Adventures in Babysitting Gets a Reboot, Disney Channel Style

Michael Logan
Adventures in Babysitting, 2016
Ed Araquel/Disney Channel

C’mon, it’s just babysitting. What could possibly go wrong? Disney Channel premieres its 100th original made-for-TV movie with Adventures in Babysitting, a reboot of the raucous box-office hit of the same name that arrived in theaters nearly 30 years ago—the one that made a star out of Elisabeth Shue and had an entire nation of parents laughing through their fears.

The 2016 version is headlined by two of Disney’s top young talents, Girl Meets World’s Sabrina Carpenter and Descendants’ Sofia Carson, so expect double the sitters and double the chaos. But unlike the 1987 original, which was packed with gang violence, teen hookers, rape jokes, homophobia and leering sexual innuendo—not to mention a little girl hanging precariously from the top of a Chicago skyscraper—this one is totally family-friendly.

Adventures in Babysitting. 1987

Buena Vista Pictures/Everett Collection

The original Adventures in Babysitting cast

Adventures in Babysitting was a ripe piece for reimagining, but many changes had to be made to make it acceptable for the channel’s audience,” says the update’s director, John Schultz (Like Mike). “I mean, the original had kids being shot at by villains! What was once a story about endangerment is now a story of empowerment.” Rest assured, the reboot still has the babysitters and their pint-size charges in a whole lot of danger, but it’s what’s known around the Mouse House as “Disney danger.”

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The plot kicks off with 17-year-old Jenny Parker (Carpenter) and 19-year-old Lola Perez (Carson) competing for a photography internship at a big-deal art institute. Jenny is trustworthy and conservative. Lola is rebellious and always looking for a good time. And they hate each other on sight. When the girls accidentally swap cell phones, Lola—who desperately needs cash—accepts a babysitting job that’s meant for Jenny. Before long, the two sitters and the children they’re supervising leave the burbs and head to the big city in hot pursuit of one of the older kids, who snuck off to a concert. They get stranded when their car is towed and inadvertently mess with a pair of creepy thieves. Cue the crazy.

Adventures in Babysitting. 2016

Ed Araquel/Disney Channel

Babysitting version 2.0

“It’s every kid’s fantasy to go on a wild babysitting adventure,” Carson says. “You’re free of your parents for just one night and being watched by someone who’s more of a friend or big sister, and anything can happen.” However, there are consequences. “We keep things light—and our villains are comedic in a Home Alone sort of way—but we definitely show what happens when rules are broken.” Carson says. “Lola ends up in jail, and it’s a real mess.”

Both Carson and Carpenter watched the original for inspiration—and neither found it prehistoric. “Even though I wasn’t around back then, I see why there’s so much love for it,” Carpenter says. “It’s part of a whole group of ’80s movies—like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club—that really defined the era, and that meant we went into this with a big sense of responsibility. We had to do it right.”

That includes paying homage to certain classic scenes. In the Chris Columbus–directed original, Shue’s character escaped from the bad guys by dashing into a Chi-Town nightclub, only to find herself on stage, where she was forced to improvise a blues number to keep herself safely in the spotlight. In the update, it’s the same scenario, only with a rap club.

“I’d never rapped before in my life and had no idea what I was doing,” Carpenter says. “They hand us lyrics like, ‘We ain’t no quitters, we’re the babysitters!’ and I’m like, ‘Whaaat? How did I get here?’ I’m so glad Sofia was up there doing it with me. It made the whole thing a lot less scary.”

That said, both actresses certainly know their way around a pop tune and are important artists for Disney’s music arm, Hollywood Records. “We could put Sabrina and Sofia in a movie about a monastery where they can’t speak—and they’re still gonna sing!” Schultz says.

The studio is counting on the duo’s popularity with the tykes-to-tweens set to make Babysitting a must-see. Carson and Carpenter cohosted a marathon of the channel’s hottest movies—including the blockbuster Camp Rock, Teen Beach and High School Musical franchises—over this past Memorial Day weekend. And their duet, “Wildside,” penned by Carpenter and sung during the closing credits, is already getting a big push. The movie will be available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and Google Play the day after its June 24 premiere, and released on DVD Tuesday, June 28. Why the big rush?

“We’re confident we have an instant classic on our hands and feel very bold about how we’re making it available,” says Adam Bonnett, executive vice president of Disney Channel original programming. “There was a time when we would have worried about cannibalizing our ratings, but the market has changed. Now it’s all about putting this movie everywhere kids can find it.”

And repeat viewing is what it’s all about. Carpenter recalls being obsessed with High School Musical growing up. “I played it and played it to the point where I drove my parents insane,” she says, adding with a laugh, “and that’s our ultimate goal with Adventures in Babysitting—to make all the moms and dads love us and be totally annoyed at the same time!”

Adventures in Babysitting, Friday, June 24, 8/7c, Disney Channel