Playhouse Disney was a brand for a slate of programming blocks and international cable and satellite television channel that was owned by the Disney Channels Worldwide unit of the Disney–ABC Television Group, itself a unit of The Walt Disney Company. It originated in the United States as a morning program block on the Disney Channel. Its programming was targeted at children ages 3–8, featuring a mix of live-action and animated series.
The Playhouse Disney block on Disney Channel was relaunched as Disney Junior on February 14, 2011. The 22 cable channels and blocks using the Playhouse Disney brand around the world were relaunched under the Disney Junior brand over the next two years, concluding with the rebranding of the Russian channel in September 2013.
Playhouse Disney originated on May 8, 1997 as a daily morning program block for preschoolers on Disney Channel, debuting just over one month after the channel's relaunch that signified the beginning of its full conversion into a commercial-free basic cable channel. It utilized a similar graphics package for its promotions as that used for the channel's afternoon children's programs. Prior to the block's launch, Disney Channel had aired a lineup of preschool-targeted programs (which were mixed alongside animated series aimed at older children) during the morning hours since its debut in April 1983. A stylized version of Disney Channel's "Mickey Mouse TV" logo of the time period for the block (featuring a green paint-style background overlaid by a multicolored "playhouse" titling) was introduced on October 4, 1998 with the introduction of new graphics for the block.
One of the Playhouse Disney block's most popular series was Bear in the Big Blue House, an educational live-action series from Jim Henson Productions that debuted in October 1997, focusing on the adventures of an anthopomophic bear (voiced by Noel MacNeal); the series was named by TV Guide as one of the "top 10 new shows for kids" that year. For the first three years of its run, the Playhouse Disney block originally aired each weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, and weekends from 6:00 to 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Following each program, which usually ran 23 minutes (most of which, with the exception of movies, aired without promotional interruption), the remainder of the time period was filled by blocks of either short segments or music videos (the latter of which were originally aired under the banner "Feet Beat").
In early-2001, Playhouse Disney introduced a new on-air graphics package produced by motion graphics company Beehive;actress Allyce Beasley began serving as the U.S. block's promo announcer at this time, a capacity she would hold until April 15, 2007. On June 25, 2001, Disney-ABC Cable Networks Group (now Disney-ABC Television Group) announced plans to launch Playhouse Disney Channel, a companion digital cable and satellite channel that would have served the same target audience as the Disney Channel block; plans for the network were later scrapped, although Disney-ABC International Television would launch dedicated Playhouse Disney Channels in international markets (including Canada and Latin America) between 2002 and 2007. Coinciding with Disney Channel's on-air rebranding, on October 7, 2002, the block introduced a stylized version of Disney Channel's logo (designed by CA Square, and featuring an outline of Mickey Mouse's head as its centerpiece), as well as a mascot named Clay, an anthropomophic clay figure who often used the catchphrases "It's true!" and "Are you with me?"
On March 31, 2007, Clay was replaced by two anthropomorphic monkey puppets as the block's hosts, Ooh and Aah (who served as the main characters for one of the short series featured on the Playhouse Disney lineup, Ooh, Aah & You). Beginning in 2007, Disney Channel began truncating the weekday block to four hours (from 4:00 to 8:00 a.m. Central Time) during the summer months, in order to air episodes of Disney Channel original series during the late morning and early afternoon hours; however, the weekend schedule continued to air as a seven-hour block. By this point, the Playhouse Disney block had expanded to air from 3:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Central Time on weekdays, and 3:00 to 8:00 a.m. Central Time on weekends, each running a different schedule.
As with Disney Channel, Playhouse Disney was a commercial-free service, but it did show short "promotional spots" (structured as short-form segments for Disney products targeted at the block's demographics) as well as – beginning in 2002 – underwriter sponsorships (with companies such as McDonalds) did run within breaks between programs (preschool-targeted programs that aired between 3:00 and 7:00 a.m. Central Time outside of the Playhouse Disney banner, included the promotional shorts for Disney entertainment products that were seen during Disney Channel's afternoon and nighttime schedule).
In the United Kingdom, the block was launched in September 1999, and underwent a different format. It had in-vision continuity segments set in the Playhouse, presented by Dave Benson Phillips and Alex Lovell. The main Playhouse Disney channel launched in September 2000, and had new graphics introduced in August 2003. Dave and Alex left Playhouse Disney in August 2006, and the final set of graphics was introduced in 2007, before the channel became Disney Junior in May 2011.
On May 26, 2010, Disney-ABC Television Group announced the launch of Disney Junior, a relaunching of Playhouse Disney that would serve as the brand for the Disney Channel block and a new standalone digital cable and satellite channel in the United States, as well as the new brand for the 22 existing Playhouse Disney-branded cable channels and program blocks worldwide. The Playhouse Disney block ended its 14-year run on February 13, 2011, with the last program to air being an episode of the short series Handy Manny's School for Tools at 12:55 p.m. Central Time.
The Disney Junior block debuted on February 14, 2011 at 4:00 a.m. Central Time, with the Little Einsteins episode "Fire Truck Rocket" as its first program. Several former Playhouse Disney series were carried over to the relaunched block including Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Special Agent Oso, Imagination Movers, Handy Manny and Little Einsteins. With the relaunch of the block, the Ooh and Aah mascots were retired (however, Ooh and Aah & You was later carried on the Disney Junior cable channel).
The 24-hour cable channel debuted on March 23, 2012, mainly featuring a mix of original series and programs held over from the Playhouse Disney library (which largely aired as part of the channel's overnight schedule until 2013). Disney Junior took over the channel space held by the Disney-owned soap opera-focused channel Soapnet, largely due to that channel's existing subscriber reach (being carried in 75 million households with pay television). An automated Soapnet feed remained in operation for providers that did not yet reach agreements to carry the Disney Junior channel until Soapnet fully ceased operations on December 31, 2013. The Playhouse Disney block was also replaced by Disney Junior on Disney Channel.
The list below pertains to programs aired on the U.S. block on Disney Channel.
- Bear in the Big Blue House (1997–2006)
- PB&J Otter (1998–2005)
- Rolie Polie Olie (1998–2006)
- Out of the Box (1998–2005)
- The Book of Pooh (2001–2005)
- Stanley (2001–2008)
- The Wiggles (2002–2009)
- JoJo's Circus (2003–2008)
- The Koala Brothers (2004–2008)
- Higglytown Heroes (2004–2009)
- Breakfast with Bear (2005–2006)
- The Doodlebops (2005–2009)
- Johnny and the Sprites (2005–2009)
- My Friends Tigger & Pooh (2007–2010)
- Bunnytown (2007–2008)
- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (2006–2011)
- Charlie and Lola (2005–2011)
- Special Agent Oso (2009–2011)
- Chuggington (2010–2011)
- Little Einsteins (2005–2011)
- Bunnytown (2007–2011)
- Imagination Movers (2008–2011)
- Jungle Junction (2009–2011)
- Handy Manny (2006–2011)
- Adventures in Wonderland (1997–1998)
- Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers (1997–1998)
- DuckTales (1997-2000)
- Henry's Amazing Animals (1997–2000)
- Jungle Cubs (1997-2000)
- Katie and Orbie (1997–2000)
- The Little Mermaid (1997–2002)
- Madeline (1997–2005)
- The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1997–2006)
- 101 Dalmatians: The Series (1998–1999)
- Sing Me a Story with Belle (1998–2000)
- Rupert (2000)
- Anatole (2002-2003)
On September 29, 2000, Disney Television International launched the first international Playhouse Disney Channel in the United Kingdom. It broadcast for 15 hours a day, alongside Toon Disney and Disney Channel +1 on the Sky Digital platform.On April 4, 2009, Egmont Group launched a companion Playhouse Disney magazine in the United Kingdom that focused on the channel's four most popular shows: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, My Friends Tigger & Pooh, Handy Manny and Little Einsteins. Each issue included "to do" pages and suggested activities for parents and children based on an educational theme. The channel was replaced by Disney Junior on May 7, 2011.
On November 30, 2007, Astral Media launched a Canadian version of Playhouse Disney Channel under a brand licensing agreement with Disney-ABC Television Group; the channel operated as a multiplex channel of Family Channel, which had long maintained a programming distribution agreement with Disney Channel for the domestic rights to the U.S. channel's series until January 2016.
List of international channels and blocks
|Market||Type||Formerly||Launch date||Replaced by||Replaced date||United Kingdom||Channel||Block on Disney Channel||September 29, 2000||Disney Junior||May 7, 2011|
|+1 timeshift channel||November 3, 2007||Disney Junior +1|
|Block on ABC1||N/A||2006 Summer||N/A||September 26, 2007|
|United States||Block on Disney Channel||1997||Disney Junior||February 14, 2011|
|Spain||Channel||2001||Disney Junior||June 2011|
|Middle East & North Africa||Block||2010||Disney Junior||2011|
|Asia||Block||Disney Junior||July 11, 2011|
|Australia||Block on Seven Network||2003|
|Block on Disney Channel|
|Channel||December 2005||Disney Junior||May 29, 2011|
|HD simulcast channel||2009||Disney Junior||2011|
|Hong Kong||Channel||April 2, 2004||Disney Junior||July 11, 2011|
|Singapore||Channel||2004||Disney Junior||July 11, 2011|
|Indonesia||Channel||2004||Disney Junior||July 11, 2011|
|Germany||Channel||November 2004||Disney Junior||2011|
|Thailand||Channel||January 2005||Junior||July 11, 2011|
|Cambodia||Channel||June 20, 2005|
|New Zealand||Channel||December 24, 2005||Disney Junior||May 29, 2011 |
|South Korea||Channel||May 2006||Disney Junior||July 11, 2011|
|India||Block on Disney Channel||2006||Disney Junior block||2011|
|Argentina||Block on an Artear channel||2007|
(operated by DHX Media)
|Channel||November 30, 2007||Disney Junior May 6, 2011|
|French language channel|
(Playhouse Disney Télé)
|July 5, 2010||Disney Junior|
|Latin America||Channel (three feeds)||June 1, 2008||Disney Junior||April 1, 2011|
|Central and Eastern Europe||Channel||Jetix Play||2010||Disney Junior UK|
|Poland||Channel||July 2010||Disney Junior||2010|
|Block||2010||Disney Junior UK|
|+1 timeshift channel||Disney Junior +1||2011|
- "Where Learning is Powered by Imagination" (October 1998–May 2002)
- "Imagine and Learn" (September 2001 – February 13, 2011)