Growing up as a Disney kid meant that every year, from October to December, the TV was tuned in as my sister and I awaited themed Disney Channel Original Movie replays and new special episodes of our favorite shows. Over the years, I have compiled personal favorites that bring on the nostalgic feeling, but I haven’t actually sat down to watch any in a long time. As we come up on the two-year anniversary of the wonderful existence of Disney+, which has let me go back and watch some of these, I present to you my list of the most iconic, underrated and/or cringey spooky-themed episodes and movies to cozy up to this season.
Series Halloween Specials
Everyone that grew up watching Disney Channel in the early 2000s knows that this list could not be complete without the infamous Suite Life of Zack and Cody episode, “The Ghost of Suite 613.”
These 24 minutes alone are the reason this list exists in the first place, as 16 years later the episode still lives up to its nostalgic feeling. The episode brought together the entire cast for a night of frights that gave my little kid self nightmares. After rewatching it as a 20-year-old, however, I have to argue that it is not just the nostalgia speaking, and it is still a quality piece of Disney Channel history.
Even if you don’t want to take it from me, take it from the 2011 MTV article titled “How The Suite Life Of Zack And Cody’s Halloween Episode Changed Everything,” in which the author stated, “Out of all 87 episodes produced during The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’s three-season run, one is responsible for making the series last as long as it did.”
There are more blast-from-the-past Disney Channel Halloween episodes that also hit the mark, like season one, episode 15 of Phil of the Future, in which Kay Panabaker plays a cyborg named Debbie that forces students to make 50,000 cupcakes without stopping. Although not the scariest thing I’ve seen in my life, this episode was not made for a comedic effect, and I know my childhood self would probably not be sleeping well after watching this.
Some episodes of Disney’s past have not stood the test of time quite as well. For instance, That’s So Raven’s season two Halloween episode titled “Have a Cow,” in which Raven and Chelsea turn into cows on Halloween, misses the mark. Chelsea, a vegetarian, accidently eats a burger with meat and immediately stresses while Raven jumps up to say, “That’s terrible…I almost ate something healthy.” Despite my love for the show as a whole, I do have to say that the episode has not aged very well and was utterly disappointing.
In slightly more recent Disney Channel episodes, A.N.T. Farm’s “MutANT Farm” episode was conceptually really strong, as it was a remake of the pilot episode with a fun, spooky Halloween twist. K.C. Undercover’s “All Howl’s Eve,” which premiered in 2015, was a quality Halloween special as well. Zendaya also stars in it, so what is there not to love?
Disney Channel Original Movies
Disney Channel Original Movies, or DCOMs, are iconic, and there is one for basically every occasion. The first official DCOM was a spooky movie titled Underwraps (1997), in which a group of kids accidentally revive a mummy and must race the clock to return him to his final resting place before midnight on Halloween. Although the original movie is not available on Disney+, a remake by the same name which premiered this month is.
In terms of Halloween DCOMs, the big name is the Halloweentown franchise. The movie and its three sequels were filmed in St. Helens, Oregon. The film continues to be a Halloween staple, despite the final sequel, Return to Halloweentown, premiering 15 years ago.
Despite Halloweentown’s success, I always took on the controversial opinion growing up that the superior Halloween DCOM franchise was Twitches—and Twitches Too—that premiered in 2005 and 2007. I desperately wanted to add them to the list of must-watch movies, but due to the fact that it has been over a decade since I have seen either of them, I needed to do more research.
I will not go as far as to agree with film critic David Nusair from Reel Film Reviews, who states that “Twitches is ultimately as bland and forgettable as one might’ve expected—with the film’s various problems exacerbated by the distinctly underwhelming performances (though the Mowry sisters are personable enough, they simply cannot act).” However, watching it as an adult has given me a different perspective.
Given the main characters are supposed to be close in age with myself, I felt the movie didn’t work as much as I had hoped it would—and how I remembered it did. It was cringey at its finest and although I still love it for the nostalgia factor, in terms of quality content, you might just want to stick to Halloweentown.