Disney serves A-list celebrities to Hollywood

Zendaya flaunts her Vivienna Westwood gown at the 87th Academy Awards. In 2015, Zendaya had just recently begun a starring role on Disney’s “K.C. Undercover,” bringing her out of the sea of minimally-known actors.

As an avid viewer and excited fan, I have always considered Disney Channel a huge part of my childhood. There was something incredibly special about watching my comfort shows after a tiring day at school, screaming “You’ll Always Find Your Way Back Home” during sleepovers and waking up before anyone else over the summer in my grandma’s house and flipping to the only channel number I knew by heart. To sum it up: Disney Channel invented the word “nostalgia.”

While Disney is popular for releasing fan-favorite TV shows such as “Jessie,” “Good Luck Charlie” and “Wizards of Waverly Place,” they’re also special in a way very few other networking shows are: some of the most talented actors and actresses have risen from the Disney ranks.

What exactly makes an A-list celebrity, anyway? According to an article from online blog WiseTour, an A-list celebrity is “a movie star who is very well known and who is usually considered extremely bankable by the movie industry.” Basically, it is someone whose name is frequently recognized and associated with success and fame. As we’ve seen as young kids growing up during the “Disney Revolution,” a few important names certainly come to mind: Selena Gomez, Ryan Gosling and Zendaya.

In 2002, 10-year-old Selena Gomez, a young girl from a Dallas suburb, landed a role on “Barney & Friends.” This television show marketed toward preschool and elementary schoolers launched her career in the entertainment industry. Not long after, she was cast as the lead on “Wizards of Waverly Place.” As a young star in Hollywood, Gomez’s career quickly skyrocketed, rendering her one of the highest paid teenagers of her time.

Gomez later moved on to bigger projects, such as “Ramona and Beezus” (2010), “Monte Carlo” (2011) and “Hotel Transylvania” (2012). She was getting hired left and right as a young woman, finally being able to choose most of her roles on her own. After a few more movies and appearances, Gomez decided to follow her passion for music and release her own songs and albums. Some of her popular albums include “Stars Dance” (2013), “For You” (2014), “Revival” (2015) and “Rare” (2020).

Through the years, Gomez has won American Music Awards, Teen Choice Awards, People’s Choice Awards, MTV Video Music Awards and Billboard Music Awards. After (and during) these accomplishments, Gomez opened her own makeup line called Rare Beauty. This beauty line has allowed her to move on to more impactful projects, like creating “The Rare Impact Fund” to raise money and awareness for mental health resources. She also launched “Wondermind,” a media company focused on breaking the mental health stigma she has struggled with and seen in society.

While balancing all of these important projects, Gomez continues to appear on the screens. “Only Murders in the Building,” a Hulu TV show, has garnered millions of supporters and viewers across the globe–myself included. The series stars Gomez, Martin Short and Steve Martin, a strange and unlikely trio working together to solve murders that only occur in their apartment building in New York City.

Gomez is an A-list celebrity and product of Disney who continues to shine, despite leaving Disney 10 years ago.

During the hunt for star-turned-ex-Disney stars, I have learned of many new celebrities that originated from Disney, and to my surprise, Ryan Gosling was one of them.

Ryan Gosling began his work at Disney playing a Mouseketeer on “The Mickey Mouse Club.” Twelve-year-old Gosling started his role in 1993 and was on the show until 1995, when he was reportedly fired for having a big attitude. Nevertheless, Gosling went on to larger roles. Despite difficulties, his Disney career will forever be an important credit to his past and current successes.

Only nine years after he was fired from Disney, Gosling was cast in “The Notebook” (2004). He had a few roles before this movie, but this project really catapulted his career as an actor, earning a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes, a 7.8/10 on IMDb and an overall 4.7/5 on Google’s audience review.

Gosling went on to other notable films such as “Drive” (2011), “The Nice Guys” (2016) and “La La Land” (2016). “La La Land” received 33 major nominations in 2017, winning 18 of them: fourteen Academy Award nominations (six wins), seven Golden Globe nominations (seven wins) and 11 British Academy of Film and Television Award nominations (four wins). His many successes have crowned him a spot on the A-list, delivering wonderful acts and characters to our silver screens, and all thanks to an early role on Disney.

And last, but certainly not least, another Disney-star-become-A-list celebrity: Zendaya.

Zendaya started her career as a child model for popular brands like Macy’s and Old Navy. She was found to be talented in a variety of ways; she could dance, sing and act, ultimately leading to her landing a major role and co-starring alongside Bella Thorne in a then-new Disney show called “Shake It Up.”

Zendaya stayed on the American sitcom for the entirety of its duration (2010-2013). The series did very well, as 91% of its viewers “liked this TV show” on Google. The success from this show allowed Zendaya to climb her way up Hollywood, where she eventually booked a new Disney series, this time as the title character: “K.C. Undercover.” The show aired from 2015 to 2018, and in 2017, she landed her biggest role up until that point as Anne Wheeler in “The Greatest Showman.” As soon as her Disney days ended, Zendaya was auditioning for new roles, getting cast in most of them.

Zendaya quickly rose tremendously in stardom, starring in fan-favorites like the Spiderman movies with Tom Holland, “Dune” (2021) and arguably her best show so far, “Euphoria” (since 2019). The show received an 8.4/10 on IMDb and got 88% Rotten Tomatoes, placing this TV show on the ultimate pedestal. With the success of the show, Zendaya has won two Primetime Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe award, a Critics’ Choice Award, a BET Award, a People’s Choice Award, a Satellite Award and an MTV Award. Zendaya has received all of these awards in the span of four years, with only two seasons of the TV show and under the age of 27, making her one of the greatest actors of this generation.

Much like Gomez, Gosling and Zendaya, up and coming artists such as Jenna Ortega and Olivia Rodrigo are younger stars with Disney origins as well, climbing up the Hollywood hierarchy and releasing A-list celebrity content.

Ortega starred in Disney’s “Stuck in the Middle” in 2016 and is now working alongside famous actors like Mia Goth, Brittany Snow, Julie Bowen, Skeet Ulrich, Courteney Cox, Jennifer Garner, Penn Badgley and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Rodrigo started out in “Bizaardvark” in 2016 and just three years later starred in “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” Only two years after, Rodrigo released her first album “Sour,” which quickly broke records and won three Grammy Awards in 2022.

As the pattern has shown, there is clearly a Disney to A-list celebrity pipeline at play here, allowing incredibly talented artists to make huge names for themselves and take home some of the most renowned awards in the film and music industry.