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Disney Junior preps for 2012 launch with first commissions

Disney Junior, the recently unveiled 24/7 preschool net joining the House of Mouse's suite of US kids channels, is busily building up its original programming roster in advance of its 2012 launch. To kick things off, two series have been put into production.
July 23, 2010

Disney Junior, the recently unveiled 24/7 preschool net joining the House of Mouse’s suite of US kids channels, is busily building up its original programming roster in advance of its 2012 launch. To kick things off, two series have been put into production.

The first is Doc McStuffins from Dublin, Ireland-based Brown Bag Films. This animated 52 x 11-minute CGI series features a six-year-old girl nicknamed Doc, who communicates with and heals stuffed animals and toys from the auspices of her backyard clinic. Disney Television Animation’s Jake and the Never Land Pirates, meanwhile, features two music-filled stories per episode crafted around the exploits of classic characters Captain Hook and Smee, and their new crew of kid pirates led by the enthusiastic Jake.

Disney Junior is set to claim Disney/ABC SOAPnet’s spot on US cable carriers, giving it access to 75 million homes. In 2011, Disney Channel’s daily preschool block Playhouse Disney will be rebranded as Disney Junior in preparation for the new net’s launch the following year. President of Disney Channels Worldwide Carolina Lightcap says the block will ultimately co-exist with the full-fledged Disney Junior when it goes live.

As for content, current Playhouse Disney Worldwide SVP Nancy Kanter is overseeing original programming, while Tracy McAndrew, director of co-productions and acquisitions, is looking after acquisitions.

Outside the US, the 22 Playhouse Disney channels and blocks currently available in 29 languages in 156 territories will be rebranded Disney Junior starting in 2011. Doc McStuffins and Jake and the Never Land Pirates are set to premiere on Disney Channel and Disney Junior channels worldwide in 2011.

‘It’s the next step in our global preschool strategy, which began 10 years ago with the premiere of our first dedicated preschool channel in the UK,’ says Lightcap.

As for curriculum, Disney Junior is focusing on learning and development themes designed for kids ages two to seven. Beyond McStuffins and Jake, Lightcap says programming plans are underway to create a sked that blends some 200 old and new series, including Imagination Movers and Jungle Junction. She says the channel is also busy lining up acquired and original series, movies and short-form series. ‘We will have the benefit of Disney’s vast library of content, as well as a robust development slate for new content,’ says Lightcap.

Besides an overhaul of its online presence with content for preschoolers, educators and parents, the channel will provide affiliate partners with VOD offerings, an HD network and a Spanish-language feed. Lightcap says Disney Junior, like Disney Channel, won’t be ad-supported, but will accept select pro-social sponsorships.

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