Transition from Playhouse Disney begins

The public process of rebranding longtime kid TV favorite Playhouse Disney as Disney Junior moves full speed ahead Monday with the launch of a series of customized ads for the new venture on the Disney Channel.

The initial spot, to be unveiled during the primetime special “Handy Manny: Big Construction Job,” introduces the first of several variations on the new Disney Junior logo, in which the letters of the word “Junior” are clothed in the outfits worn by recognizable characters from each of the existing shows on Playhouse Disney. A “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” spot is scheduled to premiere Oct. 25.

“Each one has sort of a fun, play-along factor,” Disney Channels Worldwide senior marketing and creative veep Richard Loomis said. “Some of the letters of ‘Junior’ are very obvious in terms of which characters they express, and some are a little bit more subtle. … It’s simple, but it does have another layer.”

Playhouse Disney, the umbrella title for Disney Channel’s morning programming aimed at children 2-6, will be replaced by Disney Junior in early 2011, with the entire endeavor expanding to a 24/7 operation and migrating to its own channel in 2012 (replacing Disney-owned SoapNet).

The logos symbolize Disney’s effort to transfer long-standing allegiances into the new venture.

“As we started talking about Disney Junior more and more,” said Loomis, “one of the big concepts behind it was how we embrace the characters that kids love on (such shows as) ‘Handy Manny,’ ‘Mickey Mouse Clubhouse’ and ‘Imagination Movers,’ or just more broadly characters within the Walt Disney Co., into the overall logo and overall brand expression. The concept we really arrived at, which I think is simple yet forward-thinking … is one that does just exactly that.”

Online, Disney will also begin evolving its DisneyJunior.com website from a mere landing page into a fully developed site, mainly targeted at kids but with some content for parents. Overseas, all of Playhouse Disney’s 20-plus international outlets will switch to Disney Junior, though those efforts will lag behind the U.S. transition.

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