The House of Mouse is branded for bringing a lot of unknown, young talent to the masses. Many of the most famous entertainers working in Hollywood today actually found their start on the Disney Channel. Not only has the popular network brought forth iconic musicians like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, but the Disney Channel is also responsible for introducing a plethora of gifted actors to the world.
As hard as it is to make the transition from child star to adult actor, these performers have carved out an impressive filmography for themselves. Not only is it difficult to be taken seriously, but to be able to work with some of the biggest creative forces in the industry is huge accomplishment that these stars actually managed to achieve.
Zendaya / Denis Villeneuve
Zendaya got her start on Disney Channel over a decade ago with the original series Shake It Up, which lasted for three seasons before being canceled. The newcomer also made two Disney Channel Original Movies before landing the title role in K.C. Undercover, a spy-centric comedy series that also went on for three seasons.
Post-Disney Channel, Zendaya continued her TV career with HBO’s Euphoria, which garnered the young actor a Primetime Emmy for her performance. Her transition into films proved to be very successful with blockbuster hits like the MCU’s Spider-Man franchise and the megahit musical The Greatest Showman. The talented performer recently co-starred in the sci-fi epic Dune, which was helmed by visionary director Denis Villeneuve.
Shia LaBeouf / Steven Spielberg & Oliver Stone
Evens Stevens is known for being actor Shia LaBeouf’s breakout role, as his genius comedic timing made the show resonate with critics and fans alike. The comedy series aired on Disney Channel from 2000-2003, garnering much critical acclaim for LaBeouf, who won a Daytime Emmy for his performance.
LaBeouf became a household name when he was cast as the lead in Michael Bay’s highly successful Transformers franchise. The actor quickly found himself working with two of the most esteemed directors in Hollywood: Steven Spielberg, considered one of the best directors ever, and Oliver Stone. While Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps failed to make an impact with critics, both films were box office successes.
Keke Palmer / Jordan Peele
Although Keke Palmer is known for her work in the beloved Nickelodeon series, True Jackson, VP, the incredibly charismatic actor first co-starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie, Jump In! with Corbin Bleu back in 2007.
Recently, Keke Palmer has been able to add some pretty extraordinary entries to her filmography. From co-starring with Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers to voicing a character in Pixar’s Lightyear, she has proved to be a force to reckon with in Hollywood. Palmer can currently be seen in acclaimed horror director Jordan Peele’s newest film, Nope, in which critics have praised her performance.
Ryan Gosling / Shane Black
Way back in the early ‘90s, the Disney Channel sought to revive the beloved children’s show The Mickey Mouse Club for modern audiences. In addition to featuring Ryan Gosling, the reboot is notorious for its young cast of future stars, including Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Keri Russell.
Gosling has become one of the most famous actors working today. With commercial hits like The Notebook to cult action films like Drive, his diverse body of work truly reflects the unmatched talent the actor possesses. Celebrated director Shane Black collaborated with Ryan Gosling in the badass action film, The Nice Guys, which was commended for its witty script, top-notch performances, and sharp direction.
Brenda Song / David Fincher
Brenda Song co-starred in the hit family sitcom The Suite Life of Zack and Cody for three seasons. The show was extremely popular and spawned a spin-off called The Suite Life on Deck, which also featured Song’s Tipton for three more seasons. The Suite Life of Zack and Cody is considered one of the best Disney Channel shows ever, and Song’s performance is definitely one of the reasons why.
Brenda Song’s joined the ensemble cast of revered director David Fincher’s The Social Network. The movie focused on the creation of Facebook and the high-stakes drama that surrounded it. While Song’s role is minimal in the film, she leaves a lasting impression in her few scenes, proving that the actor deserves many more opportunities on the big screen.
Selena Gomez / Adam McKay
Selena Gomez first appeared on Disney Channel in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Hannah Montana, in which she portrayed Miley’s arch nemesis Mikayla. Her next project with the network, Wizards of Waverly Place, turned out to be magic. Gomez led the fan-favorite series for four record-breaking seasons and two original movies.
Gomez made some strong creative efforts in her post-Disney career with provocative projects like Spring Breakers. In Adam McKay’s dark comedy The Big Short, Gomez stars as herself in a cameo. Although her role in the film is a blink-and-miss appearance, the actor has subsequently gone on to work with legends like Bill Murray, Adam Sandler, and Paul Rudd in more substantial parts.
Zac Efron / Lee Daniels
Zac Efron first burst onto the scene with his star-making role as Troy Bolton in Disney Channel’s High School Musical franchise. The trilogy of films was a huge financial success for the House of Mouse and was responsible for the massive fame that followed for the actors of the property.
As a teen heartthrob, Efron began to take more daring roles in indie films with the hopes of transitioning into a more serious actor. While there were some movies that relied on his heartthrob status, like 17 Again, it was his performance in The Paperboy that showed critics just how talented Efron truly is. Lee Daniels’ crime thriller might not be considered one of Efron’s best movies, but the actor’s enthusiastic and haunting performance is definitely something to remember.
Lindsay Lohan / Garry Marshall
After giving a tour-de-force performance as twins Annie and Hallie in the Disney movie The Parent Trap, Lohan starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie Get A Clue, which aired in 2002. The movie was able to highlight Lohan’s charm and sophisticated comedic timing.
Widely referred to as one of the most talented young actors of the time, Lindsay Lohan was able to amass an incredible list of film credits. Her films like Freaky Friday, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, and Mean Girls have all earned their place in the pantheon of iconic teen movies. Her collaboration with well-respected director Garry Marshall in 2007’s Georgia Rule might have missed the mark with most critics, but her performance is still considered the best part of the film.