“Disney did the ‘Express Yourself’ videos for that reason,” continues Pratt. “Mainly because people watching it can see that, even as actors and entertainers, we are people who are experiencing the same crazy things in life that everyone else is. We are not immune to those emotional things that are happening in our world.” (Teen Vogue has reached out to Disney for comment.)
While it served as an outlet for Pratt, Christy Carlson Romano, who starred in Even Stevens, had a very different experience. Carlson Romano was in New York City on the day of the attacks and spoke to Teen Vogue about her experience that day.
While in town for classes at Professional Children’s School, September 11th was one of the first times that Christy’s mother let her go into the city alone. After a terrifying day, she needed to go back to California to finish filming the last season of Even Stevens a week later. Too scared to fly, Christy and her mother took a cross-country train from New Haven, CT, back to Los Angeles, CA.
“I think over time, I came to understand just how impactful this was,” says Carlson Romano. “But at the moment, as a young person when it happens to you, not only are you traumatized in real time, but you get these overwhelming feelings. So for me, I had that overwhelming feeling of anger, and I didn’t know who to direct it to.”
Soon after arriving back in California, Carlson Romano received a call from Disney asking to film something cheerful regarding the events.
“I tried my best to be cheerful,” she says, “but I ended up crying a lot in the filming process of [the videos] because I told them exactly [what happened that day,] describing the ash on the people, etc. What ended up making the cut was something that was child-friendly.”
“I wouldn’t want my kids to watch something like the things I [originally] filmed, but I think they wanted to pull it out of me and be supportive. And they were. I think it was an appropriate response of the times for Disney to take that on. It was a big deal for them to take a stance in a political way.”
The videos weren’t the only time 9/11-related content cropped up in Disney Channel programming. The Disney Channel Original Movie Tiger Cruise was released in August 2004 and produced by Stu Segall Productions, a company whose founder also created a business called Strategic Operations to provide “hyper-realistic” training to those in law enforcement, the military, and other agencies. Tiger Cruise follows teenager Maddie Dolan (Hayden Panettiere) as she sets off on a week-long Tiger Cruise for military families and their friends. However, their week of fun gets cut short on the morning of September 11, 2001. The movie prominently shows footage of the planes hitting the towers, and they hear of the Pentagon attacks in real time. Unlike the “Express Yourself” videos, there is no shielding and cheerful language here.
“We wanted to show footage of the airplanes as that footage was seared in our audience’s mind,” says Ross. “We told a story about families as we generally did and the struggles they go through. Bill and Hayden really reflected a father/daughter relationship with all the fraught issues. That was augmented, of course, with tackling the tough subject of 9/11.”
In the context of the post-9/11 world, these segments did make sense. They were largely aligned with similar programming in the years following the 9/11 attacks that argued that we as a country were becoming more unified.