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Friday, June 14, 2024
The Observer

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What was once old is new again: Disney Channel series revivals

Some Disney revivals stretch back decades, and these adaptations are prolific.

Adaptations and remakes are not a foreign concept to television. “M*A*S*H” is one of the most successful TV series of all time, and it’s based off of a movie. In the ‘90s, nearly every Disney animated feature received a television cartoon to air in syndication. Sequels and remakes are not just delegated to the medium of film, and Disney television is making a point to demonstrate that. 

Disney’s television creatives are no strangers to continuing shows which had previously ended. The cast of “Sonny with a Chance” minus Demi Lovato got spun-off into “So Random!” Similarly, “Suite Life on Deck” carried over certain central cast members of “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.” But these continuations typically occurred within a year or two of the original show’s end. Doing so, they were able to maintain the same audience which loved the first series. But what if you want to target an audience that hadn’t seen the original?

In 2014, “Girl Meets World” debuted on the Disney Channel, continuing the ABC sitcom “Boy Meets World” which had ended 14 years prior. Bringing back the central cast of “Boy Meets World” as the parents and role models for the next generation of characters. Where the original show ended with a pregnancy announcement by main couple Cory and Topanga, the main character of “Girl Meets World” is the child that came from this reveal. “Girl” ran for three seasons, ending in 2017.

“Girl Meets World” was just the start. The same year “Girl” ended, “Raven’s Home” began. Instead of pulling from ABC, Disney Channel reached back into their own history, reviving “That’s So Raven!” Bringing back Raven-Symoné and Anneliese van der Pol from the original, the show features these two as parents of their own children, with Raven’s child having psychic powers like his mother. “Raven’s Home” is still ongoing, and more Disney Channel revivals have come in its wake. “The Proud Family” became “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder” on Disney+ 17 years after the original series ended. Similarly, Disney is currently developing new seasons of “Phineas and Ferb,” after a supposed “series finale” aired in 2015. 

It is undeniable that some of Disney Channel’s stars have broken out into major mainstream success. Miley Cyrus, star of “Hannah Montana” has maintained a successful music career beyond her tenure with Disney. Jenna Ortega played the main character on “Stuck in the Middle” before being cast in “Wednesday” or the new series of “Scream” films. Musician Olivia Rodrigo got her start on the Disney sitcom “Bizaardvark” before debuting her album “Sour” and last year’s “GUTS.” One of Disney’s biggest stars has been Selena Gomez, with a career spanning music, acting, producing and even cooking shows. Typically, these bigger breakout stars don’t come back to Disney Channel after finding new success. But to quote Gomez’s “Wizards of Waverly Place” — “everything is not as it seems.”

Recently, Disney announced that Selena Gomez was planning to produce a pilot for a new “Wizards of Waverly Place” series. The new series centers on Gomez’s on-screen brother Justin (David Henrie), who now has kids and must become a mentor to a new generation of wizards. Gomez is announced to guest star within the pilot but will most likely not become a series regular. Despite “Wizards” ending in 2012, it will return after a decade with no new episodes. 

While a pilot order by Disney is promising, it’s not a guarantee of a show — it’s not even a promise the public will see the show. Popular Disney program “Lizzie McGuire” ran from 2001 to 2004 and secured one of only three Disney Channel theatrical movie releases. When Disney+, the company’s streaming service, was announced, a more adult-oriented revival was announced with series star Hillary Duff returning. The show remained on Disney’s release schedule for years, getting pushed back every few months. Commercials and trailers advertising the service’s original series even featured footage from the show. In 2020, Disney formally canceled the series. 

“Wizards” receiving a continuation is a pleasant surprise for fans, but definitely not unheard of by longtime fans of Disney’s programming. The best question one can ask looking forward is not towards how the show will turn out, but rather which one is next.