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Disney Junior has hired Joe D’Ambrosia to be its programming veep as it moves toward spinning off from Disney Channel.

D’Ambrosia, the co-founder of Murray Hill 5 Prods., has spent two decades in children’s programming and family films there and at Nickelodeon and Sony Pictures Family Entertainment. He will oversee development, production and programming at Disney Junior, which is changing its name from Playhouse Disney in preparation for its launch as a separate network in 2012.

“Joe is one of the most well-liked and well-respected people in the business, and we are thrilled to have him join our team,” said Disney Junior Worldwide senior veep Nancy Kanter, to whom he will report. “His past experience as a movie executive working with a wide range of writers and producers will open up new creative possibilities for Disney Junior.”

In addition to shepherding the launch of such series as “Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” D’Ambrosia will also develop projects, including a series starring Minnie Mouse and “Sofia the First,” set in the storybook world of classic Disney princesses.

Disney Junior officially replaces Playhouse Disney on Feb. 14 as the identity for Disney’s programming targeted at kids 2-7.