11 Future Stars Who Appeared in Disney Channel Original Movies

The House of Mouse knows talent when it sees it.

Larson is one of many celebs who got their start on the Disney Channel.
Larson is one of many celebs who got their start on the Disney Channel. / Jesse Grant/GettyImages

Over the last 20-odd years, the Disney Channel has given early breaks to many young actors who went on to bigger and brighter things in movies and television. Here are 11 actors (including one major Oscar winner) who got their starts in Disney Channel Original Movies.

1. Brie Larson

More than a decade before she won an Academy Award for Best Actress for Room, Brie Larson starred in the Disney Channel’s Right on Track in 2003. She played Courtney Enders, a teenager who—along with her older sister, Erica (Beverley Mitchell)—conquers the world of drag racing.

2. Vanessa Hudgens

In 2006, Vanessa Hudgens appeared as Gabriella Montez, East High's "freaky genius girl," in High School Musical (and its sequels). Hudgens would go on to star in hit movies like Sucker Punch and Spring Breakers, and played Rizzo in Grease: Live on Fox earlier this year. 

3. Kristen Stewart

In 1999, nine-year-old Kristen Stewart made her professional acting debut as “Girl in Fountain Line” in The Thirteenth Year. She would soon go on to find meatier roles in Panic Room, Adventureland, On the Road, After Alice, and of course, the Twilight Saga.

4. Zac Efron

After landing a recurring role on the short-lived Summerland, Zac Efron’s breakthrough role came as Troy Bolton in the High School Musical trilogy. The first two films premiered on the Disney Channel in 2006 and 2007, while the final installment received a theatrical release in 2008.

5. Emmy Rossum

In 1999, two years after making her acting debut in an episode of Law & Order, Shameless star Emmy Rossum appeared in Genius. The then-13-year-old played a high school student who befriends a boy genius. 

6. Kaley Cuoco

Before she was a series regular on The Big Bang Theory, Kaley Cuoco appeared in the 2000 Disney Channel Original Movie Alley Cats Strike. She played Elisa Bowers, a diehard bowler. 

7. America Ferrera

In 2002, the same year she appeared in Real Women Have Curves, America Ferrera appeared in Gotta Kick It Up! She played Yolanda "Yoli" Vargas, a member of an all-girl Latina dance troupe.

8. Taran Killam

Before landing a featured player role on Saturday Night Live, Taran Killam starred in 2004's Stuck in the Suburbs. He played a frosted-tipped pop star whose cell phone gets switched with one of his teenage fan's.

9. Hayden Panettiere

Nashville's Hayden Panettiere was already a veteran actor by the time she starred in Tiger Cruise in 2004. The then-14-year-old played a young military brat dealing with her father’s (Bill Pullman) demanding life in the U.S. Navy and the aftermath of 9/11.

10. Kat Dennings

In 2002, 2 Broke Girls star Kat Dennings appeared in The Scream Team. She played Claire Carlyle, a teenage girl who inherits her grandfather’s (possibly haunted) house.

11. Shia LaBeouf

After three seasons of television, Shia LaBeouf starred in The Even Stevens Movie in 2003. The made-for-TV movie served as the hit TV show’s 93-minute series finale.

A version of this article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated for 2024.