Disney Channel stars are historically known for an over-dramatic type of slapstick comedy, which doesn’t necessarily translate to the tastes of most adults. Even former Disney darling Joe Jonas called out the particular acting style, telling Vulture that it’s something « only a 10-year-old would laugh at. » While that might be true — after all, the House of Mouse is in the business of making children’s TV — if you really want to know just how talented Disney Channel stars actually are, look no further than their on-screen friendships.
Almost every original series hinges on the same plot line: best friends will beat the odds together. We saw it when Hannah Montana managed to hide her fame with the help of Lilly, Oliver, and a well-placed wig. We saw it when The Cheetah Girls stuck together to dominate both high school and the music industry (either of those things are hard enough on their own). We saw it again when Lizzie McGuire managed to uncover a foreign pop star scandal straight out of the Milli Vanilli playbook. But in reality, a bunch of these stars weren’t actually as close as they seemed on-screen. When the cameras stopped rolling, they couldn’t get along no matter how hard they tried.
Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff beefed over Aaron Carter
The early aughts were a simpler time when denim was considered formal wear and crimped hair was an acceptable replacement for an updo. Nonetheless, there was nothing simple about the epic feud between Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff. All of the butterfly clips in the world couldn’t hold together the Disney stars’ fractured relationship.
The Lohan-Duff-Aaron Carter love triangle holds such importance in teen celeb history that it should probably have its own star on the Walk of Fame. According to Buzzfeed, the saga began in 2001 when the « I Want Candy » singer started dating Duff on his 13th birthday. A year-and-a-half later, he dumped the Lizzie McGuire star and started dating Lohan. They dated for a few months before he went back to Duff, who ultimately dumped him when he allegedly cheated with someone else.
After that, it was no holds barred for Disney stars. According to an E! News report, Lohan allegedly spread lies about Duff to her A Cinderella Story co-star Chad Michael Murray, made made fun of her on SNL, and ranted about her on the set of Mean Girls. Duff finally set the record straight in a 2008 Allure interview. « I’ve never stolen anyone’s boyfriend! … [Lohan] was talking about it, and I wasn’t. It made us both look bad and put up a big weirdness. … We are fine now, » she said. Sounds like this feud is so yesterday.
Was Skai Jackson secretly cyberbullying Debby Ryan?
In 2015, Tumblr was the Holy Grail of teen drama, and it went a lot deeper than sharing memes (no its becky, what up?). Young Hollywood notoriously used the platform to spread rumors and spill some pretty scalding tea. This was absolutely the case for Debby Ryan, who revealed that she may or may not have a secret feud with her Jessie co-star Skai Jackson. Wait, weren’t they BFFs?
In the Tumblr post, a user claimed that Jackson accused Ryan of bullying her and allegedly having a secret Twitter account where she spread hate and rumors about the star (like claiming Ryan was « on crack »). Ryan admitted that any 12-year-old « would be insecure about the lead of the show » — especially if the lead was also a producer and director — and revealed that she tried to make the set as « joyful » as possible by giving the younger cast members gifts and taking them to amusement parks. Unfortunately, as she put it, « bitterness is not fixable by roller coasters and treats. »
As J-14 pointed out, it looked like Ryan was blaming Jackson’s parents for the feud, even though she didn’t name names. « It’s unprofessional to slander coworkers online, » she wrote, adding that some child actors « tend to be the mouthpiece for parental maliciousness. » J-14 also reported that the pair had already unfollowed each other on social media, which is an obvious sign that they weren’t getting along.
What tore Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato apart?
For most of their lives, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato were best friends. They first worked together on the set of Barney & Friends in 2002, and by the time they starred in Princess Protection Program, they were inseparable. « We enjoy doing everything together, » Gomez told People in 2009. Then, it happened: the « ask Taylor » heard round the world.
In 2010, Lovato was standing outside her hotel in London when she snidely remarked « ask Taylor » to a fan who questioned her about Gomez. This was clearly a shade-filled reference to Gomez’s relationship with Taylor Swift (the pair have been close friends for more than a decade). To be fair, at the time, Lovato was struggling with addiction, and Gomez ultimately blamed herself for their falling out.
« I’ve known [Lovato] since we were seven — and we did fall apart for a while, » she told Seventeen. « She was going through things and I was so young and it was confusing. I processed it saying, ‘OK, I don’t understand what she’s going through so I’m just going to do this.’ I don’t think it was fair, and I’m so happy that I have her back in my life now. »
Since then, the pair have had their ups and downs, with Lovato unfollowing Gomez in 2014 before smoothing things over the following year. Nonetheless, they’ve always supported each other when it comes to the big stuff, including Gomez’s kidney transplant and Lovato’s relapse.
Who knew BFFs Bella Thorne and Zendaya didn’t get along?
Bella Thorne and Zendaya have been close friends since their Disney days. The Euphoria actress even supported her former Disney co-star during her traumatic nude photo scandal. Strangely enough, in the early days of Shake It Up, the pair didn’t get along.
Thorne opened up about her relationship with Zendaya in a 2017 J-14 interview. « Zendaya and I were put in a very unfortunate position where we were kind of forced to compete against each other [during Shake It Up], which made the whole first season of the show just very awkward for us, » she said, adding, « We wanted to love each other, but yet we were constantly being put against each other. It was, ‘Who’s better at this?’ and ‘Who’s better at that?' »
Thorne didn’t elaborate about who was actually pitting the girls against each other. Was it Disney execs? Was it simply the societal pressures of womanhood? We probably won’t ever know, but it’s all water under the bridge. The pair had an emotional, tear-filled conversation during Season 2 where they laid it all out on the table and made amends. « That’s when we became best friends, » Thorne told J-14.
When the wig came off, so did the friendship
Miley Cyrus and Emily Osment played best friends throughout the entirety of Hannah Montana, which is a true testament to their acting abilities. In reality, the pair didn’t actually get along, at least if we’re going by Cyrus’ 2009 memoir Miles To Go.
In the memoir (via J-14), Cyrus claimed that she tried to be real-life friends with her on-screen BFF, but they always ended up arguing. « The show felt real to me, and I wanted my relationship with Lilly to feel real, too. I knew it didn’t have to — show business is show business — but I was disappointed. There were times when I didn’t think we could ever be friends. We just couldn’t figure out how to get along, » she said (via J-14).
Sometimes you can’t have the best of both worlds, but it seems like whatever feud the pair had wasn’t eternal like the Hannah Montana reruns that aired for years after the show ended in 2011. Osment started randomly sliding into Cyrus’ Twitter timeline as swiftly as the former Disney star cut her patented extensions. By 2018, Cyrus was sharing throwback photos and wishing she could have reunited with her Hannah Montana family. She even went as far as throwing a « love you so much » towards her former co-star. Nostalgia will get you every time.
The Cheetah Girls loved a good catfight
The Cheetah Girls were a driving force of female empowerment and unyielding friendship. Even the Los Angeles Times noted that their mantra was « nothing can keep you from being a star, but only if you remember that friends are more important than fame. » They rivaled Josie and the Pussycats (who thwarted an evil worldwide brainwashing scheme) and were a unit so solid that someone who hadn’t already existed through Spice World could have easily mistaken any given member for Scary Spice. Girl knew how to rock some cheetah print and girl power.
Unfortunately, things did get a little dark for the Disney stars — and we’re not talking about that time Adrienne Bailon almost married Rob Kardashian. The crux of the issues appeared to stem from the fact that some of The Cheetah Girls were already an existing girl group called 3LW before before they brought in Raven-Symoné. In an interview with the National Ledger, Simoné admitted « there were territorial issues’ and « catfights » when she reunited with the cast for the second movie, especially because the girls bonded on tour without her. Simoné did not return for the third film.
Sharpay and Ryan Evans were a sibling rivalry nightmare
It’s hard to believe Troy Bolton would have ever haphazardly been talented enough to score the lead of East High School’s annual musical. You don’t just pick up a microphone during karaoke and realize you’re basically a Broadway-level singer. It takes work, and in a just world, Sharpay and Ryan Evans — who ruled the drama club — would have seen their efforts pay off. These on-screen twins weren’t just musical collaborators who devoted every ounce of their energy to the theater. They were best friends, except they actually weren’t.
In 2017, Ashley Tisdale — who played the unapologetically extra Sharpay — reunited with her on-screen brother, Lucas Grabeel, in a video for her YouTube channel. It was then that the truth finally came out: the on-screen siblings actually hated each other while filming High School Musical. « We were not close, » Tisdale admitted, adding, « We were not good friends. Let’s be honest, okay? It’s been 10 years so we can totally talk about this now. We hated each other. »
Tisdale revealed that part of the problem was that they didn’t really know each other. Tisdale even admitted that her real personality was similar to Sharpay — and as fans know — that character has some less than desirable qualities. Ultimately, Tisdale and Grabeel became extremely close after HSM wrapped. « I’ve always had a love for you, you’re literally my twin brother, » she said.
The battle of the Disney brothers
In the golden days of the Disney Channel, two sets of brothers reigned supreme: the Sprouses and the Jonas Brothers. The former rose to popularity on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and the latter blew up with Camp Rock. Though there’s no indication that these stars didn’t get along while under contract with the network, a feud certainly emerged once they were free from the mouse.
The drama started in 2013 when Joe Jonas penned an essay for New York Magazine that slammed his time with Disney and trashed his series Jonas as « weird slapstick humor that only a 10-year-old would laugh at. » « Being a part of the Disney thing for so long will make you not want to be this perfect little puppet forever, » he wrote. « Eventually, I hit a limit and thought, ‘Screw all this I’m just going to show people who I am. »
This sentiment didn’t sit well with Dylan Sprouse, who claimed that Joe was a « bad artist » if he bought into Disney’s « rigid structure to achievement. » « It’s bulls**t that they were being robbed of choice or creativity, » he wrote in a Tumblr post (via The Hollywood Reporter). « If they wanted too, they could have told Disney ‘NO.’ Cole and I did this hundreds of times and we ended up all right. The only reason they didn’t is because … I think they fell for the allure of fame. » Yikes. Why so bitter?
Jake T. Austin didn’t approve Selena Gomez’s spring break
Jake T. Austin and Selena Gomez played siblings throughout The Wizards of Waverly Place, and by all accounts, it seemed like they were great friends. Hints of trouble only started to come to light when Gomez signed on for James Franco’s gritty drama Spring Breakers the same year The Wizards of Waverly Place was calling it quits. Apparently, Austin wasn’t thrilled that Gomez was leaving the network. In a now-deleted tweet (via J-14), he clearly threw some shade at his on-screen sister for taking on a new role. « When an artists’ definition of ‘growing with their fans’ is creating content they aren’t even allowed to see, » he wrote.
Gomez — who didn’t publicly acknowledged Austin’s comment, as far as we know — fiercely defended her decision to take on the controversial role throughout most of Spring Breakers’ press run. In March 2013, she told Collider that her mother brought her the script, which made her think seriously about stepping out of her comfort zone. That same month, she told Reuters, « I want to challenge myself and (my choices) may not be appropriate for a young audience. I’m choosing movies that I feel are artistically fun and creative. »
Though Austin seemed angry that Gomez wanted to shed her Disney roots, he did ultimately support her when she got a kidney transplant in 2017. Perhaps it was all just a small sibling spat.
Rowan Blanchard and Uriah Shelton don’t see eye to eye
Rowan Blanchard is not your average Disney star. The Girl Meets World lead has been wildly outspoken about women’s rights, even speaking to New York Magazine about intersectional feminism years before she could even legally vote. She wasn’t afraid of the heavy hand of the mouse, either (that same one Joe Jonas claimed stripped every single hint of sexuality out of their music). Instead of staying quiet, the star opened up about her queer identity to Wonderland Magazine. Considering her activism, it shouldn’t be surprising that Blanchard reportedly took issue with her Girl Meets World co-star Uriah Shelton.
In an M Magazine interview (via Teen Vogue), Shelton admitted that he’s friends with most of the cast, but « as for Rowan, Rowan doesn’t necessarily like me. We’ve have a lot of [differences]. » Differences are a nice way to put it. According to Teen Vogue, Shelton « has a history of liking anti-feminist posts online, » and you literally can’t get more feminist than Blanchard. TMZ also reports that the actor, who’s also a trained MMA fighter, was given a restraining order the same year Girl Meets World ended after allegedly hitting a woman in the stomach.
Despite their differences, Shelton told M Magazine that he doesn’t « have anything against » Blanchard, but she’s probably too busy slaying fashion Instagram to care.
Austin and Ally’s bickering freaked out the cast of Jessie
Laura Marano and her Austin & Ally co-star Ross Lynch might be the best of friends, but their arguments actually scared the cast. Perhaps they’re not used to such a dysfunctional, platonic love? In a 2014 interview with J-14, Lynch admitted that the pair are « kind of like a married couple » which leads them to « argue a lot about who is always right. » This tended to happen frequently on set, even if the pair ultimately had each other’s backs. It was never a problem until they jumped in to film the Austin & Ally and Jessie crossover.
According to Marano, who also spoke to J-14, they were already used to bickering and lovingly rolling their eyes at each other, but the cast of Jessie wasn’t familiar with their dynamic. Instead of thinking it was funny — like Marano and Lynch did — they were « kind of scared and uncomfortable. » « You could tell how awkward they felt, » she told J-14. « They thought they had to break it up. And Ross was like, ‘Guys, don’t worry. This is our life. This is literally what we do.' »
When your castmates start getting freaked out, maybe it’s time to reevaluate the way you joke around with your co-star. Nonetheless, we still ship them for life.
Selena Gomez’s Sprouse brothers snub
Selena Gomez has a long-standing friendship with Dylan and Cole Sprouse. The star even shared her first kiss with Dylan on-screen, but it seems like the « Look at Her Now » singer hurt the twins’ feelings in 2013 by not following them back online. What a snub!
According to J-14, Dylan called out the star on Twitter. « Oh I get it Selena, too good to follow your ole’ pals Dylan and Cole huh? THIS IS JUST LIKE WHEN WE WERE 12 #neverforget, » he wrote. So, what exactly happened when they were 12? It’s hard to say for sure, but in 2019, Gomez revealed that when she was 11 years old she had a crush on Cole and a boy named Juan at the same time. Perhaps there was some tween love triangle drama a la Lindsay-Hilary-Aaron?
In an Instagram post, Selena revealed what appeared to be some childhood doodles made on an old white board. One note depicted the words « Selena + Juan » in a heart, and another read « Selena belongs with Cole Sprouse 4ever. » « Apparently my heart was very conflicted between Juan and Cole Sprouse when I was 11, » she captioned the post. According to People, who captured the comments section, Cole replied « always Juan-upping me. » Poor Cole. It looks like he was snubbed then and now.