Extraordinary Magic in Everyday Life
We’re right smack dab in the middle of summer! The release of Disney Channel’s Teen Beach Movie last week got me thinking of what other summertime connections can be found in Disney films, and I found quite a few. Here are the movies you should seek out if you’re craving a good slice of summer. They are listed in order of their prominence to the season, not by their qualities as good movies. (For instance, I like #2 more than I like #1, but #1 more prominently celebrates summer.)
5. The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003)
Part of the summer experience for many people involves taking a trip somewhere. There are family vacations (we’ll get to those in a minute), and there are group trips. Large sets of travelers, mostly students, from all sorts of different groups often organize a big trip to take together, and The Lizzie McGuire Movie encompasses the feelings of such a trip perfectly: exciting sights, social drama, adults’ attempts to educate (and kids’ inevitable attempts to elude them)… it’s all here.
This theatrical movie served as the series finale to Disney Channel’s highly popular Lizzie McGuire. The show was the launching pad of star Hillary Duff and paved the way as the archetypal Disney Channel sitcom, introducing a success story that is still emulated in the network’s programming to this day. The Lizzie McGuire Movie saw Lizzie and pals taking a class trip to Rome following their middle-school graduation. Like any rising freshman visiting Italy, Lizzie gets mistaken for a pop star and makes headlines. Ok, so it might not be the most realistic tale and the characters look way more like they’re graduating high school than middle school, but that doesn’t take away from this movie’s charm. It not only stands as a time stamp to a simpler, gentler time in Disney Channel history, but also as a fun jumpstart to memories of taking similar summer trips with a large group.
4. The Even Stevens Movie (2003)
Aaaand here’s the family vacation! But this particular getaway is definitely something that’s more fun to watch than experience! The story pits the Stevens family on a seemingly ideal island paradise. Things go awry fast as everything that can do wrong does go wrong. A zany twist reveals that their misfortune is not all that it seems to be. Similar to The Lizzie McGuire Movie (and released just one month after it), this film was the series finale of Even Stevens, a wacky show that gave Shia LaBeouf his start. One of the show’s stars, Christy Carlson Romano, also did a number of other work for Disney, including voicing Kim Possible and starring as Belle on Broadway. Dissimilar to Lizzie, The Even Stevens Movie debuted as a Disney Channel Original Movie, airing on television without a theatrical run.
You would never want to take the Stevens’ same vacation as depicted in the film, but it sure is fun to watch their offbeat personalities clash with their repeated misfires. My family has only seen a few episodes of Even Stevens, but for whatever reason have gravitated toward The Even Stevens Movie as a must-watch every summer. Much of the appeal comes from the movie’s sheer absurdity—it seems so out there and deranged, but at the same time reminds many folks of our own families’ likeable dysfunction.
3. The Parent Trap (1961)
Sure, there are other Disney flicks that embody camp life more thoroughly (i.e. Camp Rock), but in taking a more realistic approach at summer camp, The Parent Trap nails it. Not that meeting a long-lost twin is entirely normal, but you know what I mean. The whole camp experience is here: making quick friends that you’ve only just met but feel like you’ve known since birth, making quick rivals that you equally loathe, and being part of a camp community complete with recreation activities and social events.
Granted, the majority of The Parent Trap focuses on the two twin girls switching places after they leave summer camp, and one definitely wouldn’t identify the movie as a summer-only selection, but it does hold a sliver of a reminder of what makes summer camp so fun.
2. Lilo & Stitch (2002)
We’d all love to visit Hawaii, and the next-best thing to actually being there (other than tuning in when Lou visits, of course) is watching Lilo & Stitch. The movie is always my family’s movie-night choice for the day before we head to the beach because it so authentically presents its tropical aesthetic. It gets us excited for the adventure that we know is ahead. The ukulele music, the breathtaking watercolor backgrounds, and the story itself all work in tandem to deliver a wonderful movie that has summer written all over it.
1. High School Musical 2 (2007)
This one puts all the others on this list to shame! All summer all the time, High School Musical 2 sets out to define what summertime means to students: What is it about this time of year that makes it something to look forward to? Should it be a productive time or a period to slow down and have some fun? How can it be best enjoyed in light of the looming arrival of adulthood and the uncertainty that that transition holds? These are quite deep concepts, and they’re all wrestled with expertly and thought-provokingly in this Disney Channel Original Movie whose premiere, with over 17 million viewers, became the most-watched cable telecast in history.
At no time does High School Musical 2 ever force its morals or stop the story to impose its purpose—it’s all done in the midst of elaborate musical numbers, of course—but its message resonates rather well, escalating toward the leap to the big screen that High School Musical 3 (with even deeper pathological themes) would have the following year in 2008.
Do you agree with this list? What Disney movie reminds you most of your summer memories?
Blake is a college student focusing on Creative Writing and Media Studies. He enjoys making his family of six watch the parade on Main Street and then sprint to Frontierland in time to see it again. You can follow Blake’s random Disney ramblings on Twitter at @blakeonline, or at BlakeOnline.com.