ASU alumnus hosts PG13 Disney Channel Original Movie podcast

ASU alumnus Zach Heltzel does more than fondly remember the Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs) he watched as a child in the 1990s — he hosts a podcast about them.

Heltzel, now 23 and a self-described "rambunctious, creative little monster," graduated from ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business in 2014.

After an unpleasant experience working at an internship, Heltzel began using podcasts as a means of coping, but said he soon fell in love with them.

“The only way I got through it was all of these alternative comedy podcasts," Heltzel said. "They were the things that got me through, and ever since then I became a huge podcast addict."

Some of his friends were hosting their own podcasts too, so Heltzel decided to start his own.

“I was like, I need to get in the game," Heltzel said. "For a while, I thought: What could I do?"

Because of his deep reservoir of pop culture knowledge and his an affinity for comedy, Heltzel decided to talk about DCOMs, and his goal is to finish all 115 Disney movies, including those which premiered in theaters.

“One day it got into my ear, I should do a Disney Channel Original Movie podcast because one did not exist at the time,” Heltzel said.

His podcast is called Zetus Lapodcast, based on Zenon’s catchphrase from the 1999 Disney film “Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century.”

Each week, Zetus Lapodcast has anywhere between 1 thousand and 11 thousand listeners, according to Heltzel.

He said he hopes to create another podcast after he finishes the podcasts for all 115 Disney movies, and dreams of producing a live theater show.

Surprisingly, Heltzel’s podcast includes some adult content, and he experienced some backlash from listeners for his “potty mouth,” he said.

“I have a complicated relationship with (DCOMs). Like most children of the 90s, I was watching them pretty much when they premiered if not immediately after. So going into this, I had already seen most of them,” Heltzel said.

While Heltzel says his podcast is geared toward an adult audience, his own childhood memories played a factor in his decision to host a podcast about DCOMs.

“I was very curious going back, because I hadn’t seen a lot of those movies I loved as a kid for like a decade. I really wanted to know, were they better than the ones that were coming out when I was a teenager that I then grew to hate? I wanted to explore the nostalgic rose colored lenses that we have on stuff from our childhood,” he said.

Heltzel’s friend and Zetus Lapodcast guest Adam Matonic, 24, said he believes Heltzel’s choice to create a more adult-focused podcast was a smart tactic.

“Taking that submersive approach to something that we viewed as so innocent in our childhood is exactly what we’re looking for as listeners,” Matonic said.

Matonic is an editor for the Johnsonian, Winthorp University’s student newspaper, and came into contact with Heltzel via their mutual history as Twitter comedians.

Matonic said Heltzel incredible perceptiveness and cynical, dry wit make him extremely funny..

Millennials often enjoy the nostalgic and embarrassing retrospective quality about shows like Heltzel’s, where they can relive parts of their childhood, Matonic said.

Matonic was the fourth guest on Heltzel’s show, and said since that time, the caliber of Heltzel’s guests has increased as Zetus Lapodcast’s popularity continues to grow.

“I’m definitely into things that are so bad that they’re good, so for me, I was really excited. And I think that’s part of the appeal of Zach’s podcast: the so bad it’s good phenomena,” Matonic said

Shelby Bryant, 22, has known Heltzel since kindergarten and said he has always been one of her funniest friends.

Bryant, a longtime Disney aficionado, was also a guest on Zetus Lapodcast and grew up watching DCOMs.

“Everyone can kind of reminisce with it because a lot of people have watched [DCOMs],” she said.

Bryant agrees that although Heltzel’s choice of content is unexpected, it successfully connects with and entertains an older audience.

“When you think Disney Channel, you think young preteen girls [...] and the way that he presents the show would definitely not be for that age group because it’s not necessarily appropriate,” Bryant said.

Although Heltzel has sometimes felt overwhelmed while balancing his full-time job in public relations, he really seems to enjoy hosting the podcast, she said.

“I love that he’s able to be funny and have a creative outlet,” Bryant said.

Bryant said she is happy for Heltzel because Zetus Lapodcast continues to grow in popularity and recognition.

“It’s kind of cool to see someone from Arizona or someone you know actually doing something that other people are noticing,” she said.

Editor's Note: Zach Heltzel is a former ASU State Press reporter. He was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.


Reach the reporter at ekamezak@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @emikamezaki

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