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Creator / Disney Channel
aka: Disney Junior

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Established in 1983 — a time when The Walt Disney Companynote  seemed to be on its last legs, just before the arrival of Michael Eisner and company — The Disney Channel initially served as an outlet for the company's old theatrical shorts, movies, television shows, and documentaries. Like several early premium services (a la HBO), it wasn't a 24/7 service initially, but in 1986 added the "Disney After Dark" programming block, with PG programming for adults (including Going Home, a series of concert specials featuring mostly baby boomer-era acts, and A Prairie Home Companion).note . Beyond its namesake company, Disney Channel featured a colorful variety of family-oriented movies and series from other companies and countries, all accompanied by colorful, often stop-motion Ad Bumpers. The Anne of Green Gables films were popular enough that they led to the successful spinoff series called Road to Avonlea. Other popular shows from this era included Dot and the Kangaroo and its sequels, the Unico anime adaptations, the Tales for All films, and the later seasons of Kids Incorporated. In the '90s, The New Mickey Mouse Club, Flash Forward (1996) (a launching pad for Ben Foster and Jewel Staite), In A Heartbeat and The Famous Jett Jackson pointed to more of a focus on in-house productions.

Thanks in part to being a paid service, Disney Channel eternally lagged behind the wildly popular Nickelodeon in the ratings before the former subsequently moved to basic cable in the summer of 2001.note  The channel then developed a unique format — instead of commercial breaks, pauses in programming are filled with promotions for other shows, Disney films and other Disney products like CDs and their sister radio network, Radio Disney, which are often their own promotional mini-shows. note  Also, the adult-oriented lineup was replaced with "Vault Disney", a block that featured vintage Disney shows.

Then one day, someone in the company got the idea for Lizzie McGuire. Along with That's So Raven, the two sitcoms would become smash hits for Disney Channel and were instrumental in growing the channel's audience among teenagers through reruns on ABC. But with their success and fan followings, both shows would also be scapegoated as the catalysts for the network's programming in the late 2000s.

By 2006, Disney Channel was targeting teenage girls as their primary audience. With the ginormous success of the High School Musical film franchise and shows like Hannah Montana, the channel would gravitate to what would become a whole shared universe of similar tween comedies. Except for preschool-oriented programming, Disney Channel would cut back on everything else. It worked spectacularly, with the ratings constantly being neck and neck with Nick's offerings, and both children and teenagers eating it up. Chances are if you grew up in the late 2000s, these shows practically shaped your entire childhood. General audience animated shows were banished to Toon Disney, which would undergo a similar transformation and become Disney XD in 2009. The channel's programming was now segregated between the girl-skewing Disney Channel and the boy-targeting Disney XD.

One infamous aspect of the channel during this time was that it gave most of its show's stars a singing career. Whether it be singing covers of Disney classics, or pop hits penned by several writers, most Disney Channel stars are picked specifically because they at least show a lot of promise and much of their shows ends up being built around promoting that talent (e.g. Austin & Ally, A.N.T. Farm, Shake it Up). The recordings are usually released through Hollywood Records.

All of this came at the expense of the audience that were outside of the channel's child/teenage demographic and alienated by its programming and direction. These former fans pin the blame on then-president Anne Sweeney, for turning Disney Channel into a kids entertainment outlet that barely resembles anything associated with the all-inclusive family brand it is named after. Nevertheless, Disney Channel was able to finally beat Nickelodeon in the ratings in 2012, when the channel broke Nick's 17-year long streak as the highest-rated kids' channel in the U.S, though that was in part because of Nickelodeon's own decay. note 

2014 saw the departure of Anne Sweeney, and the launch of the acclaimed Boy Meets World Sequel Series, Girl Meets World. However, whereas Disney Channel had been pigeoned-holed as a teen sitcom network, Disney XD and its programming would eclipse the former channel in popularity and reception (but not ratings). Throughout Disney Channel's Network Decay, Phineas and Ferb proved to be a massive success and garnered praise from critics and audiences alike. As new episode premieres of the show, along with that of Gravity Falls, moved to Disney XD, the channel would begin to slowly attract a more gender-balanced audience. Disney XD would eventually produce action-oriented comedy-dramas, anime, and incorporate shows based on Marvel Comics and the Star Wars franchise, the latter three leading to an (ironic) increase in animated programming.

In part because of the decline of traditional linear cable/satellite subscriptions, it was decided that Disney Channel would pivot its programming back towards a more general audience. Shows like Andi Mack (a family drama and the channel's first original series to feature a gay character) and Stuck in the Middle (a single-camera comedy starring a Hispanic family) were well-received for breaking away from the previous template of the channel's programming. Non-preschool animated programming also made a resurgence as owing to Disney Channel being in more households than Disney XD, new premieres were moved over to the former. On top of premiering new episodes of several Disney XD originals, Disney Channel has also greenlit new series, like Amphibia, and began airing acquired shows, like Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir (which was previously exclusive to international Disney Channels).

Outside of the US, the international rollout of Disney+ saw local versions of Disney Channel and its siblings shuttered, with their programming becoming exclusive to Disney+ in that region. note  This could be somewhat justified as, by the time Disney+ launched, the international networks were a financial drain due to viewership being paltry in comparison to the US networks (which explains why they were separated from the main Media Networks unit in March 2018) and most of their programming being imported from the US channelnote .

Disney Channel's sister networks include:

  • Toon Disney was a spinoff channel that focused almost exclusively on Disney animation. As a result of its aforementioned Network Decay, it became Disney XD. In international markets, Disney XD was the second successor to Fox Kidsnote .
  • Playhouse Disney was a preschool-oriented morning block and a staple of the network for many years. After undergoing many shifts, the block was rebranded as Disney Junior on Valentine's Day, 2011, and became a full 24-hour-network in the U.S. in March 2012. Playhouse Disney had already existed as an independent network in many non-U.S. markets; these have since been relaunched under the Disney Junior brand as well.

See also Disney Channel Live-Action Universe. Also see Disney Channel Actors, for a list of actors that have appeared on the Disney Channel.

Shows Originating on The Disney Channel: (shows marked with an asterisk appear on the "Disney XD on Disney Channel" block)


Animated shows in both the "Playhouse Disney" and "Disney Junior" blocks

Animated shows in the Disney Junior block and 24/7 Disney Junior channel only

Animated shows airing only on the 24/7 Disney Junior channel

Animated shows in the "Playhouse Disney" block onlynote 

Live-action / puppetry shows in the "Playhouse Disney" block

Live-action / puppetry shows in both the "Playhouse Disney" and "Disney Junior" blocks

Also, at least seven The Disney Afternoon series which were made for syndication were "previewed" on The Disney Channel:


Other Disney shows that were produced outside of the United States:

  • Alex & Co. note 
  • As The Bell Ringsnote 
  • BIA note 
  • O11CE, better known in English-speaking countries as Disney 11, part of the Disney Channel Latinoamerica universe along with Violetta, Soy Luna, BIA and Disney Channel Brazil's Juacas.
  • Evermoor (Re-titled The Evermoor Chronicles after the pilot)note 
  • Soy Lunanote 
  • Lilo & Stitch spin-offs:
    • Stitch!note 
    • Stitch & Ainote 
  • Violettanote 

Other Disney (or not) shows that originated elsewhere have aired on Disney Channel:

Disney Channel Original Movies (including pre-1997 Premiere Films)

Other Disney (or not) movies that originated elsewhere have aired on Disney Channel:

Disney Channel has the following tropes:

  • Adored by the Network: Disney Channel has become both famous and infamous for this. Hannah Montana was one of the channel's flagship shows throughout its run, and marathons of the show were very common. Ditto High School Musical, which seemed to have had heavy promotion ahead of each telecast. There have been examples where a Hannah Montana marathon ended with a High School Musical film being played at the end. Miley Cyrus even made a cameo in High School Musical 2. In fact, the ratings were so good, they were both played during a major event elsewhere.
  • Bowdlerise: The channel edited many of the movies they played. Some of the edits were rewrites or looping less suggestive dialogue, and others had scenes and lines completely removed.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The Disney Channel of today is far removed from the Disney Channel of the 80s and 90s, when it was a pay service. Perhaps because of the disconnect between the different eras of the channel, they tend to disregard everything from before 1997, including all their Premiere Films from before they rebranded them as Original Movies.
  • Four Is Death: Shows generally end after their fourth season, a trend set since That's So Raven broke the original 65-episode limit. Doc McStuffins was the first show overall to break this limit, while Bunk'd is the first for the main channel. Mickey Mouse, a short series is also part of this.
  • Old-Timey Cinema Countdown: An old bumper starts off like a normal "clock" countdown, but Mickey Mouse pauses it, removes the circle, and replaces it with three circles that form the part of the DC logo shaped like his head.
  • 65-Episode Cartoon: The early Disney shows had this limit; That's So Raven was the first to exceed, and the rule was broken since.
  • Title, Please!: All Disney Junior shows since 2018 (starting with Fancy Nancy) have done away with title cards, but the titles are still spoken aloud. The same happened in newer seasons of first-run shows before said year.
    • This only applies to shows made in-house, however. Imported shows such as PJ Masks and Bluey are exempt from this practice.

Alternative Title(s): Disney Junior


Disney Channel

The Disney Channel logo from 2000.

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