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25 Years of Disney Channel Original Movies! Cast of First DCOM Under Wraps Reflect on Film's Legacy

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When Under Wraps premiered on the Disney Channel 25 years ago on Oct. 25, 1997, the DCOM (or Disney Channel Original Movie) was born.

The first of 114 movies and counting — starring Bill Fagerbakke (Harold the mummy), Mario Yedidia (Marshall), Adam Wylie (Gilbert) and Clara Bryant (Amy) — Under Wraps tells the story of three friends who accidentally awaken a mummy and must bring him back to his resting place before midnight on Halloween.

“I was really, really, really excited and I knew that Disney Channel was very excited about it,” Wylie recalls exclusively to PEOPLE. “I asked a lot of questions between takes… like, ‘Oh, where is this going to be? Is it going to theaters?’ I had no idea at the time. And they said, ‘Actually, I think there are rumors of it being what’s called a Disney Channel Original Movie.'”

“I’m like, ‘What’s that?'” he continues. “And they’re like, ‘Something Disney’s trying and if it works, great! And if it doesn’t, they’ll never do another one.'”

Fortunately for the cast — and its devoted fans — the film quickly became a hit and was followed by dozens of other DCOMs that helped shaped childhoods around the globe. From seasonal classics like Halloweentown and Phantom of the Megaplex, to beloved hits like High School Musical, Camp Rock, The Cheetah Girls, and The Descendants, it’s safe to say DCOMs have forever changed the television movie landscape.

Here, PEOPLE gathers the original cast of Under Wraps, including Fagerbakke, Wylie, Bryant and director Gregory Beeman, to speak about the film’s impact, as well as the legacy of DCOMs 25 years after the very first one hit TV screens.

Under wraps (1997)

Under wraps (1997) The cast of Under Wraps

The Beginnings

As with many projects, Under Wraps began with a good script, written by legendary screenwriter Don Rhymer.

“Disney Channel sent [the script] to me and I had an interview,” says Beeman, 60. “I don’t think any of us knew at that moment that it was the first ever Disney Channel Original Movie. But I just talked about how much I liked it and told them my ideas and I think, more or less, had the job shortly after that.”

“The script was in great shape… and unlike almost everything else I’ve ever been involved in, we didn’t really change much,” he notes. “From the script that I read, to the script that we shot, I doubt there was many changes, if there weren’t slightly just practical changes.”

With a director on board, it was time to find the cast — especially the three charmingly compatible yet vastly different 12-year-old friends and the mummy. And Rhymer and Beeman instantly knew who they wanted.

“I happened to know Don Rhymer. He had written for Coach when we started that run… and I was just so tickled to see the script,” says Fagerbakke, 65, who plays Harold the mummy. “It was such a delightful presentation of an entertaining piece of children’s content. I thought it was wonderful and the dialogue with the kids was so great and this interesting way to deal with a mummy coming to life. And so I was just happy at the prospect also of playing a character that really doesn’t happen very often in one’s career. I was really fortunate that Greg gave me a shot.”

Under wraps (1997)

Under wraps (1997)

Disney Bill Fagerbakke as Harold

Wylie, 38, remembers his initial auditions and being paired up with different groups of kids for the role of Gilbert. But magic occurred when he was finally paired with Bryant and Yedidia.

“There was this chemistry I know I felt — even at that young age — with Clara and with Mario, that I didn’t really feel [with others],” he explains. “It was exciting to go in with them… it just felt right.”

Meanwhile Bryant’s memories of her character stemmed from a recent interaction with her mom. “She was like, ‘Well, don’t you remember what you did?’ I was like, ‘No, what did I do?’ And she was like, ‘Well, you made this sassy comment at the director. And I said, ‘Clara, stop it,'” she recalls. “And Greg Beeman says, ‘No, that’s Amy. That’s what we want.’ She’s this snappy, sarcastic girl.'”

Adds Beeman: “I don’t even know that we had that in mind before you showed us that dry delivery. … It was so funny. And I think that actually, when you came in, you shaped your character more than any of the others, for Don and I.”

Under wraps (1997)

Under wraps (1997)

Disney The cast of Under Wraps

Getting Mummified

For Fagerbakke, being transformed into Harold was a unique process — beginning with his non-dialogue and physical movements.

“You’re just looking at the beats and the nature of the character you’re playing and physicalizing everything,” he says of Harold not having any lines. “At the heart of it, all characters are the same in terms of their desire to communicate something or understand something… but the fact that it was all physical was remarkable. And man, I really love that.”

“I was looking at Harold’s movement and I found myself wondering, I wonder how much of that was just from playing around and how much of it was me trying to manage the bulging discs that I had in my lumbar when I got this job,” he jokingly adds. “I was in so much pain… But the stiffness, I think runs itself to the character.”

Harold’s wardrobe, however, was a whole other ballgame.

To make the classic mummy suit, Fagerbakke went to a special effects outlet in Northridge, California. “My hands were up on two posts and I’m wearing a unitard, and they’re slathering my body with Vaseline and then coating me with Plaster of Paris,” he says. “Then it all heats up with the plaster as it sets. It was very unusual to make the suit.”

Under wraps (1997)

Under wraps (1997)

Disney Bill Fagerbakke as Harold

After the costume was officially made, Fagerbakke spent about an hour getting ready for shoots.

“It wasn’t horrible,” he says. “We got it down because we were doing it every day. It was a latex mask. They did obviously, they did some work around my eyes and stuff. It was never more than an hour and a half so that wasn’t too bad.”

Once he was in the costume, there was an additional level of maintenance required.

“It was Chico [in California] and it was August, and man, those exterior scenes in that suit… Fortunately they gave me a racing vest,” he explains. “So in between shots, they could plug me into ice water that would flow through the vest and bring my body temperature down. And that made it possible.”

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Under wraps (1997)

Under wraps (1997)

Disney Bill Fagerbakke as Harold


When it comes to memories of filming Under Wraps, the cast says a few things stand out.

“People always ask me if I got to drive to the hearse and the truth is yes, probably about six inches. That was one of my favorite things ever,” Wylie shares. “But I did do another stunt. Falling backwards through the basement window was me, because they tried it with the stunt double a few times, and the wig kept falling off. It was very, very, very difficult to have it look like me… And I said, ‘Come on, put me in coach, give me a chance!'”

Wylie adds, “I also remember Bill had such amazing physical comedy, which was such a godsend for the entire project … when we were kids, I remember you having to do the recounting of being asked where you’ve been when you were lost, and you were doing everything [with] no words at all. And it was very difficult for the three of us to hold it together.”

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Bryant, 37, was a fan of “the scene when Harold is super-fly and he’s walking down the street … I remember shooting that and just feeling like the cat’s meow. He was like eight feet tall with those platform boots on and this huge flamboyant man. It was fun.”

She also points out a detail that only the most eagle-eyed of fans would know: “Amy wears this beaded necklace throughout the movie and you can see, for some reason, it kept getting shorter. We kept losing beads. It would break every day. And so it started [down] here and by one scene, it’s up here. They had to keep restringing it.”

Under wraps (1997)

Under wraps (1997)

Disney The cast of Under Wraps

Fagerbakke notes that during filming, he “always felt like I had the allowance to play. And man, that’s just, what a gift. The physical stuff, just being able to play with how Harold moved and little things like hitting the buzzer on the counter and playing around in the room when mom comes up. To work in that sense of freedom and discovery is all you can ask for.”

As for Beeman, the emotional scene at the end of the film, where Harold has to say goodbye to Marshall, stands out the most.

“Mario did a beautiful job in that last scene, and those things can be really hard to do because you don’t want to overdo them. You want to just let the natural emotional elements just be there,” he says. “He came to me before that scene. He goes, ‘Look, I want to make sure that I’ve got time for this. This scene really matters. So am I going to have time for my part?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.'”

“But he really cared about that scene and he was bringing it,” Beeman adds. “I really think that Mario really connected to Bill, and to Harold, and felt it. I think that was a pretty genuine feeling that he played in that scene.”

UNDER WRAPS, Mario Yedidia, Bill Fagerbakke, 1997

UNDER WRAPS, Mario Yedidia, Bill Fagerbakke, 1997

Hallmark Entertainment / Courtesy: Everett Collection Mario Yedidia and Bill Fagerbakke as Marshall and Harold

The Film’s Legacy

Collectively, the group agrees that they never expected Under Wraps to be the catalyst for decades of beloved Disney Channel Original Movies, especially as they went off to pursue other endeavors.

“It’s amazing to, at such a young age, be in this wonderful film that not only sparked a bunch of more creative films from the Disney Channel, but to be able to be a part of a lot of people’s Halloweens growing up and still continue to be a part of them. It’s something I’m forever grateful for and will never forget,” says Wylie, who continues to act (he is now starring in Under Wraps 2 as Bueller) and is also a magician.

“It’s definitely changed me for the better forever. We did some magic there that I don’t even know to this day if we could replicate. It was just the perfect culmination of all of these amazing vignettes that just made this incredible movie,” he adds. “The greatest thing about it is that it’s the story that will live on and live on now for a different generation with the remake. And the fact that it’s inspired over a hundred DCOMs, that’s incredible.”

Says Beeman, who is still directing films: “When a project is in a sweet spot, it’s so great. It’s why maybe we all do this. When those things come together, it’s so rewarding. And I will always be grateful for this project. It’s a pretty wonderful experience as a director, for it to take 20, 25 years, and then you realize that something you did was very impactful and very important to somebody… [that’s] very meaningful to me.”

Under wraps (1997)

Under wraps (1997)

Disney Bill Fagerbakke as Harold

Fagerbakke — who continues to act and even voiced Patrick Starr on Spongebob Squarepants — chimes in: “Being involved in children’s entertainment, which I have had the great, good fortune to be that for… it’s so rewarding when someone, when an adult talks to you about what that meant to their childhood, that is just a magnificent thing to share with someone.”

Adds Bryant, now a lawyer: “It is amazing how much it’s become a part of people’s Halloween and annual traditions. I still get messages on my lawyer contact page, which is awkward. People will be like, ‘Every year, my family and I watch this.’ … I had no idea that it could end up that way. I feel like I never would’ve thought back then, and even in the years right after filming it, that it would become such a legacy and that it would be part of kids’ happy memories from their childhood. That feeling of sitting on the sofa with the people you love and watching the familiar holiday movie that you love, knowing that I’m leaving that to my children and to other people’s children — it gets me a little bit.”

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Under Wraps 2 is now streaming on Disney+.