Disney Channel (formerly The Disney Channel) is a television channel originally in United States pre-launched in late-1982 and launched April 18, 1983.
Disney Channel: The Beginning (1983-1997)
In 1983, The Walt Disney Company announced that it would be launching a channel that would entertain families with the magic of Disney throughout the years. The Disney Channel was formed and pre-launched in late-1982 under the leadership of its first president Alan Wagner. The channel began broadcasting programming on April 18, 1983. At the time of its launch, Disney Channel was a premium channel and only aired 16 hours a day, from 7am to 11pm EST/PST (6am to 10pm CST, 8am to 12 midnight MST). The program that kicked off the channel's first day on the air was the Disney Channel-produced series Good Morning, Mickey! Other programs included Welcome to Pooh Corner and You and Me Kid. In April 1984, the channel extended its programming day to 18 hours a day by adding two hours to its late night schedule (7am to 1am EST/PST, 6am to 12 midnight CST, 8am to 2am MST).
The original late night schedule featured reruns of the classic The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet; more of them are included in Disney Channel Original Series. Disney Channel received a special citation from the United States president Ronald Reagan in 1984. On December 1, 1986, Disney Channel commenced full time broadcasting 24 hours everyday. During the early years, Disney Channel aired several foreign animated series and movies including Asterix, The Raccoons, and Paddington Bear. The Australian western, Five Mile Creek, was shown during this time period also.
During the 1980s, the channel debuted a few programs that later became part of the cultural lexicon of sorts. Early on, in 1986, the musically-oriented sitcom Kids Incorporated became a hit, about a pre-teen (and later teen-to-young adult) gang of friends who formed a pop group, mixing their everyday situations with variety-show and music video style performances. During its nine year run, the series spawned many future stars in both music and acting, including Martika (who went by her real name of Marta Marrero in the show's first season), eventual Party of Five co-stars Scott Wolf and Jennifer Love Hewitt (billed as Love Hewitt), and Stacy Ferguson (Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas).
Disney also hit a cord with viewers in the early 90's with the popular after school block of cartoons called "Disney Afternoon". Making spin off shows of popular Disney movies, classic Disney characters and originals including Care Bears, the Gummi Bears, Duck Tales, Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, Bonkers, Gargoyles, Aladdin the Series, and Timon & Pumba the Series. The cassette tapes and CD's of the music from the original shows from the "Disney Afternoon" block are still treasured by viewers.
In early 1989, The Disney Channel revived one of the company's early TV staples with The All-New Mickey Mouse Club, which was an immediate hit, and proved the basic Disney variety show formula could still work, unlike in the short-lived 1970s revival. The latest version contained many of the classic elements, from "theme days" to updated mouseketeer jackets, but the scripted and musical segments were more contemporary. MMC had a stellar young cast, launching the careers of Christina Aguilera, JC Chasez, Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Keri Russell and others. By 1995, Disney Channel was seen in more than 8 million homes across the United States.
Disney Channel: The Zoog/Vault Disney Era (1997-2002)
In 1997 (but in some markets starting around 1994), Disney Channel began transitioning from a premium cable channel to being offered via expanded basic cable, officially doing so by 2000. It was at this time that Disney Channel started to gain viewers. Prior to 1997, Disney Channel would air week-long previews four times a year, as well as two free preview weekends periodically (with ads targeted to non-subscribers), in the same manner that HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and Starz have.
In 1997, Disney Channel took on a revamped look and dropped the word "The" in the network's name (However, promos often referred to the channel as simply "Disney" and the logo often omitted the "Channel" in the network's name also), and split the network into three programming blocks: Playhouse Disney, comprising of shows aimed at preschoolers; Vault Disney, featuring classic Disney material such as Zorro, The Mickey Mouse Club, the Walt Disney anthology television series, older television specials and features such as The Love Bug; and the most distinct one, running from afternoon to late evening for teenagers, called Zoog Disney, which used anthropomorphic characters called "Zoogs", who resembled robots (but the Zoog characters were given human voices) as its hosts. The Zoog Disney block was introduced in 1998 after Toon Disney launched. From September 2001 to August 2002, the entire weekend lineup (except for the Vault Disney and Playhouse Disney lineups) was branded as "Zoog Weekendz".
The Zoogs original look was one-dimensional, however, the Zoogs were redesigned in 2001, with a more three-dimensional design and mature voices, but were phased out after less than a year. A new channel logo (which featured a 1930s-era Mickey Mouse on a black Mickey ear-shaped TV), was also introduced in 1997. The channel also began to carry break interruptions (not advertising commercials, but promos for network programming).
Disney Channel's original programming during this period began to skyrocket. First, with Flash Forward in 1997 and then continuing with shows like The Famous Jett Jackson, So Weird, Lizzie McGuire, Even Stevens and Kim Possible, among others.
Disney Channel: The Relaunched Era (2002-2007)
In September 2002, Disney Channel was gradually remodeled once more. First, the "Zoog" brand name was phased out from on-air usage; the "Zoog" name continued under a separate website until 2003, when it was merged with Disney Channel's main website. Then on September 9, 2002, the vintage material aired under the Vault Disney banner was discontinued (primarily to contribute to the network's new "hip" image) in favor of same-day repeats of the channel's original programming and off-network series. As a result, primetime movies were also cut to one a night (from two). The channel also ceased producing drama and reality series, shifting focus to live-action comedies and animated series, and Disney Channel usually premieres about two or three new original series a year (typically two animated series and one live-action series). The current logo was implemented a month later. As a result of these changes, of the three blocks introduced in 1997, only Playhouse Disney continues to this day.
Anne Sweeney, a veteran cable executive, took control of Disney-ABC Television Group in 2004 and successfully remade Disney Channel into "the major profit driver in the company." By 2008, Condé Nast Portfolio was able to note that the Channel "has been adding a million viewers a month—every month—for the last five years," and also called the Channel "the greatest teen-star incubator since the NBA stopped drafting high schoolers." Sweeney's successful strategy was to discover, nurture, and aggressively cross-promote teen music stars whose style and image were carefully targeted to pre-teens and teenagers.
While Disney Channel's intended target audience are preschoolers, pre-teens and young adolescents, the channel has gained popularity and also has viewers outside the main target audience and has even made teen idols out of some of the channel's stars. The channel has become well known in recent years for its Disney Channel Original Series, and because of them, Disney Channel is one of the most-watched cable channels in the United States, with some series averaging around four to six million viewers (which is considered impressive for cable television).
In 2003 Disney Channel released its first ever musical movie on Disney Channel entitled The Cheetah Girls. It received 84 million viewers worldwide. Later in Disney Channel years spin-offs of the Cheetah Girls were created such as High School Musical, and Hannah Montana. In 2005, That's So Raven became the network's highest-rated series since the network's move to basic cable; as well as being the first Disney Channel Original Series to beat the 65 episode limit (eventually hitting 100 episodes) and to be the first to spawn a spin-off (Cory in the House).
Disney Channel: The Current Era (2007-present)
In 2007, Disney Channel remodeled its looks. The logo, instead of bouncing around the screen, turned into a ribbon and swirled around the screen until forming the logo. The background turned into an astronomy sphere, as opposed to abstract objects bouncing and moving in the screen. Also, the font was updated from Digital to Pilsen Plakat Bold. Bumpers were updated as well. Instead of the logo popping up and delivering a message, the ribbon swirled up, formed the logo, and another ribbon swirled out with the message. In addition, the female announcer was dropped.
In 2007, Disney Channel cut down on the number of original movie and series premieres over the course of the calendar year, limiting to four DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie) and two new DCOS (Disney Channel Original Series). The most successful DCOM was High School Musical 2 with 17.2 million viewers. The channel abandoned its uniform schedules for weekday and weekend afternoons (with the exception of the 7-8PM hour), to run a five-hour (later six-hour, now back to five-hour) schedule featuring hour-long blocks of various original series (and the off-network programming that remained on the channel) with the schedule changing each day. As part of the change, promo cards and bumpers were changed to an abstract atmosphere with ribbon theming and themed to the programs.
Promos for the next program now only displayed the program airing next and were moved from immediately after the conclusion of a program to near the end of the last promo break, while a ribbon banner now appears on the bottom of the screen during programming (those airing from 11AM-8PM/ET and airing immediately following the end of each promo break) telling viewers the current program and the two programs airing afterwards. Slightly modified versions of these graphics fit for high definition were introduced in September 2008. The channel also moved its original series (mostly the live-action series) to primetime on weekends with new episodes airing in those timeslots, after having aired new episodes of its series on Fridays between 6-8PM/ET for the previous few years. The series began airing from 8-9PM/ET on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (The Friday 8-9PM block will be preempted if a Disney Channel Original Movie is scheduled to premiere on that night; the Saturday 8-9PM block has aired on a periodic basis since the change; and the Sunday 8-9PM block was added in January 2008). In July 2009, Disney Channel extended its Friday lineup to two hours in primetime from 8-10PM/ET, dropping the primetime 9PM movie and a double movie feature was added on Saturday nights.
2007 saw the debut of two new original series, the That's So Raven spinoff Cory in the House which ended after two seasons (a possible casualty of the 2007 Writer's Guild strike, which caused freshman or sophomore series whose production was interrupted midway through the season to eventually be cancelled), and the popular Wizards of Waverly Place, starring Selena Gomez, David Henrie and Jake T. Austin. 2008 is recognized for its new series such as Phineas and Ferb, Brian O'Brian, and The Suite Life on Deck, the spin-off to The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, plus new Disney Channel Original Movies such as Camp Rock , Minutemen and The Cheetah Girls: One World. The Suite Life on Deck was the number one series in the respective categories in kids ages 6–12 and tweens ages 9–14 in 2008.
In 2009, Disney Channel launched two new series: Sonny with a Chance (the first original series shot in high definition) starring Demi Lovato in February, and JONAS starring the Jonas Brothers in May. New movies in 2009 included: Dadnapped, Hatching Pete, Princess Protection Program, and Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie. The four original movies for 2009 had the widest range of Disney Channel Stars in the networks history. Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie also became the highest-rated cable program of that year (not including sporting events) with 11.4 million viewers, becoming the second highest-rated DCOM in history. The premiere of the crossover special Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana (involving Wizards of Waverly Place, The Suite Life on Deck and Hannah Montana) also beat out its competition (both cable and broadcast network programming) on the night of its premiere with 9.1 million viewers (making it the highest-rated episodes of Wizards and On Deck to date).
In late October 2009, Disney Channel premiered a new short series called: "have a laugh!"  These 4 to 5 minute segments would include re-dubbed versions of classic Disney Cartoons. The first of which premiered on October 26, 2009: Lonesome Ghosts.
In 2010, Good Luck Charlie debuted as Disney Channel's first original sitcom targeted at family audiences, while Fish Hooks and Shake It Up also made their premieres. That year also saw the premiere of Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam among the four original movies premiering that year.
In early 2011, Hannah Montana and Sonny with a Chance ended. Also in that year ended The Suite Life on Deck. Movies like Lemonade Mouth and The Suite Life Movie premiered. Also Phineas & Ferb Movie premiered.
- Main article: List of programs broadcast by Disney Channel
Series produced by Walt Disney Television or production companies unrelated to the Walt Disney Company used to make up most of the schedule; nowadays, with the explosion of Disney Channel Original Series, fewer of these series have aired on the channel. As of January 2008, the only non-original productions airing on Disney (not including the Playhouse Disney lineup, movies, and short series Minuscule and Shaun the Sheep) are Life With Derek, The Little Mermaid, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa (Buzz Lightyear and Timon and Pumbaa have just recently been taken off the lineup, but have been replaced by That's So Raven and Phil of the Future. The Playhouse Disney block airs daily from 6:00 am until noon. During the summer line-up it ends at 10:00 AM and the regular Disney block begins. On Weekends, Playhouse Disney will end at 12:00 PM in which Disney Channel will start it's Summer lineup.
Naturally, Sadie, Boy Meets World, and Sister, Sister were removed from the Disney Channel lineup in 2007, while other shows experienced time slot changes. The station returned to a more normal schedule on September 4, 2007.
Disney focuses now on pre-teens now since 2010 and younger children.
Current U.S. schedule
- Main Article: Disney Channel's Hauntober Fest
The Disney Channel formerly aired classic Halloween telefilms such as The Halloween That Almost Wasn't, Witch's Night Out,The Worst Witch, Mr. Boogedy, The Canterville Ghost, Blackbeard's Ghost, and Disney's Halloween Treat/A Disney Halloween from October 1983 to the late 1990s.
Since 2005, Disney Channel has aired Halloween themed episodes of series and movies during the Halloween season, including Hocus Pocus, the Halloweentown series, and Twitches. In 2007, Disney Channel aired the Twitches sequel, Twitches Too. Disney Channel also aired new Halloween episodes of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, and their newest show Wizards of Waverly Place revolving around wizards, a Halloween object. In October 2008, Dadnapped will air, possibly as a Halloween special. In October, Disney Channel airs Halloween-themed programming in an annual event, titled "Monstober", a brand used in 2011 and 2012.
- Main Article: Disney Rewind
Disney Replay is a Wednesday night block that debuted on March 17, 2013, developed in honor of Disney Channel's 30th anniversary. Airing from 12–1 a.m. ET/PT, the block features double episode runs of defunct Disney Channel original series from the 2000s (such as Kim Possible, Lizzie McGuire and Even Stevens). Back in 2010 they had defunct programming in the mornings like this. Though it wasn't a block. They have also had shows on the block from the 2010's (such as: The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Suite Life on Deck, Wizards of Waverly Place, and Jonas).
Weekend Evening blocks
Disney Channel airs first-run or recent episodes of its original series over the course of three nights, branded as "Disney Channel (day of week) Night", with first-run episodes premiering on Friday and/or Sunday evenings. Friday nights feature a combination of either A.N.T Farm, Phineas & Ferb, Jessie, Gravity Falls and Fish Hooks, while Sunday nights feature Good Luck Charlie, Shake It Up, Dog with a Blog and Austin & Ally. Since October 2010, programming on both night's schedules has been somewhat fluid as while all series have a permanent place on the Friday and Sunday primetime schedules, episode premieres of all Disney Channel original series are subject to being rotated on and off the schedule depending on the schedule for that given week; depending on the night, these episode premieres usually air Fridays from 8–9:30 (or 10) p.m. and Sundays from 7:30–9 (or 9:30) p.m. ET/PT.
Disney Channel currently programs shows targeted at preschool-age children on Monday through Fridays from 6 a.m.–2 p.m. (6-9 a.m. during the summer months) and weekends from 6–9 a.m. ET/PT, called Disney Junior, which debuted on February 14, 2011. As of 2010, the only programming featuring classic Disney characters is Mickey Mouse Clubhouseon Disney Junior, and the Have a Laugh! short films on the network itself. Other programs currently seen in this block such as: Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Special Agent Oso, and Imagination Movers.
Disney Saturday Mornings
Disney Channel Saturday Mornings is an animation block that debuted as "Toonin' Saturdays" on June 17, 2011, the lineup – which airs most Saturdays from 9-10 a.m. ET/PT, it is sometimes preempted in favor of other Disney Channel original programs – primarily consists of double-episode airings of Disney Channel original animated series Fish Hooks and Phineas & Ferb. Occasionally, new first-run episodes of either series will be featured in the block, though new episodes may also sometimes air in their original Friday night time slots.
Past Programming Blocks
Adventures in Comedy
Cartoon comedy series added in Summer 2006 included Lilo and Stitch: The Series, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King’s Timon and Pumbaa, and Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. This block has since been absorbed into the regular schedule, with the shows airing on the early morning.
This was added to Disney Channel summer of 2004. It aired every Friday and it involved 4 magnets that would host the show and air brand new episodes of Lilo & Stitch: The Series, Kim Possible, Brandy and Mr. Whiskers, etc.
An opportunity to watch some of Disney Channel’s most popular shows weekdays afternoons. That's So Raven aired on Monday, with Phil of the Future on Tuesday, Hannah Montana on Wednesday, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody Thursday, and Life with Derek on Friday. This block was added September 2006 and removed in May 2007.
Disney Channel Games
- Main article: Disney Channel Games
Debuting in 2006, the Disney Channel Games includes stars from Disney Channel Original Series and Movies. Disney Channel Games 2007, airing in summer 2007, featured Disney Channel stars from outside of the US and added the yellow team to the three other colors(red, blue, and green). The games returned again on July 28,2008 right after the Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert. This time the four teams had names. Yellow-Comets, Blue-Lightning,Green-Cyclones, and Red-Inferno. The Disney Channel Games website was also redesigned with a new feature called the "Inside Track" with hosts Meaghan Martin and Cody Linley.
Toon Disney (block) occupies a saturday morning part of the programming on Disney Channel in the United States and has done so since it was introduced in 1996.
- Main article: Playhouse Disney
Playhouse Disney occupies a major part of the programming on Disney Channel in the United States and has done so since it was introduced in 1997. Its programming airs during the morning hours and is focused on younger children and encourages morals, art, and music. Playhouse Disney airs as a channel in other countries around the world, including France, Australia, and New Zealand. Some of the programming features series like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny, My Friends Tigger and Pooh, and Little Einsteins. Movies are frequently shown on Monday, during Playhouse Disney’s Movie Time Monday.
Night of Premieres is a programming block on Disney Channel. It generally airs every 5 weeks on a Saturday night and usually contains new episodes from Disney Channel Original Series.
- Main article: List of Disney Channel Original Movies
A movie is broadcast almost every night, but not necessarily a theatrically released feature film. Disney Channel airs new original movies, called Disney Channel Original Movies (or DCOMs), about 4 to 6 times a year, and those are frequently broadcast during that timeslot. In 2000, Disney Channel claimed to produce a new movie each month; this only lasted throughout that same year.
In 2007, Jump In! became the most-watched DCOM on its premiere, it brought 8.2 million viewers, beating ratings champion The Cheetah Girls 2. Its soundtrack became available January 2, 2007. However, High School Musical 2 is the most successful DCOM in popularity and awards, setting a cable record for most viewers of a basic cable program, when its debut scored 17.2 million, a record that stood until the December 3rd Monday Night Football matchup between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens on corporate sibling ESPN surpassed it with 17.5 million viewers. The Cheetah Girls films are also notably successful, with huge merchandise, sold out concert tours and soundtrack sales.
The channel will occasionally secure the rights to air a picture released by a non-Disney studio, most notably Warner Bros.' Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (along with its sequels, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), the same studio's The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, NBC Universal's Beethoven, Sony Pictures' Stuart Little and the same studio's Little Secrets which was owned by Samuel Goldwyn Films. Also, another non-Disney Christmas themed movie, The Polar Express was aired.
During the 1980s and 1990s, movies made up most Disney's evening and overnight schedule. It now only airs usually around 12 hours of movies per week, occasionally 14 or 15. A Disney Channel Original Movie used to air twice in a row on the night of its Friday night premiere; this tradition ended with the premiere of High School Musical. Most movies airing on Disney Channel usually run in the 95 to 105-minute range, promos included.
Because of this, Disney airs filler programming following the movie:
- If it lasts 1:25 to 1:35, an Original Series will air (Disney used to air syndicated series that aired on the channel).
- If it lasts 1:40 to 1:45, a miniature episode of an Original Animated Series will air (most likely an 11-minute episode of an Animated Original Series).
- If it lasts 1:50 to 1:55, either a music video with air along with Disney Channel promos, or an episode of a Disney Channel Short Series such as Shaun the Sheep, The Road to The Cheetah Girls 3: One World, or As the Bell Rings may run.
In November 2006, the Disney Channel Original Movie opener was remixed.
Disney Channel has aired promotions for General Mills cereals, Yoplait, McDonald's, Danimals, Subway, and Kellogg's. Though they are not regular commercials, they are tailored to Disney Channel audiences. Aside from the sponsor announcements, Disney Channel's program breaks consist mostly of promos for the channel's programming. Other promos for Disney-owned networks, music videos and public service announcements are also carried in the breaks.
Late-1982 as The Disney Channel
April 18, 1983-April 6, 1997, 1989 (Postponed)/1995-1997 (United Kingdom, Ireland), 1996-1997 (Australia, New Zealand, Asia, China and Japan) as The Disney Channel and 1985-1988 (France) as Le Disney Channel
1995-2003 (Other Countries) as Disney Channel
April 6, 1997-2002 as Disney Channel