What happens when the Hawaiian surf meets the Vermont snow? You get the 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie, Johnny Tsunami. The film tells the story of Johnny Kapahala (Brandon Baker), a young boy from Hawaii whose life is uprooted when his dad Pete (Yuji Okumoto) gets a new job in Vermont.
The movie — which comes from director Steve Boyum, and writers Ann Knapp and Douglas Sloan — also features Johnny’s friends and family, including his mom, Melanie, (Mary Page Keller), grandfather Johnny Tsunami (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), new best friend Sam Sterling (Lee Thompson Young), love interest Emily (Kirsten Storms), and nemesis Brett (Zachary Bostrom).
Now, twenty years later, when you watch Johnny Tsunami online, you can appreciate why the movie was so popular when it was first released. Along with its intense skier versus snowboarder drama, the film featured critiques of racism and xenophobia, as well as the dynamics of a changing family. It was so well-loved that it was followed by a sequel, Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board, in 2007.
If you’re hungry for the film’s ’90s surfing/snowboarding nostalgia, you’re in luck, because you can now find Johnny Tsunami streaming.
Here’s how to stream Johnny Tsunami right now, as well as all the information you could ever want surrounding this classic Disney original.
How to Stream ‘Johnny Tsunami’ – Exclusively on Disney+
Johnny Tsunami is one of the classic Disney original movies that will be streaming exclusively on Disney’s new subscription streaming service, Disney+.
You can sign up for a 7-day free trial of Disney+ HERE, which will allow you to stream The Parent Trap and hundreds of other movies and shows on your computer, phone, tablet, smart TV or streaming device. If you extend past the free trial, the service costs $6.99/month. You may also opt for this discount bundle of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99/month.
- 1. Sign up for Disney+ here
- 2. Go to Disneyplus.com or download the Disney+ app on your device
- 3. Log in using your information
- 4. Search for “Tsunami”
- 5. Tap/Click on Johnny Tsunami
- 6. Tap Play
- 7. Enjoy!
Disney+ also boasts a vast library of Disney-owned movies and series — plus several new original series coming soon. The service includes unlimited downloads so you can watch offline whenever and wherever you want. The list of compatible devices and smart TVs includes iPads, Apple TV, Amazon devices, Amazon Fire TV, Android, Chromecast, Roku, PS4, and Xbox One.
‘Johnny Tsunami’: Overview
Release Date: July 24, 1999
Creators: Ann Knapp, Douglas Sloan
Director: Steve Boyum
Starring: Brandon Baker, Yuji Okumoto, Mary Page Keller, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Lee Thompson Young, Kirsten Storms, Zachary Bostrom , Gregory Itzin, Cylk Cozart, Steve Van Wormer
Synopsis: A young Hawaiian surfer Johnny Kapahala (Brandon Baker) finds himself in a completely new element when his dad makes the family move to Vermont. Now, in a new private school, with new peers, the boy finds it hard to fit in, until he meets public school student Sam (Lee Thompson Young), who teaches him how to snowboard. When a snooty private school skier, Brett (Zachary Bostrom) decides to make Johnny his enemy, they bring their rivalry to the slopes.
How Long Is ‘Johnny Tsunami’?
The running time for Johnny Tsunami is 1 hour and 28 minutes.
‘Johnny Tsunami’ Plot
When Johnny Kapahala, a young surfing champion, is forced to relocate from his tropical Hawaiian home to a small ski town in Vermont, he finds it hard to fit in. Despite going to the town’s private prep school, Johnny befriends Sam, a student at a rival public school. Sam teaches Johnny how to snowboard, but because the prep schoolers are all skiers, and the public school students are snowboarders, Johnny finds himself in the middle of the opposing schools’ rivalry.
When Johnny ends up in a tiff with a prep student from his school named Brett, his friendship with Sam is questioned by his parents. Without telling anyone, Sam and Johnny run off to Hawaii to get help from from Johnny’s surf legend grandfather, Johnny Tsunami.
After a spending a few days surfing on the beautiful Hawaiian coast, the boys, along with Tsunami return to Vermont. When things with Johnny and Sam’s parents are settled, Tsunami takes to the slopes and gives Johnny the skills and motivation he needs to win an upcoming snowboarding race against Brett.
‘Johnny Tsunami’ Cast
The cast of Johnny Tsunami features some recognizable names, including:
Brandon Baker as Johnny Kaphala
As Johnny Kaphala, Baker takes on the role of the teen surfer/snowboarder at the center of Johnny Tsunami. The actor reprised the role in the 2007 sequel, Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board.
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Johnny Tsunami
Tagawa takes on the role of the surf legend Johnny Tsunami, but you may recognize the actor from his numerous notable TV and film roles over the years. He currently has recurring roles on Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle and Netflix’s Lost in Space.
Mary Page Keller as Melanie
Keller plays Johnny’s mom, Melanie, the voice of reason when his father is too hard on him. The actress has been on a number of popular TV shows over the years, and had recurring roles on series like Pretty Little Liars, Bosch, Hart of Dixie, and Chasing Life.
Yuji Okumoto as Pete
Okumoto is Johnny’s somewhat strict and overbearing dad, Pete. Aside from reprising the role in the 2007 sequel, the actor has been featured in movies like Big Momma’s House 2, Inception, Pearl Harbor, and End Game.
Lee Thompson Young as Sam
Young plays Sam, Johnny’s new best friend who introduces him to the snowboarding lifestyle. The late actor had recurring roles on shows like Smallville, Flash Forward, South Beach, and Rizzoli & Isles and was also featured in the films Friday Night Lights, Akeelah and the Bee, and The Hills Have Eyes 2.
‘Johnny Tsunami’ Songs and Soundtrack
Johnny Tsunami may not have had a soundtrack that made it to the charts, but the upbeat tunes were perfect for the movie’s snowboarding and surfing themes. The soundtrack included seven songs:
“The Way,” “Fire Escape,” and “Nowhere Road” by Texas-based rock band, Fastball
“Rolled” and “Crystal 52” by California ska band, Jeffries Fan Club
“So Down” by Jesse Camp and the 8th Street Kidz
“Life Jacket” by American rock band, Simon Says
‘Johnny Tsunami’ at the Box Office
Johnny Tsunami aired on The Disney Channel in 1999 and was received well by audiences.
‘Johnny Tsunami’ Reviews – What the Critics Said
Johnny Tsunami is undoubtedly one of the most beloved movies of the Disney Channel Original Movie catalog. Where it may have lacked in story and depth, it made up for in heart. “Delivering a nice message of tolerance in an obvious but engaging way, the Disney Channel’s original movie “Johnny Tsunami” takes a 13-year-old champion surfer from the North Shore of Hawaii to the ski slopes of Vermont — and everybody learns a lesson along the way,” reads a 1999 Variety critics review. “The telepic surfs easily on young thesp Brandon Baker’s charisma, and he and fellow teen thesp Lee Thompson Young, as Johnny’s best Urchin friend Sam, rise above the pedestrian material, making “Johnny Tsunami” an unsubstantial but enjoyable ride.”
Common Sense Media‘s Emily Ashby wrote that the film is “brimming over with positive messages about perseverance, friendship, forgiveness,” and has “lots to offer kids in addition to the action-packed surfing and snowboarding scenes.”
Where ‘Johnny Tsunami’ Fits in the Disney Movie Pantheon
In the vast catalog of Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs), Johnny Tsunami has a special place, especially in the hearts of ’90s kids. In their breakdown of the 25 Best Disney Channel Original Movies, Complex ranked the movie at number 2.
In their list of 30 Disney Channel Original Movies Ranked, Entertainment Weekly put Johnny Tsunami at number 10, calling it “one of the finest fish-out-of-water DCOMs” and “one of the most fun DCOM rides, no matter the weather.”
‘Johnny Tsunami’ Trailer
‘Johnny Tsunami’ Trivia: 5 Fast Facts
Here are a few fun tidbits about the movie that might just surprise you:
1. The Cast Got To Bungee Up A Mountain
As reported by Seventeen, in 2016 Brandon Baker told the Disney Channel that when filming the snowboarding scenes in the film, the cast would go up the mountain on a bungee cord. “It would take us too long to go down the mountain and take the lift back up,” Baker says in the Disney interview. “So what they did was they put basic bungee cords at the end of snowmobiles, and we’d ride, like, board, up the mountain behind the snowmobile.”
2. Johnny Tsunami Is Not The Main Character
The movie may be titled Johnny Tsunami, but the name isn’t reflective of the main character. The young teen at the center of the snowboarding drama is Johnny Kaphala (Baker), the grandson of the surfing legend, Johnny Tsunami (Tagawa).
3. The Movie Wasn’t Actually Filmed In Vermont
While the movie depicts Johnny’s new home as a ski town in Vermont, it wasn’t actually filmed there. As reported by Deseret News, the snowy scenes of Johnny Tsunami were filmed in Utah.
4. The Kaphala Family Returns In The Sequel
The entire Kaphala family, including Johnny (Baker), Pete (Okumoto), Melanie (Keller), and grandpa Tsunami (Tagawa) all returned for the sequel Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board which aired on the Disney Channel in 2007.
5. It Was Nominated For A Big Award
In 2000, Johnny Tsunami was nominated for the Humanitas Prize in the Children’s Live-Action Category. While the film didn’t win the award — which recognizes television and movie writing that promotes human dignity, meaning, and freedom — it’s still pretty cool it was nominated.
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