The name Kenny Ortega might not mean much to you on the surface, but Ortega is responsible for some of your cherished memories of television-watching as a child. He is the magnificent man who directed, and even choreographed, the classic Disney Channel Original Movies that we quote, reference, and treasure today. He recently announced a DCOM remake of his theatrical film and Halloween favorite, Hocus Pocus, so now is the perfect time to look back on his storied career with the Mouse House. In just four TV films, he managed to cement a legacy for the ages.
Descendants is the obvious last place choice on this list for a number of reasons. A big part of the grading scale is how we perceived these movies when they aired, and quite frankly, we had to watch this to write this article. This movie is only a few years old at this point, and though it spawned a sequel, we really struggle to call it a classic by any stretch of the imagination. It’s essentially Disney fan-fiction, so while it is certainly a crowd pleaser, it lacks the spark and ingenuity of Ortega’s other work.
3. Cheetah Girls 2
A pretty big gap between 4 and 3, no doubt. While we’re not sure many would say that Cheetah Girls 2 was better than the original, everyone can agree it is a worthy entry into the DCOM list of classics. If anything, it helped lay the groundwork for many of the musical works we went on to enjoy during our childhoods. Additionally, it represents more diversity than we typically see on Disney Channel, making it among their more unique offerings.
2. High School Musical
Just as there was a big gap between 4 and 3, there’s an even larger one between 3 and 2. High School Musical was an undeniable sensation. It was not just a movie; it was an industry. Each of its cast members became stars, even the quirky kids in “Stick to the Status Quo”. Each song stood strong on it’s own, but combined to create a great soundtrack that is still played at today. With iconic choreography and inspirational message, Ortega created an instant classic with this one and put his name on the map.
1. High School Musical 2
Fight us, okay? We know, we know. Hear us out though. High School Musical 2 is just better than the first in every single way. Yes, it might not be quite as iconic, but that is merely a virtue of newness. The standards could not have been higher for this film, yet it managed to surpass them. The movie was twice as mature as the first, with an extreme improvement in character development and plot depth. The songs were catchier, with higher highs from “Bet on It” to “What Time Is It”, to the criminally underrated “Everyday”. This film was far more cinematic than the first, as it actually took advantage of the film’s New Mexico locale to create something visually interesting and capture the thrill of a summer romance. So yes, High School Musical 2 is not only an improvement on the first, but the highlight of Ortega’s DCOM career. Where will the Hocus Pocus remake land on this list? Only time will tell, but we doubt it will surpass this masterpiece.