Child Actors That Put Disney On Blast

The Disney Channel has given us some of the biggest names in Hollywood, and several of these stars have thanked the corporation for jump-starting their careers. Actor Debby Ryan, who shot to fame on "The Suite Life on Deck" and "Jessie," once shared that Disney taught her several lessons about the acting world that she still uses to this day. "They have such a system in place to where it's really difficult to fail, but it's not going to be done for you," Ryan told Ladygunn, adding, "In my relationship with Disney, the more that I learned, the more they encouraged me." 

Christy Carlson Romano is one actor most millennials will remember for her role as Ren Stevens in the 2000 sitcom "Even Stevens." She also praised the network and said in a YouTube video that she has had "an overwhelmingly positive experience working for Disney Channel" and would even like to return to the network one day.

While these two stars left Disney with nothing but good things to say about their experiences, that can't be said for the actors and musicians below whose career starts on the network were not as pleasant as fans might have imagined. Most of us assume that working for Disney would be a fun experience, but it turned out to be the total opposite for these stars, and they weren't afraid to put Disney on blast.  

Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato rose to fame when they landed the role of Mitchie Torres in the 2008 Disney film "Camp Rock," which saw them acting alongside the Jonas Brothers. However, even before Lovato filmed the role that would lead them down the path to stardom, they recalled how the Disney network had pressured them to change their appearance at a young age. 

Lovato shared with Allure that they were asked to fix the gap between their two front teeth, which they later admitted to regretting. "[Disney execs] were like, 'Would you be willing to fix it?' I wish today that I hadn't, because my gap was really cute,'" they recalled.  

Lovato has been extremely open and honest about their struggles with an eating disorder and drug abuse, and they called out Disney on Twitter in 2011 after an episode of "Shake It Up" poked fun at eating disorders. According to HuffPost, a character delivered the line, "I could just eat you up, well if I ate." Lovato slammed the network, tweeting, "I find it really funny how a company can lose one of their actress' from the pressures of an EATING DISORDER and yet still make joke about that very disease." Disney apologized to Lovato and had the episode pulled off the air. While Lovato did blast Disney for the insensitive joke, they later shared with Harper's Bazaar that they were "grateful for the opportunities" that they received from the company. However, they added that they felt "overworked" and would have liked "more downtime."

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus may have found fame and fortune as Hannah Montana on her Disney Channel show, but she also had a tough time with the network's beauty standards, which caused her to struggle with her body image.

Cyrus opened up to Marie Claire in 2015 and revealed that Disney put a lot of pressure on her when she was a teenager. "I was told for so long what a girl's supposed to be from being on that show. I was made to look like someone I wasn't, which probably caused some body dysmorphia because I had been made pretty every day for so long, and then I wasn't on that show, it was like, 'Who the f*** am I?'"

Like her fellow Disney alum, Demi Lovato, Cyrus also felt "overworked," explaining that she endured grueling "12-hour days" on the set of "Hannah Montana" and would get "coffee jammed down my throat to wake me up." In 2016, the songstress even admitted to Elle that she was underpaid, stating, "I mean, at one point — they'll probably kill me for saying it — I was probably the least paid person on my cast because I didn't know any better. I was just like, 'I can be on Disney! Yeah, I want to do it!'" And in 2014, Cyrus shared to Elle that while she was "thankful" for the network, she received "the most intense training" and was happy to be "free" of Disney. 

Stefanie Scott

Stefanie Scott didn't want to become just another Disney Channel star and broke away from the network after starring as Alexis "Lexi" Reed on the series "A.N.T. Farm" from 2011 to 2014. After setting out to be taken seriously as an actor and gain more freedom, Scott managed to show the world that she wasn't just the "sitcom funny girl," as she shared with BuzzFeed News.

Scott has since starred in more serious roles in movies like "Insidious: Chapter 3" and "Jem and the Holograms," saying that the latter was fittingly a "coming of age story" in an interview with Comicbook. She was excited about her new roles but described working with Disney as limiting. "It was hard being a preteen and having to sugarcoat everything all the time," she told BuzzFeed. "That's one of the hardest things, not being able to express myself in a certain way or being stuck having to promote something or say something you don't believe in." She also shared her frustration over being unable to show her emotional range and act out her true feelings.

Scott made it clear that she didn't want to be stuck playing the same "good girl" roles, adding, "I wanted to tell stories of troubled girls where everything isn't perfect all the time. I didn't want it to stop there and be labeled as 'a Disney girl.'" I quickly realized I wanted to do more."

Bella Thorne

Bella Thorne found fame after starring as CeCe Jones in the Disney series "Shake It Up." She later revealed that there was immense pressure on her to be someone she wasn't and urged her fans to be true to themselves and not some picture-perfect teen on a Disney sitcom. 

"There are definitely a lot of pressures in the Disney eye to be perfect and I think that's where Disney in a sense goes wrong because they make their kids seem perfect," Thorne shared to Fox News, adding, "That image is very difficult." She revealed that she's "never been" anything like her character and doesn't like to conform to the norm. "Little kids growing up don't need to see perfect people. Kids need to see real," she said. "They need to see diversity, they need to see intriguing."

The actor revealed to J-14 in 2017 that she and Zendaya, who also starred on "Shake It Up," had a difficult relationship when they began working together because of how the network treated them. "Zendaya and I were put in a very unfortunate position where we were kind of forced to compete against each other, which made the whole first season of the show just very awkward for us," she recalled. Despite these challenges, Thorne and Zendaya ended up bonding with one another, with the Thorne stating, "We kind of just had this tell-all talk where we started crying and really just put everything out there on the table, and that's when we became best friends."

Shia LaBeouf

Shia LaBeouf rose to prominence when he landed the Disney Channel role of Louis Stevens on the 2000 series "Even Stevens," but unlike his co-star Christy Carlson Romano, who enjoyed being part of the Disney family, LaBeouf believed he never belonged on the network and even revealed that his early fame impacted his mental health.

"I didn't want to be a churn-'em-out guy," the actor shared with MTV News in 2007. He also explained why he didn't get into the music business, which was a common career move for many of his Disney counterparts, including Hilary Duff. "I never felt like I fit in there," he said. "From the moment I got there, all my friends were [making fun of me], like, 'Dude, you're at the Disney Channel!' It was kind of embarrassing.'" However, he stated that Disney did "push" him to make music.

LaBeouf would also go on to reveal on "The Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter" podcast that his time on Disney, along with his father's alcoholism and the pressures of being a star, led him to find out that he had PTSD. "I just thought I was an alcoholic, like a true blue drunk and I needed to deal with that," he said. "I knew it was an issue but didn't know there was this extra whole other thing that was hindering my ability to have any peace in my life and my ability to deal with people."

Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez has been under the spotlight ever since she landed the role of Alex Russo on Disney's hit series "Wizards of Waverly Place." The show went on for four seasons, and when it concluded in 2012, Gomez was transitioning into starring in more mature projects like the movie "Spring Breakers." In 2015, she also released her most personal album yet, "Revival." However, Gomez admitted that it was difficult being her true self because she was expected to be just like the "perfect" character she portrayed on The Disney Channel. 

During an interview with The New York Times in 2015, she shared that there was an "expectation of being the good girl" but "knew deep down that this wasn't what I wanted to do ... I had to have moments where I was crying and I was like, 'Why am I not in love with what I do?' I was forced to get very uncomfortable for a while in order to make the decisions I made.'"

In 2021, Gomez further opened up about her Disney past to Vogue and stated, "I still live with this haunting feeling that people still view me as this Disney girl." The songstress shared that having a lead role on Disney made her feel like she had to live up to an unrealistic standard. She said, "That was my job in a way — to be perfect. You're considered a figure kids look up to, and they take that seriously there." 

Joe Jonas

In a 2013 interview with Vulture, Joe Jonas reflected back on his time with Disney when he was starring in the 2009 sitcom "Jonas" along with his brothers Nick and Kevin Jonas. He admitted that working with the network came "with certain expectations." Just like actor Stefanie Scott, Joe felt as if he "had to sugarcoat" most of his life because he was a Disney star.

While Joe credited Disney for making his band, the Jonas Brothers, "more famous than we ever knew we could be," he did reveal that they were restricted from doing things that didn't look right in the eyes of Disney. "We didn't want to disappoint anyone — our parents, our fans, our employers — so we put incredible pressure on ourselves, the kind of pressure that no teenager should be under," he said. Adding that they were "expected to be perfect," Joe also admitted that the band was not allowed to come up with any lyrics that were "slightly sexual," stating, "It felt like we couldn't be creative, so we stopped listening to them and just started handing s*** in."

After Joe's Vulture piece came out, fellow Disney actor Dylan Sprouse called him out for stating that the company had hindered his ability to be creative. "I think it's bulls*** that they were robbed of choice of creativity," Sprouse said on his Tumblr, adding, "If they wanted to, they could have told Disney 'NO.' Cole and I did this hundreds of times and we ended up alright."

Dylan Sprouse

Dylan Sprouse and his twin brother, Cole Sprouse, starred on the popular Disney sitcom "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" and its spinoff "The Suite Life on Deck," but Dylan would later admit that the brothers stopped working for Disney after the network refused to work with them creatively.

Speaking with Vulture, Dylan shared, "I mean, we had a really awesome idea for where the show needed to go. We were 18. If that wasn't old enough to know exactly what the show needs, then ... well, I would beg to disagree. I don't think [Disney] were willing to work with us, really ever. So we stopped the show." However, Sprouse added that he has no bad feelings against Disney since he did "benefit" from the spotlight it gave him, and the money he made allowed him to open up his brewery in Brooklyn.

Since leaving the network, Dylan has starred in indie dramas and short films like "Daddy," but when asked by The Daily Beast if these "passion projects" were created because he was a part of the "Disney machine" for so long, he replied, "I wouldn't say that it's Disney exclusively. I think this has everything to do with the industry as a whole, and what it demands, and how the industry is turning particularly young kids into money-making machines." He also added that he felt "discontent with work" he had to do as a child star that was a "necessity" to make a living and take care of his family but was "thankful" for the opportunities he was given.

Rowan Blanchard

Rowan Blanchard might have starred in the successful "Boy Meets World" spin-off "Girl Meets World," but she wasn't going to allow Disney to silence her on the matters most important to her. Known for being wise beyond her years, Blanchard took matters into her own hands when working for the company known for wanting its stars to have a squeaky-clean image.

Blanchard shared with W magazine in 2018, "I haven't had anybody directly silence me or tell me to stop, but the subtext is always there. I worked for a corporation for four years that is known for silencing and crafting your voice, so with that, I just had to very much stand my ground and separate myself, which I think I did." She revealed that she's grateful that fans now know her for her "activism" rather than her Disney role, saying that it "has been very comforting."

The actor made sure she wasn't going to be just another Disney star after telling The New York Times in 2016, "I would be lying to you if I told you being on Disney wasn't scary because of the connotation of it: 'Oh she's on Disney. Is she going to be a Miley, Selena, or Demi?'" She went on to make her voice known, speaking out on feminist issues, gender equality, and opening up about her sexuality when she took to Twitter and announced that she identified as queer, per The Hollywood Reporter. 

Nick Jonas

During a speech at Oxford University, Nick Jonas had a lot to say about his time at Disney, including his movie "Camp Rock," which also starred his brothers Joe and Kevin Jonas. The actor discussed his Disney role and seemingly felt embarrassed about starring in the film, even cringing at the thought of it. According to Now Daily, Nick also clapped back at Disney, stating, "Disney doesn't create role models, it creates characters." While many fans admired him because of this image, he admitted that he "had his faults."

It appeared that Nick wasn't done blasting The Disney Channel when he took to TikTok in 2021 and shared a video where he stated, "Tell me you were on Disney Channel without telling me you were on Disney Channel." However, the singer could not answer, and said, "See, that's the thing. Our show got canceled after just two seasons, and we didn't have any famous quotes." According to E!, in the Jonas Brothers documentary "Chasing Happiness," Nick admitted that doing the second season of "Jonas" was actually "a big regret" of the group. "We shouldn't have done that. It really stunted our growth," he said. "I feel like it was just a bad move. It was just not the time. Literally, we couldn't evolve because of it." 

While Nick claimed that the show didn't do much for their careers, the Jonas Brothers survived until 2013, and they reconciled in 2019, stepping away from Disney and recording "Happiness Begins" with Republic Records. 


Raven-Symoné started her acting career as a child but came to prominence when she landed her own sitcom on the Disney Channel, "That's So Raven," a show about a teenage girl with psychic abilities. Symoné saw instant fame but later admitted that there were some upsetting aspects to being the star of the show.

The actor revealed in a 2015 OWN documentary titled "Light Girls" that she was told she needed to tan several times a week to appear darker. However, she was eventually warned that she was spending too much time in the tanning bed. "It's funny. One of the lighting guys came up [to me] — I love him to death — he goes, 'Raven, I need you to stop tanning. You're getting too dark, and we have to re-light the whole entire show,'" she recalled. I was like, 'Sorry. I was just trying to be pretty.'"

In 2017, Symoné would also share on "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" that she was constantly told that she needed to lose weight. While she was happy with her body and initially resisted this pressure, she eventually gave in so that executives would leave her alone. She shared, "As soon as I lost weight, it became thick girl season. Everyone just started to be thick on television. I'm like, 'Are they getting the same backlash as I am?' Because I was thick."

Cole Sprouse

Cole and Dylan Sprouse have been acting since they were in diapers, but their big break came when they got the chance to work together on Disney's "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" and its spinoff "The Suite Life on Deck." The brothers were an instant hit, with Variety calling them the "Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen of their generation." 

After their spinoff concluded, both brothers attended New York University, with Cole telling Entertainment Weekly that the time off from acting was exactly what he needed after working for Disney for so many years. "There was a feeling of machination; I felt like an automaton," Cole stated about his time on the network, adding, "I needed to take a break and step outside myself ... I needed a dose of reality and I needed to see myself in a more objective point of view. And now I think I can enjoy [acting], which is a really fundamental part about being an actor."

However, Cole did express that he was grateful for the opportunities Disney provided for him. "I'm not saying that we didn't enjoy that time, but it was work. It's a career and a business, and it got me to college, which is one of the most fantastic gifts I could've been given. But I'm glad to be [acting] on my own accord now." And as far as the possibility of a "Suite Life" reboot is concerned, he said it's "absolutely not" happening during an appearance on "The Drew Barrymore Show" (via Entertainment Tonight).