After more than a decade of dabbling in educational television around the world, Disney is making a serious move to create its own niche in preschool programming. Disney Junior is set to launch on the Disney Channel in February 2011.
Interesting to note, however, will be the absence clear academic goals in the service’s new offerings. Disney will instead focus on strong storytelling tradition and teaching social skills – a move that Disney states is a direct result of internal market research with mothers of preschoolers.
Carolina Lightcap, president of Disney Channels Worldwide, spoke about the company’s market findings in a meeting with reporters last week. Mothers “don’t honestly think kids are going to learn how to read from watching a TV show,” said Lightcap, during the breakfast presentation held in Burbank, California. Rather, in an effort to add value, yet set itself apart, Disney Junior,which will be geared toward the 2-7 age range, will focus on teaching social values and behavior. And they’ll do it with a mix of old and new.
“We will showcase classic Disney characters in new ways,” added Lightcap, who, as a mother to a three year old, is no stranger to the demands of preschool mothers – and their children.
Four new series are set to join the Disney Junior lineup, which will be anchored by the Playhouse Disney hit “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.” “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” introduces a new group of spirited boys intent on outsmarting Captain Hook and his trusty sidekick, Smee. A little girl plays doctor to her stuffed animals in the new series, “Doc McStuffins.” “Little Princesses,” set to debut in late 2012, will feature a new generation of young royals as they learn gracious behavior from veteran princesses like Cinderella, and a yet-untitled show featuring Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck will be set in a hotel – at Walt Disney World perhaps? We’ll have to wait and see.
Rounding out the Disney Junior lineup will be other perennial Playhouse Disney favorites “Handy Manny,” “Special Agent OSO,” and “Imagination Movers.”
In addition to its debut on Disney Channel, look for Disney Junior to share content on an integrated website, as well as utilizing video on demand and mobile and paid download platforms. The new preschool channel will launch – and presumably give Nick Jr. and PBS some serious competition – in 2012.