The Disney Channel: From Ingenious Inception to Modern Marvel

Being the father of seven children between the ages of three and 19, I have seen more than my fair share of cartoons and other child-related television programming. From the advent of the Cartoon Network to the now, overflowing genre of 24-hour child programming and animated feature films, I feel as though I am as qualified to speak on the subject of children’s television as much as any parent in the U.S.

Having said that, since my nine-year-old daughter, Tia, is possibly the world’s biggest Disney Channel fanatic – and is constantly bothering me to interview many of the actors who appear on some of their shows – I decided to sit down and write a feature on the history of the innovative cable station.

After an advertising blitz that started in 1982 (including, in Disney theme parks), The Disney Channel’s first programming day began on April 18, 1983 at 7:00 A. M. Eastern, with an episode of Good Morning, Mickey!, which featured classic Disney short cartoons. Early programs shown on the network also included, Donald Duck Presents, Contraption, Dumbo’s Circus, You and Me Kid and Welcome to Pooh Corner. Disney’s late-night featured The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and other programming.

The Disney Channel had an 18 hour program day (running from 7 AM to 1 AM) from its inception until December of 1986, at which time it began 24 hour a day programming.

In 1997, Disney Channel took on a revamped look and dropped the “The” in the network’s name, and split the network into three programming blocks-Playhouse Disney, a block of shows aimed at preschoolers; Vault Disney, an overnight block that featured classic Disney shows and movies such as Zorro, Mickey Mouse Club, and The Love Bug; and the most distinct block, running from afternoon to late evening, called Zoog Disney, which was a programming block aimed at tweens -Smart Guy, Bug Juice, The Famous Jett Jackson, So Weird, etc. Zoog Disney also connected Disney Channel viewers and the computer, by allowing kids to interact with games and see their screen names on television.

When the Disney Channel moved from premium cable to basic cable on January 1997, the ratings grew even more. With shows like Even Stevens, Kim Possible and Lizzie McGuire, which became the network’s banner show, the channel earned its highest-rating ever.

Today, the channel has become well known in recent years for its Disney Channel Original Series. Today’s Disney Channel runs original programming such as That’s So Raven, which is the currently the network’s highest rated original series.
That’s So Raven made history as the first Disney Channel series to beat the 65 episode mark and reach 100 episodes. Other hit shows currently airing on Disney are Phil of the Future, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and Kim Possible (which have been shown on ABC after debuting on Disney Channel), along with former ABC sitcoms such as Boy Meets World and Sister, Sister.

Other shows aired by Disney Channel include: The Emperor’s New School, The Proud Family, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Timon and Pumbaa, American Dragon: Jake Long, The Buzz on Maggie, Lilo & Stitch: The Series, Naturally, Sadie, Life With Derek, and Hannah Montana.

Hannah Montana also made the Disney Channel’s most successful premiere, bringing in 5.4 million viewers on premiere night alone. A new Disney show, Haversham Hall is supposed to be released this summer, starring Phil of the Future’s Alyson Michalka and her sister, Amanda Michalka.

Disney Channel also produces movies, Disney Channel Original Movies, or DCOMs. They used to produce one a month, but production has since slowed down.

The Disney Channel Circle of Stars is a musical group formed by Disney Channel actors and actresses. They have performed their versions of the classic Disney songs “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and “Circle of Life” for music videos that have aired on Disney Channel and also shown on the “Cinderella” and “The Lion King” 2-disc Special Edition DVDs, respectively.

The Circle of Stars consists of Raven-SymonÃ?©, Hilary Duff, Kyla Pratt, Orlando Brown, Anneliese van der Pol, Christy Carlson Romano, A.J. Trauth, Tahj Mowry, Ashley Tisdale, Cole Sprouse, Dylan Sprouse,Brenda Song, Ricky Ullman, Amy Bruckner, Alyson Michalka among others. The list of singers for “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” can be found here.

On September 2006, Disney Channel’s new 2-hour block called Disney Channel Rewind will feature the New Mickey Mouse Club, Kids Incorporated, The Babysitter’s Club, and Ocean Girl. The Disney Channel Rewind Bumpers from 1980’s Mickey Mouse Hands.

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