My parents made me go to bed early. Like, 7 PM early. I’d beg and beg to stay up to watch TV with them, to no avail–until the golden days of 1997 came around. That’s when Disney began airing Disney Channel Original Movies, and my bed time was finally lifted. (Kind of.)
And now, with the advent of Disney+ streaming, I can revisit them. These are truly formative pieces of filmmaking, even though the plots make zero sense, the dialogue is less than stellar, and the acting is questionable at best. When I think back on these films, I smile my dark smile, roll my eyes, and thank the Disney gods for digging these nuggets out of the vault.
Here are the five seminal Disney Original Films that made me into the horror fan I am today. If I’ve ever wondered why I love ghosts, monsters and vampires, I have to look only at my obsession with the movies below to understand where it came from!
The first official Disney original film, Under Wraps follows a few hapless teens who find a mummy, steal his corpse, and keep it in their bedroom, until they find out he’s just a man who didn’t want to pay his taxes. Also, the mummy, whom the kids have named Harold, was in love with another mummy at one point.
Don’t Look Under the Bed
Frances Bacon (yes, that is indeed her name) is being harassed by a boogeyman–he’s been spray painting “B”s all over town and causing black-outs left and right. Turns out, boogeymen are created when kids stop believing in their imaginary friends, and the one who’s been making Frances look like she’s losing her mind is her own childhood imaginary friend, Zoe. There’s worldbuilding, there’s some science, there’s a sprinkle of romance. What more can you want?
Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire
A case of mistaken identity goes right in Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire. Adam and Chelsea are both grounded, even though they both have tickets for The Headless Horseman show. They’re so desperate to go that they hook their own mom up with a vampire, and once the youngest sibling realizes what the man of the hour is, they spend the rest of the night trying to save her. Classic Madonna/whore scenario here.
Phantom of the Megaplex
Weird stuff is happening at the Megaplex on the opening night of the latest blockbuster. While mom’s off on a date with her boyfriend, Peter, the assistant manager at the local cinema, has to bring his annoying little siblings to work with him (imagine??). Is it a phantom creating all these headaches for Pete, or could it be something a little closer to home? This one has a guest appearance from Mickey Rooney and also a better message than most: spend more time with your family and don’t work so darn hard, kid!
Can of Worms
This one’s a little more sci-fi than horror, but to be honest the animatronics were pretty, well, memorable upon my rewatch, so I’m including it.
Mike Pillsbury has always felt like an outsider here on earth, and when he makes a plea via satellite to be saved after a particularly embarrassing encounter with his crush, he never expects to hear back from anyone. However, a parade of progressively weirder-looking animatronic aliens, beginning with an exceptionally litigious crab-turtle-looking-thing, begin visiting him and offering their services, Mike ultimately decides he is in fact not an alien and that earth is and always will be his home.
There’s also perennial favorites Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, So Weird, and Gargoyles (which begins, oddly enough, in Scotland. Definitely don’t remember that part.)
What are you watching on Disney+? Anything creepy?