Disney Channel may be a children's network, but it has served as a springboard for some of the most popular pop stars and actors of our generation. It's no wonder that aspiring child stars covet the possibility of landing a role on a Disney Channel show. For some, it can be the stepping stone they need to help propel them into stardom. Unfortunately, this isn't the case for every child star to come through Disney's door. For every star that made it, there are probably a dozen that didn't.
The 10 Disney Channel stars on this list are the lucky ones who made it big! In fact, they used their start with Disney to establish a name for themselves, grow their fan base and, when they outgrew the house of mouse, move on to more adult roles and ventures. Here are the most popular Disney Channel stars of all time.
Ashley Tisdale is best known for her role as Sharpay Evans in the Disney Channel original trilogy, High School Musical. By the time that HSM premiered, Ashley Tisdale had already achieved moderate fame playing Maddie Fitzpatrik on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, which she co-starred on from 2005 until 2009. That said, it was Ashley's role as Sharpay that thrust her into a nationwide teen phenomenon.
Following the third HSM movie, Ashley starred in a spin-off called Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure. In the almost decade-and-a-half since High School Musical's debut Ashley Tisdale has released several albums and music videos to varying successes and launched a lifestyle magazine called 'Haute Mess.' Today, Ashley Tisdale boasts 11.1 million followers on Instagram alone.
Cole Sprouse got his start on Disney Channel starring as Cody Martin on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, which he starred on with his twin brother Dylan Sprouse. The Suite Life of Zack And Cody and its spin-off, The Suite Life On Deck aired from 2005 until 2011. Unlike Cole's brother Dylan, who has taken a back seat out of the spotlight in recent years, Cole's has been cast in several TV and movie roles in the time since their show ended.
Since being cast as Jughead Jones on Riverdale in 2017, Cole's fame rose exponentially Cole Sprouse's dry wit and humor has also attracted him nearly 10 million Twitter followers and 26 million Instagram followers. As if Cole's resume wasn't impressive enough, he also works as a professional photographer.
Raven Symone has been a household name since she was old enough to talk. The 33-year-old got her first big break at three years old on The Cosby Show, playing the precocious Olivia Huxtable.
Raven's first major stint with The Disney Channel happened in 2003 when That's So Raven premiered. Not only was it the first Disney Channel show starring an African American girl, it's popularity made it the first show on the network to exceed its maximum three season rule. Raven also simultaneously starred in The Cheetah Girls franchise and toured, in real life, as part of the girl group the movie centered around. In Raven's days since Disney, she's made name for herself as an outspoken, sometimes unpopular, social commentator on The View and social media. Raven return to the Disney Channel in 2017 to star in Raven's Home, the That's So Raven spin-off.
Bella Thorne is most well-known to this generation as playing Zendaya's best friend on the 2010's Shake It Up. The show, like most Disney channel shows, lasted three seasons before being canceled. Since leaving Disney, Bella has crafted a bit of a rebellious persona for herself.
In addition to Bella's work as an actress on shows like the uber-popular Famous In Love, and movies like The Duff, her very public dating life has helped to keep her name in the headlines. Unlike many former child stars who have trouble transitioning out of the childlike roles that made them famous, Bella Thorne’s anti-Disney image has worked well for her. Bella Thorne currently has 19.2 million Instagram followers.
Vanessa Hudgens also got her start on Disney Channel as part of High School Musicals' cast. She played the sweet, sensitive, Gabriella Montez. After Vanessa left Disney Channel, she starred or appeared in a string of moderately successful films like Sucker Punch and Spring Breakers. Vanessa also embarked on a music career, which brought her moderate success.
In recent years, Vanessa has appeared in several live-action musicals for NBC like Grease:Live (which sadly aired right after her father died) and Rent: Live. 2018 closed out with Vanessa playing opposite of herself (thanks to CGI) in Netflix's The Princess Switch. She has just over 33 million Instagram followers.
Even though a few of Zac Efron's former High School Musical co-stars made this list, he's very much in a league all his own. In the thirteen years since HSM premiered in 2006, Zac Efron has starred in a string of popular theater releases, most of which played up his physical attractiveness, including but not limited to Hairspray, Baywatch and Dirty Grandpa.
Zac's most recent box office success came in the form of The Greatest Showman, which he starred in opposite Zendaya Coleman. In an attempt to break free from the teen heartthrob image he hasn't been able to shake, Zac took on the role of real-life serial killer, Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile. The film is due out on May 3, 2019.
Zendaya Coleman, who got her start on Disney's Shake It Up, is a quadruple threat. Not only does she act, but she also sings, dances and designs. Musically, Zendaya has released several singles, with the most popular being "Replay," 2013. Zendaya famously became the youngest contestant (at the time) to appear on Dancing With The Stars during its 16th season.
She and her partner, Val Chmerkovisky made it to the finals, but didn't win. In recent years, Zendaya has crossed over into film. She starred opposite of Zac Efron in 2017's The Greatest Showman and in Spider-Man: Homecoming with Tom Holland. In addition to all of Zendaya's other accomplishments, she is also making a name for herself as a beauty ambassador for various brands, fashion model and designer, and outspoken social justice activist. Zendaya currently has over 50 million Instagram followers.
Demi Lovato got her Disney Channel start as Sunny on the short-lived Disney show, Sunny With A Chance. She then went on to star in Camp Rock, opposite The Jonas Brothers, which ended up being one of the network's most popular original movies of all time.
It's the moves that Demi have made post-Disney that have solidified her as one of the most popular Disney Channel stars of all time, however. Unlike some Disney Stars, Demi has enjoyed a legitimate music career that has made her a multi-millionaire. Unfortunately, Demi's many successes have sometimes been eclipsed by her battle with a drug addiction, which dates back to her teen years. Demi currently has 71.6 Instagram followers.
Selena Gomez got her start on Disney's Wizards Of Waverly Place. Though Selena has also secured several moderate acting roles since she left Disney, it's her music career that has placed her at number two on this list.
In Selena's nearly decade-long music career, she's released two number one albums and several top ten singles. Her biggest hits include songs like "Like A Love Song," "Come And Get It," "The Heart Wants What It Wants," and "Hands To Myself." Selena Gomez's high-profile on-again off-again former relationship with Justin Bieber has also kept her in the news over the years. Selena has also been very public with her battle with lupus, an autoimmune disease. Selena Gomez is currently the most followed person on Instagram. She boasts an impressive 149.9 million followers.
Miley Cyrus is probably Disney Channel’s most famous child star of all time and one of the most famous young stars of this generation. Sure, she may have benefited from being the daughter of country star, Billy Ray Cyrus, but that doesn't take away from the career she's built for herself. In fact, it's Miley's role as Hannah Stewart on the ridiculously popular show Hannah Montana is that acted as the true springboard for her success. After a five year run of the show, which ended in 2011, Miley continued to land role after role in teen movies and also pursue a kid-appropriate music career.
All that changed in 2013, however, when Miley Cyrus completely broke free from her squeaky clean Disney image. Over the span of three years, Miley Cyrus released explicit songs chock full of sexual imagery or lyrics like "J's On My Feet," and "We Can't Stop" for her album, Bangerz. Miley's 2013 VMA performance, where she twerked on Robin Thicke is still talked about to this day. Eventually, Miley shed the bad girl image that ultimately catapulted her to the next level of fame and went back to her country roots. Today, Miley Cyrus is married to Liam Hemsworth. She has almost 100 million followers on Instagram.