Company gets boost from ESPN, 'Toy Story 3'
Disney Junior will officially replace Playhouse Disney on Feb. 14 as the brand for Disney TV programming aimed at kids in the 2-7 age range.Switchover marks the next stage in Disney’s plan to eventually split its Disney Channel youth programming into two networks. Disney Junior is scheduled to launch as a Stateside channel in 2012, replacing SoapNet. Even before that, Disney Junior channels will launch in 25 countries, some of which currently have dedicated Playhouse Disney nets. Three new half-hour series will premiere upon the Valentine’s Day debut of the Disney Junior program block on Disney Channel: “Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” “Babar and the Adventures of Badou” and “Tinga Tinga Tales.” They will be joined on the weekday schedule by current Disney Channel series “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “Handy Manny,” “Special Agent Oso,” “Jungle Junction,” “Chuggington” and “Imagination Movers,” the latter two with season premieres Feb. 14. “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” is exec produced by “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” alum Rob LaDuca via Disney Television Animation. Three other shortform interstitial series will bow on the Disney Junior launch date: “Special Agent Oso: Three Healthy Steps,” “Mickey Mousekersize” and “A Poem Is …,” which offers poems read by such stars as Jennifer Garner and Katie Holmes, set against classic Disney film imagery from films including “Dumbo,” “Bambi” and “Lady and the Tramp.” The programming block for Disney Junior will be 4 a.m.-2 p.m. ET/PT on weekdays and 4 a.m.-9 a.m. on weekends. Disney has been promoting the switch from Playhouse Disney in the U.S. since October.