The Disney company announced back in May 2010 that the existing SoapNet channel would be bumped from the programming roster to make room for Disney Junior, a 24-hour children’s programming block for kids age 2 to 7. While SoapNet won’t be bumped until 2012, Disney Junior had its official debut February 2011.
Formerly known as Playhouse Disney, Disney Junior officially replaced the programming block, but kept such favorites as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Imagination Movers, Handy Manny and Special Agent OSO. The premiere of Disney Junior on February 14 was kicked off with a fun contest, where children could send in their pictures for a chance to appear on the Disney Junior programming block.
In addition to returning favorites, the network also introduced three new shows for their 2011 premiere, including Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Babar and the Adventures of Badou, and Tinga Tinga Tales.
Additionally, visitors to both Walt Disney World and Disney California Adventure were able to interact with their favorite Disney Junior characters during a special performance at both parks in March 2011. The show, dubbed Disney Junior – Live On Stage!, was created to celebrate the launch of the new programming block, and replaced the previous show, Playhouse Disney – Live On Stage!
Since the launch, the Disney Channel seemed to do well with the addition of Disney Junior, showing a substantial increase in ratings during the first week of the launch alone. Jake and the Neverland Pirates was equally a success, and quickly became the channel’s most successful preschool show ever launched on the channel.
Disney Junior also announced in May 2011 that they would be reviving the 1980’s cult kids favorite, Art Attack, which involves the host showing kids how to make works of art from everyday objects around the home. The show will debut on Disney Junior June 6, 2011, and will feature 26 episodes. Art Attack will also air in over 100 countries, and will keep some of its original trademarks like the “Big Art Attack,” as well as introduce a few modern surprises to make the show relevant for today’s audience.
The United States wasn’t the only country to debut Disney Junior, however. In fact, in May 2011, Disney Junior had its debut in Canada and features several favorites as well as Canadian-only series including Stella and Sam, Franny’s Feet and The Secret World of Benjamin Bear. Disney Junior will continue to replace Playhouse Disney in several other countries as well, throughout 2011 and 2013.
While Disney Junior currently resides on the Disney Channel, once the programming block replaces SoapNet in 2012, Disney Junior will move to its own channel. The channel will be a 24 hour programming block for young children, and all of the shows will focus on developing social skills, storytelling and introducing Disney characters in a brand new way.