Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOM) were a big changing point in Disney Channel history. Disney Channel had movies on their channel since 1987, calling them Disney Channel Premiere Films. In 1997, they changed the branding, and the DCOM was born. Starting with Under Wraps, Disney Channel would put out between 3-10 DCOMs a year for children of all ages.
The 5th movie to be considered a DCOM would be Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. Right before the millennium, when no one really knew what the future would hold, Disney put out a film that would be a typical space-age movie, with a twist. Add a few teenage girls, a pop star, and a space station that people from Earth are living on, and you have quite a different space movie from the regular space-age movies. With new digital technology and new graphics, Zenon changed the game for the space-themed movie.
Originally a failed TV show pilot, Zenon would become a feature film that would produce two sequels in the subsequent years. It was one of the few films to be distributed on VHS in 2000.
A teenage Kirsten Storms (Zenon) stars in this cute comedy set in 2049, alongside Raven-Symone (Nebula) as a dynamic duo to save the world. When disaster plagues the ship that Zenon and Nebula live on, it is up to Zenon to save it, as she is stuck on Earth. At least that is what she thinks. Zenon, a zany teen, who has big dreams, finds a master plot that will destroy the very ship that her parents and friends inhabit. Zenon is stuck on Earth after she is forced to go back when she disrupted the ship.
Zenon disrupting things is an ongoing theme throughout the whole movie. She has a hard time fitting in anywhere because she is very curious and outgoing, which is offputting to some people. Zenon would use those skills and her Aunt Judy, played by Holly Fulger, to help her family from afar. With the new friends she made on Earth, she needed to find a way back to the space station to help her family. It would take an intergalactic pop star Proto Zoa (aptly named), played by Phillip Rhys, to get her back to the ship and save the day.
The Zenon franchise has three films for a reason. They are all very good. The concept was over the top for the time, but I would argue that it is a DCOM at its best. There are funny moments, heart-wrenching moments, sweet moments, and typical teenage problems that the audience could relate to. The beauty of Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century is that every time the adults think Zenon is thinking too big, or trying too much, she proves them wrong. She ends up being a great heroine for girls that age to show them they can be anything they want to be. In a world of movies where girls are being told they can’t, and they won’t, Zenon shows you can, despite whatever anyone tells you.
The best part of this movie is the song at the end. There is nothing better than an intergalactic pop star singing a song called Zoom, Zoom, Zoom (Super Nova Girl). A song that will get stuck in your head. A song that to this day is stuck in many people’s heads. It’s incredible that 20 years later, the lyrics still linger. It is a fun song and set the stage for songs that would be added in many DCOMs to come.
Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century is the one DCOM (other than High School Musical), that I can continue to go back to and enjoy no matter how old I am because the topics are not outrageous. Other than the quality of the filming itself, there isn’t anything that is old because it was just what people predicted the future would look like. Much like Back to the Future 2 predicting 2015 and getting it wrong, Zenon surely hasn’t predicted a lot of things correct for the future. Despite that, it has strange catchphrases and jokes that make it endearing even 20 years later.
Does it Hold Up?
Absolutely! This is a brilliant film to show any teenage girl about growing up and dreaming big!
I love watching this movie with one of my best friends. We watch it every time we see each other. We always talk about watching it the first time, and it was a magical experience every time.
Do you agree with my assessment? Post your thoughts in the comments below!
As always, Creating Nostalgia Millennial Style!