Disney is one of the biggest, most well-known franchises most people know of. Fans can’t quite pinpoint just how far-reaching they are, but everyone knows that few people are immune to their feel-good charms.
Disney can be both a blessing and a curse on an actor’s life. Some actors thrive in the Disney atmosphere, while others find true stardom after they choose to break away. Regardless of if an actor wishes to stay in those rom-com and Disney family roles until they can’t anymore, or if they actively change their persona in order to shift away, there’s some sort of professional change that happens.
Many of these stars have managed to shift their jobs from Disney-friendly to gritty and real, but many fans don’t know how. With the recent announcement of Amanda Bynes getting back into acting, wouldn't it be interesting to find out the how behind her fall from the stars in the first place?
Of course, a little digging uncovered the actions many stars took in order to transcend their Disney images. While some, like Bynes, had a swift and dramatic dive into the dark side, others had a more subtle approach to growing up.
Here are 20 stars who left their images behind, along with how they did it.
20 Miley Cyrus Hasn't Been Disney Rated Since Bangerz
Oh, Miley Cyrus. We personally love Miley and her Happy Hippie thoughts, but there’s no denying the fact that she took a quick and swift departure from Disney.
We’re all familiar with the fact that Miley Cyrus rose to fame as the beloved Hannah Montana.
Cosmopolitan timelines it, and reminds us that 2013 was the creation of today’s Miley Cyrus. Bangerz was an album that put her on the map as a fully grown artist, and finally shook away the last shreds of her Disney girl image. With a variety of low-level controversy (Robin Thicke and the VMAs, anyone?) she’s one of the biggest stars still working post-Disney.
19 Amanda Bynes Definitely Handled Herself Differently
Any of us who were around in the 2000s remember the various shows and movies that Amanda Bynes did. Her professional life seemed to be on track to turn into the next Ryan Gosling when it all started to change; and not for the better. BBC released an interview that they had with Amanda Bynes regarding her past and present possibilities. They report that she ended up falling into addiction, which fuelled some of those famous tweets. Bynes says, “everything I worked my whole life to achieve, I kind of [lost] it all through Twitter." While it might not be the most positive way to shed an image, we’re so happy that she’s healthy and getting back into acting now!
18 Cole Sprouse Is Decidedly No Longer Disney, Thanks In Part To Riverdale
Cole Sprouse is the comic book heartthrob we didn’t know we needed until Riverdale launched a few seasons ago. Not only is Sprouse doing a fantastic job with the role, but we’re pleased that he’s stepped so confidently back into the acting ring.
According to Daily Mail, both he and his twin brother Dylan Sprouse stepped away from the Disney scene and eventually decided to attend NYU.
After doing the real life thing for a while, we’re personally very glad that Cole Sprouse got back into acting. One thing is for sure, though: he’ll never be able to go back to Disney acting again after all of the gritty Riverdale work he’s doing.
17 Demi Lovato Has Definitely Had Some Image Updates
Demi Lovato will always have a special place in our heart. While she’s so thoroughly cemented in our minds as a popular pop star, she’s actually got a little more to her than just merely vocals. She was indeed a Disney star, and Cosmopolitan tells us that she, in fact, was booking starring roles with them all the way up until 2011! After that was really when she broke into the music industry. Unfortunately, addiction was again part of the reason her Disney image was left behind. Combined with a more grown-up musical persona, Demi Lovato truly blossomed away from that innocent Disney design.
16 Ross Lynch Took An Intense Role As Part Of His Breakaway
Ross Lynch isn’t necessarily one of the stars as big as Miley Cyrus to come out of Disney. However, he still has quite a large social media following, and younger viewers of Disney will remember him from the show Austin & Ally.
Wet Paint reveals that Ross Lynch took a totally different approach to his Disney separation.
Instead of pursuing music or taking a break from the spotlight to go to school, Lynch instead decided to take a role playing a creepy character. Playing Jeffrey Dahmer in the movie My Friend Dahmer seems to have cemented Ross Lynch as a serious actor and not just a Disney star.
15 Nick Jonas Is Now A Hunky Husband
We’re all familiar with Nick Jonas, right? Both before and after the Jonas Brothers were top of the pops, people would create whole personality profiles based on which Jonas brother was a person’s favorite. Nick Jonas (who was definitely our personal favorite) seems to have separated from Disney just by virtue of his looks. He’s turned into less of a boy band chic kid and more into the attractive husband of gorgeous Priyanka Chopra. Not to mention modeling! While he might not have taken a hardcore swerve after Disney, his looks have granted him the power to move into more grown-up endeavors.
14 Selena Gomez Has Absolutely Bloomed Outside Of Disney
Selena Gomez has been a powerhouse of a personality ever since she signed on as the Disney star of Wizards of Waverly Place. For those of us of a certain age, Selena Gomez changing from young actor to accomplished musician has felt like growing up alongside her.
She’s created an empire out of her Disney experience, and her music has definitely brought her up into the big leagues of stars.
We don’t know anyone who doesn’t know the name Selena Gomez, and for good reason. People also points out all her work that she’s done bringing support and awareness to Lupus, as well as advocating for self-care. She's fierce, outspoken, and all grown up!
13 Bella Thorne Has Brought The Fire To Her New Image
Where do we even begin with Bella Thorne? Thorne is undeniably one of the most individual, unique, and confident stars we’ve seen come out of the Disney company. Bella Thorne has a rocking social media game that serves to highlight not only the wackier aspects of her personality but also the more outspoken ones. From wild hair colors to barely-there outfits, Thorne’s personality has truly allowed for her Disney separation to happen smoothly. Cosmopolitan also points out that she’s started to take on some more grown-up roles, such as a starring part in the new Netflix movie The Babysitter.
12 Dylan Sprouse Decided To Change His Image By Leaving It Behind
The other half of the iconic twins on Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Dylan Sprouse’s post-Disney life has been a little bit different than his brother’s.
While Cole jumped back into acting with a Riverdale contract after graduation, Dylan Sprouse seems to have gone a quieter route.
After graduating from NYU, Cosmopolitan reveals than Dylan opened his own meadery. Brooklyn is now host to the All-Wise Meadery, which features recipes and operations by Dylan Sprouse. There have been rumors that he’s picked up a couple acting gigs here and there, but it seems like his new brewmaster title is his favorite role.
11 Shia LaBeouf Has A Whole List Full Of Ways He's Moved On
Shia LaBeouf is another one of those Disney stars that we forget used to be a Disney star. When we think back, we do remember him as being the star of a few movies and shows, most notably the show Even Stevens. IMDb lists Even Stevens as being Shia LaBeouf’s breakout role. After the run of the show ended, LaBeouf decided it was time to turn the tables and find his… True self? It seems to us like he started exploring different sides of himself and his image, making some questionable choices in the process. When he’s sharing the motto of “just do it,” it’s hard to fault him for just following his heart.
10 Debby Ryan Really Pushed To Break The Mold
Who doesn’t love a woman who works hard and achieves everything she aims for? Debby Ryan has had one of the longest Disney stints we came across, with Cosmopolitan crediting her as having appeared on Disney shows from the 2000s all the way up until 2015, including performing the starring role on Jessie for four years.
We might not know too much about her (in terms of public profiles she does tend to lay low), but Cosmopolitan has spotted her as the current star of Netflix’s Insatiable.
While she hasn’t skyrocketed into a new era of Debby Ryan, she certainly has worked consistently hard for it; and her more adult role is proof that it’s paid off.
9 We Forgot Zendaya Was Ever A Disney Star
She’s one of those stars that seems to have appeared out of nowhere and taken the world by storm. However, that’s not exactly the case. Zendaya actually has a very long and successful professional life in the Disney sector before even stepping foot out into the film and TV world as a whole. Cosmopolitan reveals that she was rocking Disney roles all the way up until 2018, but now she’s definitely stepped out of the mold by locking down roles in Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Greatest Showman. Not to mention having a plethora of other contracts and an outspoken personality on issues that matter.
8 Zac Efron Showed Us His ...Uh... "Attitude"
What millennial didn’t obsess over High School Musical? Honestly, we don’t know anyone who hasn’t at least heard of this Disney musical series. Zac Efron sang his heart out in all three of the High School Musical movies, proving that he can certainly play teenage love, teenage angst, and the range of emotions it takes to get between the two.
Cosmopolitan reveals that he shifted that boy-next-door persona by getting roles on projects like Baywatch and Neighbors, which required a bit of an image update too.
Looks like he bopped to the top of the more grown-up acting world by leaving boy-next-door (and his shirts) behind.
7 Rowan Blanchard Is A Recent Star Who's Already Moved On
This young Disney actor was very recently part of their crowd of popular and talented stars, but she’s shifting away from them slowly but surely. An outspoken advocate for current issues, Blanchard proves that she’s not just an actor; she’s a forward-thinking, proactive personality that’s sure to take the world by storm. Nothing could be more appropriate for this Girl Meets World actor! Cosmopolitan reveals that she’s also published a book entitled Still Here, and her interests are skewing more towards fashion than anything else. That hasn’t stopped her from continuing her acting endeavors. We’re sure that she’s going to grow to be a very powerful celebrity soon.
6 Corbin Bleu Is Doing The Broadway Thing
Another Disney star, Corbin Bleu is most firmly cemented in our head as one of the other main characters from High School Musical. Corbin Bleu is an interesting actor to follow, as he hasn’t really split from his Disney style. Nicki Swift reminds us that he has had some roles in movies, TV shows, and even soap operas, but he doesn’t seem to be as successful as his other Disney counterparts.
This could be because he’s focused so much on Broadway!
Nicki Swift reports that Bleu has been seen treading those Broadway boards. He also hasn’t quite cut ties with Disney yet, either, as Nicki Swift says he “even [appeared] at an audition for High School Musical 4 to cheer on the applicants.”
5 Vanessa Hudgens Just Got Cooler
Vanessa Hudgens hasn’t so much torn away from the Disney style as she’s more ended up shifting it. Becoming the actor that she is today seems to have been a combination of embracing her wholesome look while simultaneously styling herself a little bit cooler. Cosmopolitan reminds us that she’s managed to garner some post-Disney spotlight traction with a few roles in movies like Sucker Punch and Spring Breakers. However, The Guardian insists that Vanessa Hudgens is back and better than ever. The Guardian explains that Hudgens’ careful cultivation of her resume post-Disney has helped her land more roles than ever, cementing her as one of the coolest women of Hollywood today.
4 Olivia Holt Stayed Quiet
This sweet Disney star is serving up a whole other side ever since she left the Disney sphere. Olivia Holt isn’t necessarily what we would think of when we think superheroes, but Cosmopolitan assures us that she’s got a big change coming.
While she more or less stepped away from spotlights of all sorts after finishing her run on the Disney channel in 2015, that’s all changed thanks to her new show Cloak & Dagger.
Still surprisingly young, Olivia Holt is acting in a role that’s definitely going to give her some much-needed edge in the industry. We can’t wait to see what happens next!
3 Hilary Duff Had Shades Of Cyrus Happening
We remember Hilary Duff well from our young, Disney-loving days. Duff was the lead on Lizzie McGuire, a character that helped us navigate teenagehood and grade school more than any guidance counselor could ever hope to. It wasn’t all acting, though, as Hilary Duff is still remembered as being a singer. In a similar vein to Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez, Duff started shifting her musical image to a more adult persuasion when she wanted to break away from the Disney dream. Cosmopolitan reports that she’s now both a mother and a working actor on the show Younger, which proves that the breakaway just might have worked.
2 Lindsay Lohan Went Full Lohan For A While
The fact that we can use “full Lohan” as a verb probably hints to the fact that Lindsay Lohan turned into a bit of a wild child, right? In a recent interview with the New York Times Lindsay Lohan said, “I’m a normal, nice person. A good person. I don’t have any bad intentions. And my past has to stay in the past. Like, people have to just let go of it and stop bringing it up because it’s not — it’s gone...And that’s the most important thing to me.”
We’ll respect her wishes and leave the scandal in the past.
But this Parent Trap actor and child-model-turned-movie-star certainly broke away from her family-friendly image, whether it was her intention or not.
1 Ryan Gosling Is The Golden Boy Of Disney Glow Ups
Dear, sweet Ryan Gosling is the golden boy who has the coveted golden boy—an Oscar, that is! One of the Disney stars we all know and love nowadays is often forgotten about in these lists. Wet Paint reminds us that Gosling was in fact involved with Disney, as he was a Mousketeer in his very early professional days. We can’t quite pinpoint what he did in order to break out of that Disney trap. We don’t remember him starring in any Disney shows, instead choosing to pursue other roles and opportunities. Is this tempering of Disney involvement the trick to breaking away smoothly? Or is Ryan Gosling just so magnetic that we can’t help but love him, regardless of his Mousketeering past?
Sources: People, Wet Paint, Cosmopolitan, BBC, The Guardian