See Disney’s 17 Biggest Child Stars At the Start of Their Careers vs. Now

Disney has created some seriously huge stars in their day — the ones who start as tweens and teens and go on to become massive successes in film, TV, music, and theater. These are the biggest child stars that had their breakthrough roles in Disney movies and Disney Channel TV shows, and it’s so fun to look back and see how cute they were at the start of their careers and how grown up they are now. Take a peek at the biggest Disney stars and how they’ve evolved, and try not to feel too old.

Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana
Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana
Disney Channel/WENN
Ms. Miley Cyrus certainly hasn't shied away from the spotlight in the years since Hannah Montana ended, having first branched into movies like The Last Song and So Undercover. Although first known for acting, she mostly ventured into her music career, with several successful albums (Can't Be Tamed, Bangerz, and Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petzand a public image that proves she just "can't be tamed." She has raised plenty of eyebrows with her controversial imagery during performances and controversial attitudes toward sex and drug use, but she continues to be a force to be reckoned with. In 2013, Cyrus joked on SNL that Hannah Montana had died, but we like to think she just grew up a bit.
Selena Gomez as Alex Russo in Wizards of Waverly Place
Selena Gomez, Wizards of Waverly Place
Disney Channel/Splash News
Selena's breakout role came as one of the wizards in the hit Disney Channel show, and she's enjoyed plenty of success in her career since. Gomez's post-Disney career blossomed thanks to roles in hit movies like Ramona and Beezus, Monte Carlo, and Hotel Transylvania and she's since transitioned into more adult fare, such as Spring Breakers. She's also had huge success in music, with her band Selena Gomez & The Scene and in her solo career. Gomez is also notable for her long-term on again/off again relationship with singer Justin Bieber, but it's her career potential that keeps her at the top of her game.
Lindsay Lohan as Hallie Parker/Annie James in The Parent Trap
Lindsay Lohan, The Parent Trap
Walt Disney Studios/Getty Images
Lindsay Lohan is perhaps one of the most notorious celebrities to come from humble Disney beginnings thanks to a slew of controversies in her early twenties. Lohan enjoyed career success after her debut film role in The Parent Trap as the star of critical successes like Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, and Herbie: Fully Loaded, and with a singing career, but then went through several high-profile struggles. Lohan has moved to London to work on a career in theater, and seems to be in a much healthier place in her life, something her many fans are surely happy to see.
article continues below ad
Hilary Duff as Lizzie McGuire
Hilary Duff, Lizzie McGuire
Disney Channel/Splash News
After playing the girl that every middle schooler related to in the early '00s, Duff went on to have an equally successful career as a young actress and musician, starring in several popular movies including Agent Cody Banks, Cheaper by the Dozen, A Cinderella Story, and Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and having multiple hit albums as well. Duff is also a New York Times bestselling author with three novels under her belt, and has transitioned to a grown up career in both music and the popular TV Land sitcom Younger. She has one son named Luca.
Demi Lovato as Mitchie Torres in Camp Rock
Demi Lovato, Camp Rock
DIsney Channel/Splash News
A Disney star from the age of 15, Lovato got her start on the Disney Channel short series As the Bell Rings before starring in both the movie Camp Rock and series Sonny with a Chance which catapulted her to mega-stardom. She, too, ventured into music, and toured with fellow Disney stars the Jonas Brothers before breaking away from Disney to focus on music with a different sound. Aside from several hit albums, she has become an advocate for those struggling with mental illness after a public battle with depression, self harm, and eating disorders, and has proven herself to be a great role model to all.
Zendaya as Rocky Blue in Shake It Up
Zendaya, Shake It Up
Disney Channel/Splash News
Zendaya rose to fame in 2010 as one of the stars of Shake It Up with fellow Disney darling Bella Thorne before lending her acting talents to other Disney fare including A.N.T. Farm, Good Luck Charlie, and the 2012 television movie Frenemies. She has also modeled and released both an album and a book, and competed on Dancing with the Stars, and is also known for spreading a message of body positivity and inclusivity for young people.
article continues below ad
Bella Thorne as CeCe Jones in Shake It Up
Bella Thorne, Shake It Up
Disney Channel/Splash News
Thorne had several small roles in film and TV before her breakthrough came as CeCe Jones alongside Zendaya in Shake It Up in 2010. She has since starred in multiple movies and TV shows, and released an album and an EP. She has also written three novels and has several film roles slated in the near future, proving that her star is continually on the rise.
Zac Efron as Troy Bolton in High School Musical
Zac Efron, High School Musical
Disney Channel/Splash News
After starring as Troy in three wildly popular HSM movies, Efron went on to become a major movie star, appearing in Hairspray, 17 Again, New Year's Eve, The Lucky One, That Awkward Moment, Neighbors, We Are Your Friends, Dirty Grandpa, and more. He famously dated HSM costar Vanessa Hudgens for several years and has parlayed his Disney beginnings into a very successful film career.
Vanessa Hudgens as Gabriella Montez in High School Musical
Vanessa Hudgens, High School Musical
Disney Channel/Splash News
Hudgens' breakthrough role came in the HSM series, and she's since gone on to a successful career in both music, theater, and film, appearing in Bandslam, Beastly, Sucker Punch, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Spring Breakers, and Machete Kills and more. She starred on Broadway in 2015 as the lead role in Gigi, and had a critically acclaimed role as Rizzo in Grease: Live in 2016.
article continues below ad
Raven-Symoné as Nebula Wade in Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century
Raven Symone, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century
Disney Channel/Splash News
Although Raven is perhaps best known for her roles first as a child in The Cosby Show and as a teenager in That's So Raven, many forget that her first Disney role came as Zenon's best friend Nebula Wade in the TV movie series. Raven is one of the most popular child stars possibly ever, having also transitioned into music and film. She has also appeared on Broadway and is one of the hosts on The View. She has recently appeared in the hit series Empire and is said to have a fifth studio album in the works.
Ashley Tisdale as Maddie Fitzpatrick in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
Ashley Tisdale, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
Disney Channel/Splash News
Although she's best known for her role as Sharpay in the HSM series, this Disney darling got her start with the channel in a recurring role on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. She began her career in around 100 commercials before landing on the Disney channel. Tisdlae has acted in a few Disney series and movies and ventured to a music career and married singer Christopher French in 2014.
Shia LaBeouf as Louis Stevens in Even Stevens
Shia LaBeouf, Even Stevens
Disney Channel/Getty Images
After landing his breakthrough role in Even Stevens, LaBeouf went on to star in the critical success Holes before moving on to more acting and directing, and has since starred in both indie darlings and blockbusters like Transformers and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He has had his fair share of controversies stemming from a few arrests and a desire to fly under the radar, but his undeniable talent keeps him in the spotlight.
article continues below ad
Dylan Sprouse and Cole Sprouse as Zack and Cody Martin in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
Cole Sprouse, Dylan Sprouse, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
Instagram/Disney Channel/Instagram
Before becoming huge stars thanks to their roles on Disney as Zack and Cody Martin, the Sprouse brothers made a name for themselves starring in the hilarious Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy, before moving on to other film and TV roles (Cole famously played Ross Geller's son Ben on Friends). After their massive Disney fame, the twins continued to act and branded themselves as a sort of male version of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, even working with the Olsens' Dualstar Entertainment Group, but decided they wanted instead to attend college. Both Sprouses graduated from NYU in 2015, and simply wanted to live a normal college life in New York City. They both have a few projects in the works, and fans are excited to see what adulthood brings for them.
The Jonas Brothers: Kevin Jonas, Joe Jonas and Nick Jonas in Camp Rock/JONAS
The Jonas Brothers, Camp Rock, Kevin Jonas, Joe Jonas, Nick Jonas
Disney Channel/Getty Images/Getty Images/Getty Images
Let's be real: who didn't love the JoBros? These guys are the pinnacle of Disney stars, and we're still obsessed with them. They starred in Camp Rock and its sequel alongside longtime friend Demi Lovato, and then went on to their own series called JONAS. They're also known for their musical career as a band, releasing four albums which have sold over 17 million copies worldwide. The brothers have since decided to focus on their own passions in life. Kevin is married and has one daughter and appeared on a short-lived reality series called Married to Jonas, and Joe and Nick have both had successful solo careers. Joe has formed his own band called DNCE who are having crazy success, and Nick has released a solo album of his own and has another in the works. Nick continues to act, recently appearing on Scream Queens and Kingdom.