The New York Times informs us that the Big Mouse is converting one of its cable outlets to a franchise called Disney Jr.
Moving aggressively to expand its hold on children’s entertainment, the Walt Disney Company will close its SoapNet cable channel and replace it with a service aimed at preschoolers.
“Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” an interactive animated series for children and parents, is one of the new series planned for Disney Junior, a channel for preschoolers.
In 2012, Disney Junior will take the place of SoapNet ... Disney’s current preschool operation — a block of programming on Disney Channel and about two dozen Playhouse Disney international channels — will be rebranded Disney Junior starting next year.
“This represents the next step in a global preschool strategy that started 10 years ago with the introduction of dedicated channels overseas,” Ms. Sweeney said ...
With Disney Junior, the company has chosen a name that echoes the preschool brand operated by rival Nickelodeon, a unit of Viacom. Nick Jr. is a commercial-free channel that features programming like “Dora the Explorer” and “Team Umizoomi” and is available in 73.3 million homes. (Since Nick Jr. became a full-service cable channel in 2008, replacing Noggin, ratings have nearly doubled, indicating a demand for programming for preschoolers in the evenings.) ...
Disney TVA was roaring in the mid-nineties, producing lots of animated series for the "Disney Afternoon," also producing shows for overseas and long-form direct-to-videos (this was before the made-for-teevee animated feature department was spun off to become Disney Toon Studios.)
But recently? Sad to say, Disney Television Animation has been a pretty sleepy place, producing a handful of shows. Of late, the studio has focused on cartoons for tots. The old generalist days where DTVA was going after pre-schoolers, elementary and middle-school kids appear to be over, but with the advent of Disney Jr. ... there could be more kiddie fare.
And the studio will need equal numbers of board artists, designers and directors to make animation for the diaper and day-care set as it does for older kids. I like to think about that after talking to an artist or timing director who's looking for work.