But her most passionate project was working as an executive producer of Netflix’s series 13 Reasons Why. Selena has come a long way and is not slowing down.
Móises Arias since The Suite Life of Zack & Cody
It seems that a lot of Disney’s favorite played roles in Hannah Montana. Móises Arias played the series regular Rico on the show. This was Móises’s biggest role. But he also made guest appearances in Disney’s The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Everybody Hates Chris and Wizards of Waverly Place.
Móises has had some other small appearances, like as a patient on The Good Doctor. But most recently, we saw Móises pop up as a supporting role in CBS film Five Feet Apart. He played along former Disney co-star Cole Sprouse. We wonder what it was like working together after so many years!
Vanessa Hudgens since High School Musical
Vanessa Hudgens started off at the age of 15 in her first role Still Standing, followed by her supporting role in the teen cult classic Thirteen. But January 2006 is when things really took off. This is when Hudgens was cast to play Gabriella Montez, the leading female role in Disney’s High School Musical. We can all admit this was a big part of our childhood whether we liked it or not.
To be honest, Hudgens is still riding the wave of fame that High School Musical brought her. In 2017 she played a main role in the one-season TV show Powerless. And most recently we saw her in the romantic comedy Netflix Original, The Knight Before Christmas.
Shia LeBeouf since Even Stevens
We almost forget how long Shia LeBeouf has been a part of our lives on the big screen. He actually started acting at age 10, performing stand-up at comedy clubs. But his big break came in the early 2000s, playing Louis Stevens on Disney’s Even Stevens, which he later won a Daytime Emmy Award for. He has said that he “grew up on that show” and being cast was the “best thing” that happened to him.
Shia has had a successful but rough time since then. He starred in the Transformers movies in 2007, 2009, and 2011. And then 2019 became a sort of come back year for Shia after hitting some bumps. He wrote a semi-autobiographical movie called Honeyboy which was actually written as a part of his PTSD treatment. And it is a seriously amazing movie!
Tahj Mowry since Smart Guy
Every Disney Channel fan from the 90s will recognize this smart guy from his time starring as the ten-year-old whiz kid, T.J. Henderson. T.J. appeared in several episodes of the show Sister Sister before starring in his own show, Smart Guy. After that, he went on to make some notable Disney channel appearances in movies like Hounded and The Poof Point and shows like The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. Clearly Tahj didn’t do too bad for himself as a child actor.
Following his Disney career, Tahj also starred as Tucker Dobbs in the ABC Family show, Baby Daddy. The show premiered in 2012. But then Tajh decided to focus on his music career. He released his debut single called “Flirt” in April 2015. And by August that year, he had released a six-song EP entitled, Future Funk.
Gregg Sulkin since As the Bell Rings
As the Bell Rings was one of our favorites. So we remember Gregg Sulkin playing the role of JJ well. But we can’t deny that we also loved him on Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place. He played a recurring role on the show for two years as Mason Greyback.
A few years later, Gregg scored a role in the MTV comedy Faking It. From 2014 to 2016, he played Liam Booker. One of Gregg’s only leading roles came in 2016 where he starred as Sam Fuller in the horror movie Don’t Hang Up, which was released in early 2017.
Ryan Merriman since Smart House
We have to start off by pointing out how well Ryan has aged. But we can’t forget that he started off by starring in several of Disney’s television films like Smart House, The Luck of the Irish, and A Ring of Endless Light. Do you remember any of these movies? Because we sure do.
We can’t say that we know much about what Ryan has been up to since the good old days. But in 2011 he played the linebacker, Jon Abbate, in the movie The 5th Quarter. And other than that, well we can report that Ryan married his second wife, Kristen McMullen, in 2014. We hope they’re doing well!
Kat Dennings since The Scream Team
Kat Dennings has been on the big screen for a long time now. In 2002, Kat starred in Disney’s The Scream Team as a teenager who finds a group of ghosts. Yes, ghosts. And from then, she found other roles like her five-episode role on The WB’s Everwood, and even in the movie Raise Your Voice with Hillary Duff.
But these days she is a little more front and center. We all fell in love with her again when she played the role of Max in 2 Broke Girls from 2011 to 2017. And since 2019, she has been playing the role of Jules in the show Dollface. She even had her first run at Executive Producer on the show!
Kirsten Storms since Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century
Kirsten or Zenon? We don’t know what name you remember her by because we all loved her so much in Disney’s original movie Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. The movie actually had the highest rating for any Disney original movie at the time. So obviously she came back to play Zenon in the sequels.
But these days, you might only know her as Maxie from General Hospital. She has been playing Maxie Jones since 2005 so we think it is fair to say that she’s doing alright on the show. She even got together with and had a child with one of her costars from the show, Brandon Barash. But sadly, they are no longer together.
Jared Padalecki since A Ring of Endless Light
We all know Jared Padalecki from his more recent shows. But Jared did a stint on Disney just like so many other stars. Starting in the early 2000s he played roles in several of Disney’s television films. You must remember him in Silent Witness, Close to Home, and A Ring of Endless Light. Disney shows aside, how could we not mention his role as Dean, Rory’s boyfriend in Gilmore Girls?
In 2005 Jared was cast as Sam Winchester on the WB series, Supernatural. The show was a hit and still maintains a serious following. Yes, even though it is in its 14th season. The show is the longest-running North American sci-fi series in history. And there’s more to come. In 2019 it was announced that the series was renewed for its fifteenth and final season.
Hayley Kiyoko since Wizards of Waverly Place
Hayley Kiyoko made a name for herself with Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins. She even reprised the role in the movie’s sequel, Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster. And we think it is fair to say that because of the role, Hayley was able to score a part in Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place as Stevie Nichols. And everyone wanted to be in Wizards of Waverly Place.
But clearly music was Hayley’s calling. She worked on her music career over the years and in 2018 she released Expectations. She even landed a gig promoting her album on Jimmy Kimmel Live! And then she really stepped up in her career when Taylor Swift invited her to perform on stage during a concert at Gilette Stadium in 2018.
Olivia Holt since Kickin’ It
Well, Olivia Holt starred in the Disney XD series Kickin’ It, the Disney Channel Original Movie, Girl vs. Monster, and the Disney Channel Original Series I Didn’t Do It. So, clearly she was a hit on the Disney network. Our favorite was definitely I Didn’t Do It. What was your fave?
Olivia also played a few other roles like Tandy Bowen and Dagger, one of the lead characters in The Freeform. And another part in Marvel Comics TV series Cloak & Dagger which ran for two seasons. But things really came full circle in 2019 when Olivia came back to play in Disney XD animated series Spider-Man for two episodes.
Sasha Pieterse since Geek Charming
Sacha started off her career strong with a two-season stint on Family Affair as Buffy Davis. She played the main role from 2002 until 2003. And she later made her way onto The Disney Channel as Amy Loubalu in the Disney Original, Geek Charming.
But her big break came in 2010 on the ABC Family series Pretty Little Liars. The show was a huge hit and became a millennial favorite quickly. She played Alison DiLaurentis, the former “queen bee” from 2010 until 2017. She also came back to play Alison in the spin-off series Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists in 2019.
Erik Von Detten since Brink!
We miss Erik on the big screen. So let’s go back and remember where he began as Nicholas Alamain on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. And then of course as the lead in the Disney Channel original movie Brink!. This role actually helped him secure his part as Josh Bryant in The Princess Diaries.
But Erik didn’t really pursue much of an acting career beyond that point. From 2018 he has worked for a precious metals asset management firm, Rosland Capital. So, he’s just kind of living a normal life with his wife Angela von Detten and their three beautiful kids.
Danielle Panabaker since Stuck in the Suburbs
Danielle started acting when she was already a teenager and she made it to the Disney network in the early 2000s. You might recognize Panabaker for her roles in Disney films such as Stuck in the Suburbs, Sky High and Read It and Weep. All absolute winner films.
But more recently she guest-starred as Caitlin Snow in the second season of the CW series Arrow. Her role was loved so much that since October 2014, she has starred as the same character in the spinoff series The Flash. She even made her directorial debut on the episode titled Godspeed.
Ben Savage since Boy Meets World
Ben started off his career on the ABC sitcom Boy Meets World where he played the lead role of Cory Matthews from 1993 until 2000. This show was so successful that it eventually made its way to the Disney Channel. Ben even had the chance to reprise his role as Cory in the recent spinoff, Girl Meets World.
Ben played in the Disney Channel sequel Girl Meets World from 2014 until 2017. So by then he really had the role down pat. Aside from that, Savage also made appearances in shows like Phil of the Future and Shake It Up. Ben hasn’t played any other major parts so it looks like he will forever be known to us as Cory Matthews and we love him for it.
Brandon Baker since Johnny Tsunami
Brandon started off his career with some big gigs. At twelve years old he landed the lead role of Mowgli in Walt Disney’s Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story. Today, he is mostly known for his role in Disney’s TV movies Johnny Tsunami and its sequel Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board.
Brandon has since kept a low profile. He briefly returned to acting in 2013 after a six-year acting hiatus. He played the role of Quinn in the movie The Formula. And as far as we know, that was his last acting gig. All we know is that he is currently living in California. Maybe he will pop up again soon.
Danielle Fishel since Boy Meets World
Just like Ben Savage, Danielle was cast in Boy Meets World for the role of Topanga Lawrence-Matthews. And then she joined Ben and reprised her role for the Disney sequel Girl Meets World, which aired from 2014 to 2017. It may have only been one major role, but the role was a big one.
Danielle hasn’t really continued with her acting career. But we are happy to hear that in 2018 she got engaged to writer and podcast host Jensen Karp. The two got married in November 2018 and a few months later they announced that they were expecting their first child. Nawwwww.
Steven Anthony Lawrence since Even Steves
Steven Anthony did his rounds on the Disney network. But he is definitely best known for his role as Bernard “Beans” Aranguren in one of the best Disney shows Even Stevens. He played the role from 2001 until 2003. During this time, he also appeared in other Disney hits like That’s So Raven and The Amanda Show.
Steven was actually found to be working in Santa’s Helper at the Sunvalley Shopping Center in Concord, California, not too far from San Francisco. So clearly he is living a pretty normal life. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t still stopped by fans who recognized him from his days on Even Stevens.
Zac Efron since High School Musical
And last but definitely not least, Hudgens’s best co-star and love interest Zac Efron. He began acting in the early 2000s with guest roles on different TV shows like Firefly, ER, and The Guardian. But just like Hudgens, Efron’s career reached a turning point in 2006 with the release of Disney’s High School Musical. And of course, he returned to play Troy in the second and third High School Musical too.
And Efron definitely didn’t stop there. We can all agree that puberty did wonders for him and he went from sweet good boy to total hunk. In 2014 he played a main role in the movie That Awkward Moment, as well as the Bad Neighbors movies in 2014 and 2016. But Efron really messed with us in 2019 when he played the role of serial killer Ted Bundy in the mockumentary Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. But we still love him.