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A Salute to Disney Channel: Drawing up Toon Disney

Fifteen years to the day that Disney established a daily home on television, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and the rest of the Disney animated family have found a place to call their own....
April 1, 1998

Fifteen years to the day that Disney established a daily home on television, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and the rest of the Disney animated family have found a place to call their own.

Toon Disney debuts on April 18 as a 24-hour basic cable channel featuring Disney’s extensive library of animated television programming. It’s target age range is two to 11 year olds.

‘Toon Disney will allow us to showcase many of the Disney series in the library that, due to different age groups and scheduling needs, we don’t air on Disney Channel,’ says Rich Ross, senior vice president of programming and production at Disney Channel.

The idea for Toon Disney was drawn up as a result of conversations the company held with cable operators about the types of programming services that would drive customers to new digital tiers that will soon become available. ‘When we looked at the great strength of The Walt Disney Company, the idea that Disney could do an animation channel was one of those `but of course!’ moments,’ says Anne Sweeney, president of Disney Channel, who will also oversee Toon Disney.

Toon Disney will be offered exclusively to cable operators already carrying Disney Channel as a basic service. Sweeney would not comment on the number of households in which Toon Disney will be available at launch. Unlike Disney Channel, which carries no advertising, Toon Disney will have ad support when it reaches critical mass.

The channel will draw from more than 2,200 episodes of Disney-owned animated programming, such as The Little Mermaid, Darkwing Duck and The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Long-range plans call for original production when it becomes financially viable. The company is developing an on-air look that will present the channel as the ‘home’ where Disney characters live.

Although the playing field for children’s services is crowded, with other competitors like Fox soon entering the fray, Sweeney believes that Toon Disney has a bright future because of the equity that the Disney brand name brings to children’s animation. ‘The channels that succeed will be the ones that meet the expectations of the audience and are services that the audience feels are complimentary or necessary. Toon Disney stands alone because Disney as a brand name was established 75 years ago and has had a very strong legacy of presenting animation.’

In this report:
- Programming: Back to basics
- Disney Channel time line
- Marketing: Not your parents’ Disney
- Q&A with Anne Sweeney
- Drawing up Toon Disney
- International: Vive le Mickey

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