Back in April of 1983, Disney decided to launch the first television channel to carry their name, The Disney Channel. Originally airing shows and TV movies targeted for the whole family to enjoy, it wasn't until 1997 that the channel became what it is today.
Changing their lineup of programming to aim specifically for younger children to preteens and teens, Disney Channel finally gained popularity and became a serious competitor to the other kid-centered channels, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. This is when Disney Channel started producing the teen sitcoms that would make them so successful, starting with shows like Flash Forward in 1997 and The Famous Jett Jackson in 1998.
Their first original show to really hit it big came in June 2000 with Even Stevens, which also catapulted lead actor Shia LaBeouf's career. This show was closely followed by the similarly fondly remembered Lizzie McGuire, which also made lead actress Hilary Duff their first major teen star since the days of The Mickey Mouse Club.
Disney Channel continued to make a name for itself in children's television, producing more hit teen sitcoms, cartoons and Original Movies that many young adults remember fondly today. Some of these shows experienced very long and healthy lifespans, including That's So Raven (their first show to cross the 100 episode barrier) and Phineas and Ferb (more than 200!).
Many, many other shows, however, did not. Many shows were cancelled after only a couple of seasons, including some fairly popular shows. Today, we're going to be taking a look at 20 shows that were cancelled for some particularly strange and interesting reasons. Get ready to be infuriated.
20 The 65-Episode Rule
Based on the popular feature film of the same name, Lilo & Stitch: The Series continued the adventures of everyone's favorite Hawaiian child and alien experiment as they search for the other 625 experiments who have conveniently all landed on Hawaii. They do their best to reform Stitch's "cousins" and help them find the one place they truly belong.
The series ended in 2006 after only 65 episodes.
That number doesn't seem significant until you start looking at Disney Channel's history of original programs and find that many early shows ended at or near that exact same number of episodes. Since 1998, Disney Channel has implemented a controversial and unofficial rule to end all shows at the 65 episode mark. The aim was to limit production costs so they could continue to make more shows while keeping costs low. This rule is no longer enforced, but Disney will still cancel most shows after their fourth season.
19 iBeat The Jonas Brothers
Back in 2008, Disney Channel aired what turned out to be an incredibly popular Original Movie: Camp Rock, starring Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers. To capitalize on the popularity of these young musicians, it was only natural that Disney Channel would want to produce a show around them. So in 2009, the sitcom Jonas premiered. The show starred the Jonas Brothers (of course) as fictionalized versions of themselves trying to balance their band with living a normal life.
The trouble for Jonas started as soon as it premiered on Saturday night. Disney hoped the Brothers would be able to dethrone Nickelodeon's iCarly for the top spot. When Jonas was unable to keep up, it made a sudden move to Sunday, confusing viewers. Making matters worse, Disney made an ill-advised move in setting and name for the second season, called Jonas L.A.. Eventually, Disney pulled the plug on the show.
18 Mission Failed
One of Disney Channel's first shows, The Famous Jett Jackson, was an early success and an influential forerunner to the types of shows that would come to dominate the channel. The show starred the titular character Jett Jackson, a teenage boy who plays a secret agent on the show-within-a-show Silverstone. Episodes would split between Jackson's spy show and his efforts to live a normal life in his hometown.
The Famous Jett Jackson was a very entertaining show and was even well-liked by critics. It did very well in the ratings department as well. However, this was still Disney Channel's early years, so after 65 episodes and a Disney Channel Original Movie, the series ended in June 2001. Fans could still catch reruns of the show every night... at 12:30am. In June 2004, the show was pulled completely from Disney's programming, only airing briefly again on ABC Family and Disney XD.
17 The Truth Is Out There
Back in 1999, Disney wanted to cash in on X-Files' popularity. They produced So Weird, a kid-friendly version of the hit sci-fi horror show. The show followed teenage Fiona Phillips as she went on tour with her rock star mom. While on tour, she encountered paranormal occurrences, including alien invasions, Bigfoot, and vampires.
A darker Disney show featuring sci-fi horror and a cool alt-rock soundtrack should have a lot of fans, so why don't more people know about this show? Once again, the show was axed after 65 episodes, but that might not be the only reason why it ended. Lead actress Cara DeLizia left the show after the second season to pursue other, non-Disney projects, bringing an abrupt end to her character's story arc.
Once So Weird ended in 2001, reruns kept getting pushed back further into the night until it was removed in 2003. It has never been aired since.
16 The Magic Washed Out
Disney Channel had some really unique shows back in the 90s, as they were still trying to figure out what kind of shows they wanted to make. Another memorable early show of theirs is The Jersey. The show follows a group of teens who discover a magic football jersey that, when worn, allows them to jump into the bodies of professional athletes. The Jersey was like a sports-themed version of Quantum Leap for kids, and featured many popular athletes of the time, including Dan Lyle, Tony Hawk, and Peyton Manning.
The show was popular, especially with young sports fans, but Disney Channel had already made up their mind to cancel production of the show in 2001, before they'd even started airing the third season. The Jersey never even got to experience a second life in reruns, because as soon as all 64 episodes had aired, Disney pulled it off the air completely.
My Babysitter's a Vampire, being essentially a less violent version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for tweens, was much edgier than the other shows Disney Channel had on offer. As such, it instantly gained a loyal cult following. The show followed psychic kid Ethan, his spellmaster best friend Benny, and his vampire babysitter Sarah as they tackle supernatural forces and high school life.
Despite the show's loyal fan base, ratings were still low by network standards. After two seasons, studio Fresh TV was struggling to get a second TV movie done. In a last ditch effort to show they could still pull ratings, they announced in April 2014 the pilot movie and the first two seasons would have a marathon on Canadian channel YTV and urged fans to tune in so they could produce a second movie and third season. Unfortunately, it was not enough, and MBAV has stayed dormant since.
14 Shut Down By A Dog With A Blog
Some Disney Channel shows are cancelled before they even begin. One such show was Madison High, a proposed musical sitcom spinoff to the incredibly popular High School Musical Disney Channel Original Movies. The show was supposed to star Luke Benward and G Hannelius in the lead roles as a romantic couple, very much like Troy and Gabriella from the DCOMs.
A High School Musical show seemed like the next logical step for Disney, so why did they give up on it? It turns out G was already committed to the show Dog with a Blog. One of the shows had to go and, at the time, Disney Channel was trying to produce programming for the whole family to enjoy (not just kids). The Madison High pilot was cancelled and Dog with a Blog ran for three seasons. I don't know why. The dog doesn't even blog that much.
13 Earth's Replaceable Heroes
When Disney bought Marvel Comics back in 2009, fans were cautiously skeptical. Worries were set aside when Disney premiered The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Starring many well known Marvel superheroes such as Captain America and Hulk--as well as less mainstream heroes Black Panther and Ms. Marvel--Earth's Mightiest Heroes seemed to usher in a new era of Marvel animation the likes of which hadn't been seen since the 90s.
Then the Avengers movie premiered in the summer of 2012, and Disney decided they needed to capitalize on it, despite already having a critically acclaimed Avengers cartoon on their hands. Earth's Mightiest Heroes was cancelled after only two seasons and replaced with Avengers Assemble in 2013, which featured the same lineup of characters as the movie. This meant those lesser known heroes had to wait till season three to show up again.
12 No Chance Without Sonny
As was said earlier, the popularity of the Disney Channel Original Movie Camp Rock lead to two shows starring the lead musicians. One was the flop Jonas, and the other was Sonny with a Chance, starring Demi Lovato. The show followed teenage Sonny Munroe (Lovato) who has just become the newest cast member on the live comedy television show, So Random!.
Sonny pulled in millions of viewers during its first two seasons and was renewed for a third, but the show was suddenly put on pause when Lovato had to seek treatment due to serious personal and psychological issues. When it became clear that Lovato would not be returning to the show, Disney scrambled to rework the third season into a spinoff based on the show-within-a-show, So Random!. Without Lovato, though, Disney saw no reason to continue the show, and ended it after one season.
11 The Forgotten Cousins
Todd J. Greenwald, the creator of Wizards of Waverly Place, originally had another show he wanted to make starring pop rock duo Aly & AJ called The Odd Cousins. The premise was very much a teenage Odd Couple: one was a bright and sunny cheerleader, the other was a grungy emo kid sent to live with her cousin. Wacky sitcom hijinks ensue.
Unfortunately for Greenwald, the sisters weren't available, so he tried to do the show with Vanessa Hudgens and another girl. At the time, Hudgens had just recently auditioned for High School Musical and seemed like a perfect fit. Once that DCOM became a massive hit, though, The Odd Cousins was officially dropped by Disney. Fortunately for Greenwald, Disney saw talent in him and asked if he could develop a series for their newest star, Selena Gomez, and the rest is history.
10 Error: "TRON" File Not Found
Following the release of Tron: Legacy, Disney thought it might be a good idea to produce an animated series based on their cult science-fiction franchise, so in May of 2012, Tron: Uprising premiered. Set between the first and second films, the series follows a young program named Beck (voiced by Elijah Wood) as he leads a revolution in the Grid against the villainous Clu.
Fans of the franchise loved it, but before the first season was even finished rumors of cancellation were already floating around due to low ratings. Disney eventually moved the show's timeslot to midnight, and after the first season ended, cancelled the show. It's widely believed that after Disney bought Star Wars, they no longer saw any reason to continue working on their small sci-fi series, bringing a tear to many fans of the security program's legacy.
9 It's Just A Prank, Bro!
Disney Channel has tried their hand at reality television shows a couple of times, to varying degrees of success. One of their more recent attempts was 2011's hidden camera show PrankStars, in which kids would meet their favorite Disney stars in "unpredictable and humorous" situations. What's most notable about this show is that it may hold the record for shortest run on Disney Channel, having produced only six episodes before being cancelled (two of which never aired in the U.S.).
Right after the fourth episode aired, host Mitchel Musso was arrested for driving under the influence. Not wanting to attract any bad publicity, Disney immediately cancelled PrankStars and pulled the remaining two episodes from their programming schedule. As for Musso, the incident put a serious dent in his acting career and pretty much ended his music career.
8 Zombie's Apocalypse
The premise for Zombies and Cheerleaders is a very strange one, especially for Disney Channel. The show (originally set to debut in 2011) was set to follow a high schooler named Zed Necrodopolis who was almost certainly destined to become a zombie with a name like that. Stranger still, the pilot for this proposed horror sitcom was also a musical and featured Teen Beach Movie stars Mollee Gray and Johnny Deluca.
It's easy to see why Disney passed on this series and moved most of its stars over to the safer Teen Beach Movie. However, it seems Disney actually liked the premise, as the series has now been reworked into an upcoming Disney Channel Original Movie titled Zombies. And yes, they made it a musical.
7 Spider-Man Goes To Sky High
Along with The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Disney premiered another Marvel cartoon starring everybody's favorite web head: Ultimate Spider-Man. The series stars Spider-Man as an amateur superhero who still has much to learn. Nick Fury offers to give him proper superhero training at S.H.I.E.L.D., but first he has to learn to work with a team of teenage B and C-list superheroes: Iron Fist, Nova, Power Man and White Tiger.
It was an interesting premise, though not everyone was a fan of how many characters and storylines were changed to adapt to the superhero high school setting (Luke Cage is the same age as Spider-Man, and Rhino is Peter's classmate?). Regardless, once Disney acquired the film rights to Spider-Man, they decided to bring the series to an end to make way for their new Spider-Man cartoon.
6 The First Disney Channel Star
By 2001, Disney Channel had begun to find the winning formula for iconic TV shows, and one of those early successes was Lizzie McGuire. Starring Hilary Duff as the title character, the show follows shy and clumsy teen Lizzie and her friends as she tries her best to fit in and be popular in middle school. The live-action sitcom would occasionally cut away to animated segments that showed Lizzie's feelings and thoughts about a given situation.
The show became a big hit, and Hilary Duff as Lizzie McGuire became Disney Channel's first big star. The show was popular enough to produce books, toys, music, video games and even a theatrically released film. Despite the show's major success, Disney still elected to cancel it after 65 episodes. Though there was some talk of continuing the series as a prime-time show on ABC, contract disagreements with Duff's representatives ended those plans.
5 Goodbye Waverly Place, Hello College
One of the more recent hit Disney Channel shows was Wizards of Waverly Place, a fantasy teen sitcom about three wizard siblings. Though they all have magical powers, only one can inherit the family powers, so they compete to earn that right. The series is particularly notable for launching the career of Disney star Selena Gomez, who stars as Alex, one of the siblings.
Wizards of Waverly Place was a big hit for Disney Channel, and even won three Emmys for "Outstanding Children's Program" during its run. So why was it canceled? As it turns out, Disney actually wanted to continue the series and originally renewed it for a fifth season. Several of the show's teen stars, however, decided it was time to leave the show to focus on other things, such as going to college.
4 Hannah Montana's Gone Crazy
Another one of Disney Channel's biggest hits was Hannah Montana, starring Miley Cyrus as a teenager with a double life: ordinary schoolgirl Miley Stewart by day, famous pop star Hannah Montana by night. The show produced a ton of merchandise, mainly in the form of soundtrack albums and even an actual tour, plus a couple of theatrically released films. Even TV critics admitted the show was pretty good, though in a "guilty pleasure" sort of way.
As the show progressed, so did Miley Cyrus' rise to fame. This is usually a good thing, but as Cyrus became more famous, her image on and off stage became more provocative. Eventually, people started to blame the show as being a negative influence on young children. As painful as it was for Disney, they eventually axed their cash cow after just four seasons.
3 Too Real For Disney Channel
Girl Meets World was one of Disney Channel's most recent shows. A spin-off to the popular 90s sitcom Boy Meets World, this show focused on young teen Riley Mathews (daughter of Cory from BMW) as she learns to deal with the social and personal issues of adolescence. Critics praised the series for being one of the few shows to realistically portray the challenges young women face when growing up.
And that's exactly why Disney cancelled it.
A relatable show about a girl growing up had no place on a channel filled with over-the-top fantasy fulfillment sitcoms about being wizards and pop stars. Seeing that the show was beginning to outgrow Disney Channel's target demographic, Girl Meets World was cancelled after its third season. After a few months of failing to find an alternate outlet to continue the show (including Netflix), the series officially came to an abrupt end.
2 Doing The Impossible
Being only the second animated series to premier on Disney Channel, Kim Possible became a massive success. The eponymous Kim Possible was a high school cheerleader who led a double life as an international super spy. Alongside her incompetent sidekick Ron Stoppable, they stopped the schemes of various supervillains such as Dr. Drakken and Shego. Like many other Disney Channel shows of the time, though, it was cancelled after 65 episodes and two DCOMs.
But miraculously, Kim once again did the impossible.
Following increased overseas popularity and heavy petitioning online, Kim Possible became one of the few shows in the history of television to come back from cancellation and finally break Disney Channel's "65-Episode Rule." After receiving a full 22-episode fourth season, Kim Possible received a well-earned and proper conclusion.
1 Not-So-Even Stevens
As has been seen many times on this list, Disney Channel has had many great early shows. But their first big hit that would come to define the type of programming they would have even to this day is clearly Even Stevens. Following the life of the regular suburban Stevens family, the show focused on the rivalry between older sister Ren and little brother Louis (played by future Hollywood actor Shia LaBeouf).
Despite launching the career of Shia LaBeouf and the Disney Channel, Even Stevens was still cancelled after 65 episodes and a Disney Channel Original Movie. It was still incredibly popular after cancellation, as reruns of the series continued for three more years on Disney Channel. The show was even syndicated on Superstation WGN. Reruns appeared years later on Disney XD, proving the show's long-lasting popularity.
Do you know any other Disney Channel shows that were cancelled for unusual reasons? Let us know in the comments.