TV & Movies
The Disney Channel Was The Original Disney Multiverse
Eat it, Iron Man.
We’re so lucky to have a world of entertainment in which our favorite heroes are working together to save the day. No longer are these icons confined to their own individual TV shows or movies — they dip into each other’s canons and play pivotal parts in the fight for justice, inspiring audiences with their can-do attitudes and hope for a better society. I’m of course talking about the Disney Channel, Disney’s original multiverse.
The Disney Channel ran so that the Avengers could walk. Yes, I am fully aware that there are legions of fans preoccupied with the particularities of the Quantum Realm and what the introduction of mutants means for future Marvel movies. But they can’t deny the truth: A full two years before the first Iron Man film hit theaters, launching a cinematic universe that’d soon be subsumed by the Mouse, Hannah Montana teamed up with That’s So Raven’s Raven Baxter and The Suite Life’s Zack and Cody in The That’s So Suite Life of Hannah Montana. And let’s be real, that’s way more fun to say than Avengers: Endgame.
The stakes were never too high — well, I guess they were to the young audiences watching them. But there was something magical about watching your faves from different shows getting to meet one another. If we personally were never going to benefit from Raven’s and her visions, at least Zack and Cody could. (You know who could’ve probably helped the Avengers with figuring out what Thanos was going to do with all the Infinity Stones? Raven. Wait… galaxy brain moment… maybe Raven was always screaming “oh snap!” because she was trying to warn the world about that sentient purple toe’s evil plan.)
There’s a long list of Disney Channel crossovers from over the years, but the most memorable ones are likely The That’s So Suite Life of Hannah Montana and Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana, which both brought together three of the Disney Channel’s most beloved series. And the former arguably demonstrates the gonzo genius of the Disney Channel Cinematic Universe (DCCU) better than any other. Don’t believe me? Let’s revisit the plot.
Noted fashion intern Raven Baxter accompanies her boss Donna Cabonna to a photo shoot at the Tipton Hotel in Boston — home of Zack and Cody. But Raven screws up the logistics, so not only does the photographer (named... *checks notes* Pistache) not make it to the hotel, but the twin models from the country of (*checks notes again*) Budapragoslovakia also are unable to show up. Raven, master of disguise, pretends to be Pistache and employs Zack and Cody to be the models — then the real Pistache arrives, but instead of being angry, she’s obsessed with the substitute twins. Although the day is saved, Raven once again messes up and misses her flight, so she stays at the Tipton another day and gets to meet snack bar girlie Maddie, which leads to Maddie tricking London into wearing one of Raven’s dresses. When they run into Hannah Montana in the lobby, the pop star loves it so much she asks if she could get one made for her too. Women’s stories matter — they just matter.
Ultimately, the brilliance/nonsense/madness of these crossovers exemplified the best ways to have words collide. Yes, it’s entertaining to watch our favorite superheroes combine powers in epic fight scenes. But what helped make these Disney Channel characters so lovable was that they were simultaneously relatable and aspirational, and watching them together — seeing Raven’s love for fashion stitched up with the antics of the channel’s cherished twins and Maddie just trying to be a good friend — didn’t feel out of this world, but amplified the reasons they were all a part of it. Perhaps that’s what made the Disney Channel so impactful for those lucky enough to have cable growing up (or at least friends with it).
And the DCCU, ever the innovator, didn’t stop with crossover episodes. The Disney Channel Games brought together a stacked roster of talent from all its different programming in what felt like the Olympics for pop culture fanatics. The idea of Demi Lovato and Kiely Williams on the blue team together? You can call it the multiverse of madness. The Jonas Brothers being split into different teams? More chaotic than Captain America: Civil War.
Another territory Disney Channel charted that other multiverses have yet to exploit is music. If you aren’t familiar with the Disney Channel Circle of Stars singing “Circle of Life” and “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” you don’t know culture. Hilary Duff eventually in the MCU? Now that’s a wish my heart has been making for years. If Doctor Strange or the Scarlet Witch doesn’t want to make it happen, maybe we can ask Alex Russo.