It’s coming up on the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas. Halloween!
The Disney parks typically kick off their Halloween celebrations in early August, with Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party starting on August 11 at Walt Disney World and Oogie Boogie Bash coming a little later on September 5 at Disney California Adventure. It should come as no surprise that the parks go all out for these events, which sell out several nights and bring in thousands of guests.
The parties offer guests after-hours access to the parks, rare character meet and greets, themed parades and fireworks, and allow adults to dress up and wear costumes of their own while trick or treating throughout the parks. Halloween is also the official start to the overall holiday season at Disney, which is the busiest time of the year for the parks.
Seemingly overnight, the Mickey-shaped pumpkins are strung up around the parks and just as quickly in early November, the pumpkins are replaced by Christmas trees as the parks usher in the holiday season. While both holidays are just as magical at the Disney parks, a case can be made that Halloween is more fun and can be more nostalgic, especially when you factor in Halloween DCOMs.
What is a DCOM?
DCOM stands for Disney Channel Original Movie, and any Disney kid from the late 90s to the mid-2000s could probably name several off the top of their head. While the most popular is probably High School Musical (2006) or Camp Rock (2008), there were dozens released starting in 1997 and continuing to this day. Some of the more recognizable ones are:
- Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (1999)
- Smart House (1999)
- The Luck of the Irish (2001)
- Cadet Kelly (2002)
- The Cheetah Girls (2003)
- Lemonade Mouth (2011)
- Descendants (2015)
- Zombies (2018)
Essentially, DCOMs are feature films that were specifically created and released on the Disney Channel prior to the rise of streaming and Disney+. Several Disney Channel stars crossed over and starred in several of these movies as well, including Hillary Duff from Lizzie McGuire who starred in Cadet Kelly alongside Christy Carlson Romano from Even Stevens. The Cheetah Girls starred Raven Symoné while Lemonade Mouth featured Bridgit Mendler from Good Luck Charlie.
For many kids who grew up with this era of Disney Channel, DCOMs were a major event. Now, however, most of these films can be streamed on Disney+ alongside other original content from the streaming platform. However, DCOMs wouldn’t exist the same way if it wasn’t for the very first film to be released under the Disney Channel Original Movie banner, which just so happens to be a Halloween movie.
Top 5 Disney Channel Original Halloween Movies
While the overall list of DCOMs is extensive, with over 100 movies released as a Disney Channel Original, just over a dozen of them are Halloween-focused. Although each of them is nostalgic and worthy of a watch (or rewatch) in their own way, the five this writer has picked out are–arguably–some of the most iconic. This list is in chronological release order as it would be way too difficult to try and actually rank them any other way!
1. Under Wraps (1997)
Under Wraps was the first film to be released under the newly named “Disney Channel Original Movie” banner and essentially started DCOMs as we know it. It was released in October of that year and has since seen a 2021 remake and 2022 sequel. The film is full of hilarity and heart and so much nostalgia for Halloween as a kid.
The film follows Marshall (Mario Yedidia), a preteen obsessed with monsters and the supernatural who discovers an Egyptian mummy in the basement of an “abandoned” house with his friends. Thanks to extenuating circumstances, the group accidentally brings the mummy back from the dead, eventually realizing that he’s friendly but confused and bonds with Marshall.
They group discovers that if the mummy, nicknamed “Harold,” isn’t returned to his sarcophagus by midnight on Halloween, he’ll cease to exist. Hijinks ensue as the friends try to avoid the owner of the “abandoned” house while trying to figure out how to get Harold back in time and keep him hidden from the other residents of the neighborhood. Eventually, they manage to get Harold back to his sarcophagus, where he’s reunited with his long lost love and able to rest peacefully forever.
2. Halloweentown (1998)
The following year saw the release of Halloweentown, which is arguably one of the most popular Halloween DCOMs of all time. The film would spawn three additional movies, including Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, Halloweentown High, and Return to Halloweentown, and a lifelong love of witches for any girl who wanted to be Marnie.
Halloweentown stars Kimberly J. Brown as Marnie Piper, a girl who loves Halloween but whose mother hates anything and everything to do with the holiday. When Marnie’s grandmother shows up out of the blue (Grandma Aggie, played by the iconic Debbie Reynolds), Marnie discovers that her whole family comes from a powerful line of witches and a place called Halloweentown.
Desperate to learn more about that side of her and figure out why her mother (Gwen, played by Judith Hoag) hid such a secret, Marnie, followed by her brother and sister, go to Halloweentown and try to learn about magic and witchcraft from Aggie. They’re caught by Gwen, but her attempts to bring them home are foiled. Unfortunately, something dangerously sinister is happening to the residents of Halloweentown and when Gwen and Aggie become victims, it’s up to Marnie and her siblings to figure out how to stop what’s happening.
They’re able to break the spells and release Marnie’s mother and grandmother and discover that the demon responsible for the evil is Kalabar, a bitter warlock angry over the fact that Gwen (who he had dated when they were younger) had chosen to marry a human and leave the world of Halloweentown behind. Through combining their family magic, Marnie and her family are able to defeat Kalabar and restore Halloweentown to normal.
3. Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire (2000)
Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire was peak 2000s, featuring Caroline Rhea, from the hit sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, as the mom, and Charles Shaughnessy, from the slightly older-audience-focused hit show The Nanny, as the vampire. Let’s just say it introduced a whole new generation of girls to the wonder that was late 90s Charles Shaughnessy.
Adam (played by Matt O’Leary) and his sister Chelsea (Laura Vandervoort) are grounded while they both have weekend plans. Desperate to get their mom out of the house so they can escape their punishment, they find Dimitri, a mysterious but handsome man, in the grocery store and devise a plan to introduce him to their mother and get him to take her out on a date.
Everything is going perfectly until their younger brother, Taylor, realizes Dimitri is a vampire. They follow the adults on their date, Taylor trying to prove he’s right and his older siblings just trying to avoid being caught and further punished. Dimitri manages to put their mother in a trance so he can take her back to his mansion. Eventually, with the help of vampire hunter Malachi Van Helsing (Robert Carradine from Lizzie McGuire), the siblings manage to save their mom and seal Dimitri back into coffin for good.
4. Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge (2001)
Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge brought back the beloved characters and actors from the first film and introduced Daniel Kountz as Kal, the son of Kalabar.
Marnie has spent two years training with Grandma Aggie, learning about witchcraft, magic, and the history of Halloweentown. During a Halloween party at their house, Marnie meets Kal, unaware of who he is, and sets out to impress him by showing him Aggie’s room. When Aggie starts to notice her magic is going haywire, she and Marnie return to Halloweentown only to discover that their world has turned gray and all the colorful and supernatural residents have turned into boring, bland humans.
They discover that Aggie’s spell book, which they need to reverse the “Grey Spell,” is missing, taken by Kal, who they discover is Kalabar’s son, bent on carrying out his father’s wish for revenge and destroying Marnie and her family for killing his dad. Working with her siblings and Luke, a friend in Halloweentown, Marnie is eventually able to reverse the spell, returning Halloweentown to normal and freeing the residents from the spell, and destroy Kal.
5. Twitches (2005)
Last on the list, but certainly not in our hearts, is Twitches, which would see a sequel, Twitches Too, released in 2007. Starring Tia and Tamera Mowry (of Sister, Sister fame), the movie was based on a book of the same name.
Camryn and Alex are twins, separated at birth with no knowledge that the other exists until they happen to meet accidentally on their 21st birthday, which falls on Halloween. As they learn more about each other, they also meet Karsh and Ileana, guardians sent to watch over them from the land of Coventry, where they’re actually from. The sisters, actually named Apolla and Artemis, are the daughters of a royal witch, and have magical powers of their own–prompting them to create the nickname “Twitches” for twin witches.
Through their guardians, they learn of a prophecy that says they’re the only ones capable of defeating The Darkness, an evil plague that killed their father and follows them into the real world now that they know of their powers. Eventually, the sisters realize the Darkness isn’t a thing, it’s an entity controlled by their uncle, Thantos, who’s helped take over ruling Coventry alongside their mother. They travel into the other world, reuniting with their mom, and together are able defeat Thantos and restore peace to Coventry. The films ends with the sisters celebrating their birthday back on earth with their mom and Camryn’s adoptive parents.
Halloween DCOMs were such a special part of feeling the magic and excitement of October, along with Halloween episodes of each Disney Channel series. To this day, they hold a special place in this writer’s heart and are mandatory viewing before Halloween night each year. Again, I’d like to restate that this list is by no means comprehensive or in any order other than chronological.
There are dozens of iconic Disney Channel Original Movies, and each Halloween-themed one is special in its own way. The most recent Halloween DCOM release was Under Wraps 2 in 2022, the sequel to the remake of the original Halloween DCOM that started it all and created a generation of Disney fans.
What’s your favorite Disney Channel Original Movie? Which Halloween DCOM would you say is the most iconic? Let us know in the comments below!