In a summer 1986 issue of The Disney Channel Magazine, a full feature on Hayley Mills revealed that subscribers couldn’t get enough of the iconic Disney star. After the channel aired one of her classics, “Pollyanna,” the fan mail kept pouring in. Hayley agreed to star in a Disney Channel Premiere Film, but not just any Disney Channel Premiere Film. Twenty-five years after her twinning performance in 1961’s The Parent Trap, she reprised her roles as Susan and Sharon for The Parent Trap II. Hayley told The Disney Channel Magazine, “The twins have grown up quite nicely, I think. Twenty-five years is a big gap and an awful lot happens to a person, but the girls are basically the same. We all stay the same inside. I think they’re quite fun.” In the 1986 sequel, the film opens with a sentimental montage of memories from the first film, reminding us of Sharon and Susan’s journey to sisterhood.
With its plot, The Parent Trap II is lovably reminiscent of the original Parent Trap format. Sharon and her daughter, Nikki Ferris, are preparing to move from Florida to New York. Nikki meets her new best friend, Mary, at summer school. These girls bond like sisters and quickly plot a scheme so that Nikki doesn’t have to move away. They call on her Aunt Susan in California to help set Sharon up with Mary’s father, Bill. Susan (who is married in this film) flies to Florida and pretends to be Sharon on dates with Bill. Of course, this leads to comical confusion when it seems like two Sharons are running around. Sharon quickly realizes what Nikki and Mary are trying to do — let’s not forget that she and Susan were clever enough to bring their own parents back together in the ’60s — so Sharon decides to outsmart the others. While Susan is masquerading as her sister on a nice date with Bill, Sharon keeps watch in the same restaurant, disguised in a large wig of black hair. The stunt is cutely revealed, leaving the characters with a lot of laughs; Bill also has a chance to get to know the real Sharon. She’s not sure about starting a new relationship until Mary and Nikki try one last plan: they get their parents on a boat together for a romantic evening. The 1998 Parent Trap with Lindsay Lohan totally stole this idea, I’d say. Sailing seals the deal, and Sharon and Bill marry.
This delightful Disney Channel movie was written by Stu Krieger and directed by Ron Maxwell. I enjoyed speaking with Stu about his work on the film. He has always been a huge fan of Hayley Mills and remains close with her today. In the ’80s, Stu saw an industry announcement about The Parent Trap II and was determined to write the film. If you’ve ever seen any of Stu’s work (including some of my favorite DCOMs), it should come as no surprise that his talent was recognized and he was hired for this film. He replaced the first writer and had a tight deadline of just six weeks to complete the script. Stu also had to leave a Hawaiian vacation early to take the job! When the writing was finished, his work was an immediate hit with Disney CEO Michael Eisner, and Stu was soon headed to the set. “I’m on the plane flying to Florida, and the entire time I’m kind of chanting to myself, ‘Oh my god. I’m finally going to meet Hayley Mills. My childhood crush since I was 10 years old,'” he shared. Of course, Stu hoped meeting his hero would be a good thing. Hayley did not disappoint him, as he recalls: “The first meeting, she just could not have been more adorable and charming.” She even told Stu how much she loved his script! The director also contributed to a great environment on set and helped everyone bond.
More than 30 years ago, movies on the Disney Channel were cross-generational, so parents and children might watch some of them together. Part of the Parent Trap II audience would have grown up with the first film and with Hayley’s other movies, so Stu left Easter eggs by creatively naming his characters. For example, Hayley’s TV daughter in this film is “Nikki Ferris,” and Hayley herself played “Nikky Ferris” in the 1964 film “The Moon-Spinners.” “Mary Grand” is the daughter of Hayley’s date in The Parent Trap II, while Hayley had played “Mary Grant” for 1962’s “In Search of the Castaways.” There are even characters named Walter and Lillian Elias, which is apropos considering Hayley’s long career with Disney and professional relationship with Walt. Even though Hayley said in a news appearance that two Parent Traps were enough for her, she ended up starring in two more! I hope they all are added to Disney+. Cheers to this sweet film from a fascinating era of the Disney Channel!