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Introduction

This wiki page/article covers the history of Disney Channel UK (and to an extent, Europe, Middle East and Africa) between 1995 and 2020, you may also be interested in some other related wiki pages which covers some of the topics discussed on this page in more detail. When combined, these articles give a much more comprehensive history of Disney's channels in the UK and the rest of Europe. This article also specifically discusses the technical and operations aspects of Disney's channel business in Europe.

Disney Channel UK's First Day Schedule (1st October 1995): Includes information about the channel's pre-launch and launch, also includes the schedule of the channel's first day, and first full day.

Disney's Original Plan Was To Rename Fox Kids In Europe As Toon Disney: When Disney purchased Fox Kids Worldwide in 2001, it was reported that there was a plan to rename the Fox Kids branded channels as Toon Disney in Europe.

Jetix U.S. and Europe Branding History (2004-2010): This page covers the branding history of Jetix in the U.S. and Europe, Jetix was originally Fox Kids in Europe, and was eventually rebranded as Disney XD in 2009-2010. Some Jetix channels became Disney Channel in countries where a Disney Channel did not already exist.

Netherlands and Poland: The Last Countries In Europe To Still Have Disney XD: A page analysing why Disney XD still exists in the Netherlands and Poland, Disney XD Netherlands is tied-up in a joint-venture and Disney XD Poland is not 100% owned by Disney.

The End Of Disney Channel UK (1st October 2020): This page covers the end of Disney Channel UK (as well as Disney XD and Disney Junior), includes analysis on why the channel closed, and the channel's final schedules.

Super RTL Was Originally Going To Be A Temporary Channel Until Disney Channel Launched In Germany: Not long before Disney Channel launched in UK (and Europe) for the first time, Disney already formed a partnership with RTL in Germany to launch a channel called Super RTL, the channel was originally going to be a temporary channel until Disney regained its programming rights after its contracts with other broadcasters have expired and then it would launch Disney Channel in the country. However, the channel became a permanent fixture in children's broadcasting in Germany, and was profitable for both Disney and RTL.

Secondary Articles of Interest

The following are wiki pages/articles that are slightly relevant to this page, they're not necessary to read, but helps to give a greater understanding and a greater view of the broadcasting history of Disney's channels for those who are interested:

The Mystery of Jetix Portugal: There was plans to launch Jetix in Portugal, but this was abandoned, and Disney decided to licence and distribute its content to third-party broadcasters instead.

Fox's Failed Joint Venture Negotiations with TCC (The Children's Channel) In The UK: This happened before Disney had involvement in Fox Kids (later Jetix, and Disney XD), however it forms part of the channel's overall history, in fact the planned partnership with TCC happened before Fox Kids launched in the UK.

Fox Kids Europe Was Granted A Trademark Licence To Use The Fox Kids Name After Fox Sold Their Shares To Disney: When Fox Kids Worldwide was sold to Disney in 2001, Disney had permission to use the Fox Kids name in Europe. However, this caused legal hurdles when distributing Fox Kids Europe produced content in the United States, which lead to the introduction of the Jetix brand, this is also discussed in more detail on the Jetix U.S. and Europe Branding History (2004-2010) page.

Fox Kids Europe Game "FoxRiders" Rebrand Package: An award-winning branding era of Fox Kids Europe, the branding was produced by a video games company and was developed using a game engine, it featured a variety of several 3D environments.

Disney Was Granted Short-Term Permission To Use The Fox Brand Name For International TV Channels: Similar to Disney being given permission to use the Fox Kids name, Disney was also granted permission to use the Fox brand name for all its international TV channels for up to five years (in-line with current usage at the time) when Disney purchased 20th Century Fox (which was eventually rebranded as 20th Century Pictures).

The Origins of Canal Panda: Canal Panda is a children's channel in Spain and Portugal, it has unusual origins, as it was a brand owned by U.S. broadcaster ABC and originally aired as a children's programming block in China called "Panda Club". Panda Club expanded to places such as India and in Spain and Portugal where it launched as a channel through a local joint-venture called Multicanal (with Disney eventually owning 50% in 1999). Panda Club quickly became Canal Panda and Disney acquired ABC in 1995, and from then up until 2005, Disney co-owned the channel.

Channel Launch

On 7th December 1994, Walt Disney announced that it has reached an agreement with BSkyB (British Sky Broadcasting) to launch "The Disney Channel" in the UK as a subscription service in Autumn 1995. Disney also announced that the channel will be available for free for Sky and cable subscribers who already subscribe to the Sky Movies package. Disney Channel UK will be the first Disney owned channel under their own brand. In January 1994, Walt Disney already announced a partnership with CLT Multi Media (RTL), to launch Super RTL in Germany.[1]

However, this wasn't the first time Disney ventured into the UK market in terms of broadcasting, in 1991 it made a joint bid for ITV's Breakfast franchise (runs nationally at 6am-9.25am) with LWT (London Weekend Television), STV (Scottish Television), and the Guardian Media Group, initially this consortium was called "Sunrise Television", but as Sky News' breakfast programme was called "Sunrise", they decided to change the name to GMTV (short for Good Morning Television).[2] With Disney being a shareholder, it allowed GMTV to have its own Disney children's programming block on Saturday mornings called Wake Up in the Wild Room, which later became Diggit (merging with STV's The Disney Club) in 1998, Diggit was later slightly rebranded to Diggin It in 2003, Diggin It used the same live-studio resources as Disney Channel's Studio Disney live-show, which is explained in more detail in this article. GMTV also aired on children's programming on ITV2 (later moved to ITV4) under the block "GMTV2".[3][4]

On 25th August 1995, it was announced that Disney Channel will launch in the UK and Ireland on 1st October 1995, broadcasting daily from 6am to 10pm on channel/transponder 26 (timesharing with Sky Movies Gold) on Astra 1B. It was confirmed that Disney Channel UK will be a subscription only channel and will not carry advertising. The new channel promised to deliver family entertainment, with programming aimed at all members of the family. The programming schedule of Disney Channel UK was to include dramas, comedies, cartoons, documentaries and feature films from the Disney archives, including TV premieres of The Jungle Book and Cool Runnings. For the channel's launch, Disney signed up advertising agency Mellors Reay & Partners to help promote the channel, with media service handled by BBJ Media Services Ltd.[5]

Disney Channel UK's studios and broadcast playout facilities were based at Teddington Studios (was used by former ITV franchisee Thames, which ended its London weekday franchise at end of 1992, losing to Carlton) for the first year of broadcasting and then they moved to their other location at Thames' old HQ at Stephen Street, in the year before Disney Channel UK launched, Pearson purchased Thames' TV production business. In the early broadcasting days of Disney Channel in the UK, Pearson also provided playout and transmission services for the channel.[6]

The Production Design Company (partly owned by Pearson Television, now defunct) also did title sequences, channel promotions and campaigns for the channel.[7][8]

Disney Channel UK's first branding package was developed by Lambie-Nairn (founded by famous television branding designer - Martin Lambie-Nairn, now a part of Superunion).[9][10] Lambie-Nairn created a brand identity where various playful animations would end up with the iconic Mickey Mouse silhouette alone on screen. When The Disney Channel later expanded into other markets, it brought this identity with it.[11] "Disney was one of the world’s biggest and most powerful brands.

Regarding his branding work on The Disney Channel, Lambie-Nairn himself said: "When Disney decided to extend their Disney Channel franchise to the UK, they recognised the need to take account of cultural differences outside the United States. The task was to customise the well-known brand for television viewers in the UK and elsewhere. Their solution was simple, yet devastatingly effective. Following the success of their brand identity in the UK, Disney proceeded with their plan to use it in other TV territories around the globe."[112][12]

Just like Lambie-Nairn's recent branding package for the new London Weekday ITV franchisee - Carlton which debuted in 1993, the Disney Channel UK launch package also made use of the Gill Sans typeface, two years before the font was adopted by Lambie-Nairn's rebranding overhaul for the BBC, where the font was famously used in its logo and presentation (up until it was replaced by its in-house font - Reith in 2021/2022).

Within two weeks after launch, the ITC (Independent Television Commission, now a part of Ofcom) already contacted and investigated Disney Channel on how Disney products, attractions, and services are promoted. The channel claimed that it's free from advertising, but was asked by the ITC to clearly defined self-promotion breaks for promoting its own products and services. As agreed between Disney and the ITC, the breaks were signified by the appearance of an Disney Consumer Arcade graphic.[13]

Disney Channel's First Rebrand "Blue and Red"

On 22nd March 1997, was the launch of Disney Channel France, the channel launched with a brand new branding package which is often referred to as "Blue and Red", the new logo consists of one large blue splat and two small red splats, forming the shape of Mickey Mouse's head.[14][15][16] This splat logo was previously seen as an Disney Channel ident on Disney Channel UK, as part of Lambie-Nairn's original broadcast package. The brand new Disney Channel branding used by Disney Channel France was developed by French design house - Jus De Prod,[17] the rebrand was introduced in the UK that July. Idents also feature Mickey Mouse's head consisting of various blue and red objects. Before this rebrand, the channel was called "The Disney Channel", the "The" was dropped from the name, and was titled "Disney Channel" for the rest of the channel's life.

A couple of weeks after the French launch, Disney Channel launched in the Middle East and North Africa region on 2nd April 1997 on the Orbit (now OSN) satellite television platform, the channel was broadcast to 23 different countries and was a 24-hour service with programming having an Arabic audio option or with Arabic subtitles.[18]

In July 1997, the ITC investigated Disney Channel's marketing methods and found that were improper because the channel was supplied as "free" to cable customers who were already paying for a minimum two premium film channels (both Sky Movies and The Movie Channel). Cable companies wanted to be able both supply the channel to subscribers as a standalone channel and as a promotional bonus channel to premium channel subscribers.[19]

Following the ITC investigation, Disney Channel became available to Sky and to cable operators as a separate premium service on 2nd March 1998. To help promote the channel's new wider availability, Disney Channel offered three days of unencrypted programming from Saturday 21st to Monday 23rd March 1998 as part of its "Big Free For All" campaign.[20]

In September 1997, Disney decided to make more of the continuity links between programmes and CTV (Corinthian Television) was contracted out to do them at St John's Wood Studios, after a run of many interstitials, this eventually became "Disney Channel UK Live".

Between 1998 and the early 2000s, Disney Channel launched in Spain (17th April 1998),[21] Italy (3rd October 1998),[22] Germany (16th October 1999),[23][24] and Scandinavia (28th February 2003).[25][26]

On 6th December 1998, it was announced that Disney Channel UK has appointed Paul Robinson, the former managing director of Talk Radio, as its new managing director and vice president, and became responsible for the channel's day to day operations, including all programming and marketing. Paul Robinson takes the place of Tom Wszalek, who then became the senior vice president for digital TV development at Walt Disney Television International.[27]

On 15th February 1999, Disney Channel UK is introduced a new evening movie slot, the channel started airing a different family movie every night, on weekdays and at weekends, at 7pm, the first movie in this new schedule slot was Disney's The Sword in the Stone.[28]

Circles Era, Launch of Toon Disney and Playhouse Disney

Disney Channel UK rebranded on 1st September 1999 with a brand new graphics package created by French production company Gedeon, this new graphic package was also rolled out to Disney Channel's international feeds, but not the United States, this branding era was also commonly known as "Circles". With the new branding also came a new autumn schedule, and a brand new daily schedule structure, what was publicly known at the time included a "pre-school zone" (which became known as "Playhouse Disney") from 9am to 2pm, the "Children's Zone" from 2pm to 7pm, and the "Family Zone" (known as the "The Wonderful World of Disney") from 7pm to midnight.[29]

The new branding package was largely focused on the Mickey Mouse head and ears logo, all the sell-promotion kits and the idents start and end with it. More than 30 illustrators, animators, graphic designers and directors worked on the rebranding project.[30]

The pre-school zone's line-up included Winnie the Pooh and cookery series called Bite Size, produced by Walt Disney Television International in the UK. The children's zone featured Disney's animated version of live-action kids' series Sabrina the Teenage Witch and a live block (Disney Channel UK Live) produced in London by Buena Vista Productions. Micro Soap, which BVP co-produces with the BBC, and Crash Zone, a co-production with Australia's Children's Television Foundation, were recommissioned for the block. The family zone promised to included the pre-existing nightly movie slot airing at 7pm.

In 2000, Corinthian became part of Thomson Multimedia and were simply known as Corinthian Television Facilities. Corinthian quickly realised that their company would make a lot more money if they were to look after all the requirements of the channel including post production and playout, and not just the live studio links.

In September 2000, Disney Channel announced that they will launch three new channels on the Sky Digital satellite TV platform. Disney's brand new pre-school channel - Playhouse Disney (based on the pre-existing programming block) promised to broadcast 15 hours of daily programming for pre-school kids, expanding on the five hour programming block. Disney's brand new animation channel - Toon Disney promised to show animation and behind-the-scenes documentaries. Also announced was the one hour timeshift service for Disney Channel - Disney Channel + 1.[31][32] When Toon Disney and Playhouse Disney launched in the UK, the channel's followed the same branding scheme ("Circles") as Disney Channel at the time.

Channel manager Paul Robinson said that the new structure helps Disney address a problem it had in being "lots of different channels in one". Cramming cartoons, pre-school and family entertainment into one schedule, meant 'someone was always upset'. With the launch of two additional themed channels, Disney could then throw its whole weight behind each segment, simultaneously meeting the needs of different age groups.

Toon Disney was also crucial for Disney's multi-channel strategy as it provided a dedicated outlet for the world's best known animation factory. Before Toon Disney's launch in September 1999, only a third of Disney Channel's broadcast time was allotted to cartoon, according to Paul Robinson, a 24-hour cartoon channel was an obvious decision, with a lot more time to play with in the schedule, Disney promised to fit in original animations around the classics it's best known for.

Just before the launch of Toon Disney and Playhouse Disney (as a separate channel) in September 2000, Disney Channel had 4 million subscribers - a million more than in 1998. Both Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon have around 7 million subscribers, but both these channels are in basic satellite/cable packages, where as Disney Channel is a premium channel.

On 30th June 2001, Disney Channel ended its analogue satellite services on Sky, at the time Disney Channel said that 99% of its viewers were already digital customers. Making the upgrade to digital was more value for money for Disney Channel viewers as they can make use of Disney's two brand new digital channels, as well as the Disney Channel one-hour timeshift service, and for those who are subscribed to Disney Channel through Sky's movie package, they can also watch the new additional Sky Movie channels available on Sky Digital.[33]

In May 2001, Disney Channel UK introduced a brand new live after-school programming slot replacing "Disney Channel UK Live" called "Studio Disney" airing between 3pm and 7pm on weekdays. The programming block featured live links between programmes, such as cartoons, action dramas and comedies. Disney Channel UK already had a live programme before the introduction of the Studio Disney brand, but they decided to give it a "proper name and identity" and to make the feel of the show is "more pacey and quirky". Static Design, the broadcast design arm of Static 2358 (now defunct) , designed the Studio Disney identity, as well as an on-screen package including ten idents, stings, on-screen bugs, programme menus, and a style guide.[34] Studio Disney also featured a team of between two and six presenters who did the live links between programmes, the show gave viewers the opportunity to phone in and win prizes or appear as part of the small studio audience.

By 2002, Disney Channel's operations significantly expanded, there was a lack of space at St. John’s Wood Studios, knowing that they have a contract to fulfill, Corinthian took out a lease on a £15m purpose-built facility in Chiswick Park, West London (85,000 sq ft in size) and Disney Channel relocated their European operations hub there, with Corinthian responsible for everything in terms of providing broadcasting facilities for Disney.[35] Fox Kids Europe's (which was already majority-owned by Disney since late 2001) broadcasting operations also moved there in 2004 during the Jetix rebranding conversion process.[36]

Corinthian's/Disney's new studio facilities in Chiswick featured two new studios (with control rooms), 10 non-linear editing suites , two 3D Graphics origination suites, as well as multi-channel transmission/playout facilities (which includes six Transmission master control rooms and 4 multi-language audio dubbing suites). The brand new operation was one of the very first fully file-based automated environments involving digital robotic archive storage, digital asset management systems and server-based automated transmission playout.[37] The two studios, although not that large, were always busy and fully utilised – with one being the base for Studio Disney and the other regularly used for kids gameshows and other shows, this included the talent show Star Ticket. Disney is also know to record different versions of the same show for each Disney Channel in Europe (and other regions) on the same set in the same studio, an example of this is Art Attack, recorded in Buenos Aires, Argentina (pre-Disney it was recorded at Maidstone Studios, England).[38][39][40][41] A lot of shows use shared resources if they require the exact the same set for their international versions, it's cheaper and easier to do it that way, travel is not usually much of an issue, as episodes are usually recorded in blocks at a time. Art Attack's history with Disney is rather convoluted, so the following is an explanation.

An interesting sidenote about Maidstone Studios is that it was the main production base for TVS (Television South), the ITV franchise for the South and South East of England, and were the original producers of Art Attack, when Meridian took over the ITV Franchise in 1993, a large chunk of TVS's assets were sold to IFE (International Family Entertainment), this included the studio and the content archive, and launched a UK version of The Family Channel, IFE was sold to Fox Kids Worldwide in 1997,[42] but just before the sale in 1996, Maidstone Studios was sold to Flextech (Telewest's broadcasting division) as well as the rest of The Family Channel it didn't already own,[43] with the channel becoming Challenge TV (which is now simply named Challenge). As Disney acquired Fox Kids Worldwide (later known as Fox Family Worldwide) in 2001, Disney now owns the TVS archive, however this excluded the rights to Art Attack. The U.S. version of The Family Channel is now called Freeform.

The rights to Art Attack's show format got into Disney's hands through a different route, Neil Buchanan (the show's presenter and co-creator) bought the rights from TVS as soon as they lost their ITV franchise and then he set up his own company called The Media Merchants based at Maidstone Studios (and produced Art Attack in-association with Scottish Television as a method to remain on the ITV network, as TVS's head of Children's Programmes - Nigel Pickard moved to Scottish Television),[44][45] he then sold the company to Gullane (formerly The Britt Allcroft Company famous for Thomas The Tank Engine),[46] HIT bought Gullane out in 2002,[47] and then Disney purchased the rights from HIT.

On 12th March 2002, Walt Disney Studios Park opened at Disneyland Paris, which was loosely based on what is now called Disney's Hollywood Studios park at Walt Disney World in Florida. Alongside other brand new rides and movie/TV production themed attractions, the new park also had a specially built production studio for both Disney Channel France and Playhouse Disney France, but was also sometimes used by the UK versions of the both channels. The facilities also included the Television Production Tour which offered a behind the scenes look at the studios. When the attraction first opened, guests would be given a tour by a park Cast Member who would explain the different rooms. Overhead screens showed translations of what was being said in French. Later, a Disney Channel host (a presenter from different versions of Disney Channel in Europe provided commentary) took over the tour as shown on the overhead screens.[48]

In the first room, a pre-show video was shown with images from recent Disney Channel movies at the time, as well as a teaser of what was upcoming in the tour. In the second room, guests could have a look at the real studio control room through glass windows. The third room was originally a studio where television shows where recorded, guests could see filming taking place through a glass window. When Disney Channel closed the studios, an art exhibition featuring artwork send in by children was put in place, as well as a few interactive features (like a chroma key screen aka "greenscreen") . Visitors got to see The Zapping Zone studio set during the Television Production Tour (both during filming and when it's not used). The Zapping Zone was the name of Disney Channel France's live-continuity show which ran from the channel's launch in 1997 and up until 2005, it was the French equivalent to Disney Channel UK's Disney Channel Live/Studio Disney.[49][50]

The after show room was also called The Zapping Zone (named after the live show) and provided a large selection of interactive games to play. These originated from Disney Quest Chicago, which closed late 2001. The main attraction in The Zapping Zone was Cyberspace Mountain (a reference to Space Mountain in the main Disneyland park) in which guests could design their own roller coaster on a computer and later ride it in an enclosed seat that would move with the virtual coaster on screen.

The studios and studio tour was short-lived as the Television Production Tour closed in 2006 to make way for Stitch Live! and later Playhouse Disney Live on Stage!.

In November 2004, under a rebranding exercise, Corinthian's parent company - Thomson Multimedia became known as Technicolor, as Thomson owned the US film technology company. Corinthian itself became part of Technicolor Network Services.[51] Technicolor continued to provide playout services for Disney Channel until its contract expired in 2012.[52]

Mickey Mouse Corner Logo Era

In 2003, Disney Channel UK rebranded, by using the revamped graphics package and logo developed by US-based design studio - Razorfish (Razorfish's broadcast design studio was spun-off and became known as CA Square and later became Realistic Studio), the new graphics package was also a global rollout and for the first time also puts the European versions of Disney Channel inline with the U.S. version in terms of presentation. The project took 12-months to complete, and it was the first time Disney Channel's look has been refreshed in more than five years. The new graphics package incorporates a "contemporary combination" of Walt Disney’s signature and a three-circle shape symbolising Disney's mascot Mickey Mouse, with the logo present in the corner of the screen in bumpers, as well as the channel's DOG/Bug. According to Disney, the graphics package also has the flexibility for international markets to incorporate local references.[53][54]

In addition to Disney Channel, CA Square also did branding presentation work for the Toon Disney TV channel, We Are Seventeen (for the Toon Lab bumpers)[55][56] as well as BDA (Bruce Dunlop Associates) Creative. We Are Seventeen also provided the branding package for Disney Channel's Freekend programming block.[57] In 2003, Playhouse Disney in the UK (and elsewhere the channel was available in Europe) rebranded, using the new branding package from Beehive, which was based on the Disney Channel's package by Razorfish.[58] In the U.S., Playhouse Disney only existed as a programming block, when it became Disney Junior in 2010, it also finally became a channel, replacing SoapNet.[59] At the time, Beehive had an ongoing relationship with Disney in the U.S. to provide broadcast design services for the Playhouse Disney block.

This branding era also included the introduction of the "Wand" (also known as "Talent") idents, These idents usually consist of actors/actresses/cartoon characters from Disney Channel shows, in each ident they introduce themselves, which is often followed by what show or movie they are from, before saying "You're watching Disney Channel." and forming a Mickey Mouse ears Disney Channel logo with a sparkly coloured wand. The Disney Channel logo was in a variety of colours including Blue, Green, Red, Yellow, Purple, Pink, and Dark Blue.

The original set of the "Wand" idents were filmed in August 2002 at Storyville Pictures in Venice, California, and were edited by Guillotine Post in Atlanta, Georgia,[60][61] music (composed by Tonal Sound[62] and Elias Associates), sound effects, and visual effects were added during post-production by PMcD Design in New York City.[63][64]

Also January 2003, GMTV’s Diggit (Disney's weekend mornings programme on ITV) was relaunched as Diggin’ It and shared the same set as Studio Disney, this lasted until January 2005. Around that time, Disney was transitioning Disney Channel from a premium to a basic pay-TV children's channel, which meant austerity and cutbacks, in the U.S. it was already the case, so Studio Disney and its associated spin-off shows ended on 1st July 2005.  The two studios were mothballed, the production crews made redundant, cameras were removed but some of the equipment was moved to the post-production suites in the building.[65] Apart from CBBC, Disney Channel was the last (school-age) children's channel to have frequent live-continuity links during after-school hours, in-vision continuity was costly (with Disney being a premium service, the subscriptions cushioned the financial blow) and the children's television market was getting increasingly competitive, rival kids' TV channel Nickelodeon already abandoned it, and even a public service broadcaster such as ITV abandoned in-vision continuity links on its CITV programming block in 2004, with exception to Ministry of Mayhem and CD:UK on Saturday mornings.

On 17th August 2004, BSkyB signed a deal with The Walt Disney Company to launch a Disney branded games service on Sky Gamestar, which is the games section of Sky's interactive service. The new service was called "Disney Channel Play", and was made available to all of Sky Digital's 7 million customers and was also accessible via Disney's four channels in the UK (Disney Channel, Disney Channel +1, Playhouse Disney, and Toon Disney). All games have free demos, but viewers must pay to play them for longer or on a per-play or per-day basis.[66]

From 1st September 2004, Disney Channel UK temporarily expanded their schedule to become a 24 hour service.[67] However, Disney Channel UK permanently became a full-time 24/7 service from 11th September 2017, until the channel's close on 30th September 2020.[68] When Disney Channel became a 24/7 in 2017, the night schedule featured dubbed shows such as Disney's Violetta from Argentina and Disney's Binny and the Ghost (known as Billie and the Ghost in the UK) from Germany, plus the home-grown The Evermoor Chronicles.

Disney Channnel Moves To Basic Pay-TV Packages, Disney Cinemagic Replaces Toon Disney

In the UK, Disney Channel and Playhouse Disney stopped being a premium channel on 16th March 2006, joining alongside Jetix in the basic cable and satellite packages.[69] The premium aspect of Disney Channel (which is Disney's movies, and a selection of Disney branded animation) was merged with Toon Disney to create a new channel - Disney Cinemagic, which was a premium channel available as a standalone channel and as a bonus channel in Sky's movie packages. Disney Channel changed focus by airing more original sitcoms, and changing to a demographic mostly skewing towards girls. However, Playhouse Disney saw the least changes and continued their usual pre-school programming formula. ESPN Classic, a sports archive channel (80% owned by Disney, 20% owned by Hearst) also launched three days before on 13th March. Disney Cinemagic was subsequently rolled out across Europe replacing existing versions of Toon Disney in France and Spain, followed by launches in Germany, Portugal and Italy, Disney Channel ceased being premium in these countries as well.

Initially when Disney Cinemagic launched in the UK, it used a branding package made by Light Creative, featuring Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer's Apprentice from Fantasia.[70][71] Simon Dean (who later was creative manager at Turner, and founded his own design agency Spark + Glory) was a creative manager at Disney EMEA at the time and worked on the initial Disney Cinemagic branding, with Light Creative collaborating with Disney Channel quite often, especially for branding on Jetix. However, this presentation look didn't last very long, as BDA Creative was commissioned to produce a new branding package for Disney Cinemagic in 2007. The presentation package featured an empty studio being magically transformed into a variety of settings and themes, many of which were inspired by popular Disney properties, this included a jungle setting a road-trip setting, an undersea setting, an awards ceremony setting, a future setting, a jungle setting, and a European city at night setting.[72]

On 25th September 2006, Disney Channel launched in sub-Saharan Africa on Multichoice's DStv satellite television platform.[73][74] Disney Channel launched in Central Europe for the first time in December 2006, starting with the Polish market, adding 1.3 million subscribers, for other countries in Eastern Europe, Disney Channel soon came with the eventual replacement of Jetix.

In April 2007, Disney opened its Global Original Programming hub in London, which handles the development of live action and animated series for worldwide distribution outside the United States.[75]

For the 2008/9 season, the Disney Channels (across Disney Channel, Playhouse Disney, and Toon Disney), along with Jetix, had access to an excess of 445 hours of new programming. Three new Disney Channel Original Movies were announced that year: Princess Protection Program, Dadnapped and Hatching Pete, along with second seasons for Wizards of Waverly Place and Phineas and Ferb.[76]

In February 2008, Disney Channels Worldwide had a large management overhaul of its European operation ahead of a planned expansion, with the appointment of six new executives, including Michael Cairns as vice-president and general manager of Disney Channels UK and Ireland. Michael Cairns, originally joined Disney Channel UK in 1997, he was then promoted to become managing director and vice-president of Disney Channel Australia and New Zealand in 2004.

Michael Cairns replaced Robert Gilby, who then became senior vice-president and managing director of Disney-ABC International Television Asia-Pacific in January 2008. For the rest of Europe, Lars Wagner was appointed to the new role of vice-president and general manager of Disney Channel Germany, Switzerland and Austria, leaving his old role at Discovery Channel Germany. He was also previously business director at international TV branding and design agency Bruce Dunlop & Associates (aka BDA Creative, a company that worked on future Disney Channel branding projects) and creative director at Universal Studios Networks Germany. Helene Etzi was promoted from marketing director to vice-president and general manager of Disney Channel France.

Casper Bjorner became vice-president and general manager of Disney Channels Scandinavia and emerging markets. He was previously vice-president of marketing and deputy managing director for the same division. Nicoletta Gelli was promoted from vice-president of marketing EMEA to the new role of vice-president of brand marketing for Disney Channels EMEA, she became responsible for brand and franchise development. The introduction of the new brand marketing rule aligns the European Disney Channel team with Disney Channel USA.

Anna Hill was promoted to the new role of executive director of marketing for Disney Channels EMEA. She was previously marketing director for Disney Channels UK and emerging markets, running successful campaigns for the launch of properties including High School Musical.

Each of the new executives at the time reported to John Hardie, the executive vice-president and managing director of Disney Channels EMEA.

The new organisational structure follows Disney Channel EMEA's transition from premium to basic distribution, taking it from 14m to 32m households in Europe. The expansion includes the creation of dedicated franchise management. These changes steered the course of Disney Channel UK until the end of its existence.[77]

In January 2009, it was announced that Disney Channel UK has created an in-house sales team to forge commercial deals for the channel, both online (disney.co.uk) and on air. The channel opened up to allow brands to associate themselves with popular Disney properties such as Hannah Montana and High School Musical for the first time, this includes sponsorship around popular shows and movies, as well as sponsorship for special events and integrated campaigns across online and mobile platforms. Despite, this change to include sponsorship, the channel remained to be free from advertising.[113][78]

Disney XD Replaces Jetix, Disney Junior Replaces Playhouse Disney

On 13th February 2009 in the U.S., a brand new channel "Disney XD" replaced Toon Disney (and its Jetix programming block)[79], the channel mostly targeted the boy demographic (but still girl inclusive, in the same way Disney Channel was girl-focused, but boy-inclusive), new programming such as more new episodes of Phineas and Ferb was promised, as well as new live-action shows such as Aaron Stone. The U.S. launch also includes some Jetix Europe originals such as Kid vs Kat and Jimmy Two Shoes. In the UK, Disney XD launched on Summer Bank Holiday Monday 2009 (31st August), following the launch of the Disney XD brand in France on 1st April.[80][81] Just before the channel's launch, the General Manager for Disney Channels UK & Ireland Boel Ferguson described Disney XD as the "perfect vehicle" to build on the company's success in the children's TV market, and also said, "The exclusive new content will appeal to a broader target audience, while the Disney branding will create awareness and value".

To summarise, Disney XD was to be slightly different to Jetix, it still mostly focused on the boy demographic, but will have more live-action productions under the Disney banner and will also be a home for Disney's recent animated productions (for both boys and girls).

New York and Los Angeles based branding and creative agency - Loyalkaspar[82][83] was contracted by Disney to develop Disney XD's branding package, the branding package made use of live-action idents fused with CGI, with the Disney XD logo being the focus. The channel was now airing more live-action programming compared to when the channel was branded "Jetix" in the UK (and in other countries where Disney XD replaced Disney Channel), hence the need for live-action idents.


Argentina based branding design company 2veinte produced the rebrand package for Disney XD, including a reworked and lineless version of Disney XD's logo. For the rebrand, Disney had a list of specific requirements for the branding package, the branding package was required to have geometric shapes and symmetry, must be clean, must be current, creative, playful, fun, vibrant, and slightly boy-skewing. The branding was also required to feature the channel's various characters, both animation and live-action, and must be scalable across all platforms and devices. The branding package featured colours such as green, three shades of purple, pink, white, and even sky blue. A typeface called DXD Next was also especially developed for the channel, featuring various font weights (Light, Medium, Bold, and Heavy).[84][85]

In 2009, Disney finally sold their 25% stake in GMTV for a one-off cash payment of £18 million, giving ITV full control over the 6am-9.25am timeslot on its main network.[86][87]

In 2012, the Technicolor's playout contract for Disney Channel expired, and Encompass was signed up as the new playout provider and remained to provide playout services until the channel's closure in 2020. Throughout its history, Disney has always outsourced its playout operations, it never had an internal in-house operation, however over time, it made some media functions in-house such as production.

By 2013, Disney had 81 feeds across Europe, which were derived from 45 to 48 channels, with broadcast in 26 languages across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Disney had broadcast centres in the UK (the main European hub at Chiswick Park), France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Israel.

On 1st July 2013, both Disney Channel and Disney Junior (formally Playhouse Disney) started to carry advertising.[88]

Compared to other children's channel's Disney Channel's broadcasting requirements were a lot more demanding and more complex. When compared to other channels, Disney has stated that their branding was probably the most complex aspect of its channels. This related to how it promoted its channels on air, including tickers, bumpers and bugs/DOGs.

Disney’s complexity was its demand to show graphics at various points in the broadcast schedule, this was achieved with the use of broadcast flags on the playout system. When a flag was reached at a moment of time in the schedule, it triggered the automation system and the graphics device would play out the branding. This required a robust and stable solution to be able to trigger the bumper every single time it wanted the branding to go out, without any human intervention when things go to plan.

As this was after the end of Studio Disney in 2004, Disney no longer aired any live content with the exception of online voting where the results of the live vote were displayed instantly on the screen, which was another complex technical feature. The voting results were checked by mediators, but the playout schedule system automated the process, the voting information was sent straight through to an graphic engine in playout and then transmission.

Smartphone App Logo Era, Disney Channel Starts To Air Adverts

Up until July 2013, Jetix was the only children's channel with any connection to Disney to have advertising, with exception to GMTV's children's programming on weekend mornings on ITV and the pre-school block on short-lived channel - ABC1 (however during ABC1's first six months on the air, the channel had no adverts[89]). Disney sold their 25% stake in GMTV in November 2009, with ITV now having complete ownership of the 6am-9.25am breakfast television slot.[90] ABC1 closed in September 2007, despite having a strong audience during daytime hours, the channel could not broadcast during prime-time hours due to the UK's digital terrestrial television system - Freeview not having enough capacity, and in Wales, the channel was not available due to technical and capacity limitations on DTT at the time.[91] However, ABC1 did have a Playhouse Disney preschool programming block which started to air from Summer 2006.[92] When ABC1 closed in 2007, the satellite transponder capacity used by the channel became a one-hour timeshift version of Playhouse Disney.

In 2011, Disney Channel USA rebranded with a new branding package, featuring a smartphone-like version of the Disney Channel logo, this branding was introduced in Europe in 2012. This branding package was produced by Pembrook Creative, who also designed Radio Disney's current logo.[93] Pembrook Creative also went on to create the graphics for the Digital Signage for the launch of Disney XD in the U.S. in 2009, the graphics could be seen at ABC's Headquarters at Times Square in New York.[94]


During the "Smartphone App logo" era of Disney Channel EMEA, Beautiful Creative produced an movie ident for Disney Channel.[95] Also during this branding era, Beautiful Creative also provided the branding for "Disney Channel Top 10". The show features top 10 countdowns of Disney moments such as the top 10 Disney Movies.[96] Disney also approached the same design studio in 2017 to produce a Christmas presentation package for Disney Junior, which included five idents each featuring kids visiting a different Disney Junior character. The package also included promo packaging and countdown bumpers counting down to the big day.[97]

Also during Disney Channel's UK final decade, the branding had a more seasonal approach, with various studios providing branding work for Disney Channel, such as Mainframe for the Summer 2012 branding package.[98] Also, creative agency, Modus Operandi in the U.S. (often shortened to "Modop") also worked on the 2013 Summer Rebrand promo package.[99][100]


In March 2014, Disney Channel announced that a multi-part movie titled Evermoor was to be filmed in UK. The mystery adventure film will be shot on location in England, and became the first long-form UK series to air on the U.S. version of the Disney Channel. Lime Pictures (known for UK shows Hollyoaks, The Only Way Is Essex) produced Evermoor along with Disney's EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) studio.[101]

Curves Era

In Summer 2013, BDA Creative Munich won the contract to produce a rebrand package for Disney Channel, which will be rolled out worldwide.[102]

BDA Creative produced various Idents, a Generic Package, a Prime Time Package, ans also Seasonal packages for Summer, Autumn and Winter, plus two Specials for Monstober and Falalali Days. The rebrand doesn't have an specific name, but features several curves in its presentation.[103][104] The rebrand won a Promax North America 2015 Gold award in the Program Informational Graphics category.

Credits

BDA Creative München - Design Team

Art Direction for various elements: Anika Flade

Creative Direction: Tim Finnamore

3D/ Vfx: Jim Greenslade, Stefan Heckl

Jon Reynolds, a graphics designer at Disney, designed the style guide for the "Curves" rebrand, which was a set of instructions that Disney needed to follow to implement the new rebrand correctly and professionally.[105]

The End of Disney Channel UK

Disney Channel UK's Vibrant and Whimsical (and also Final) Rebrand.

Disney Channel UK's Vibrant and Whimsical (and also Final) Rebrand.

In February 2017, Disney Channel UK (unbeknownst back then) had its final rebrand, this rebrand package was developed in-house at Disney EMEA, led by Paul Noddings (aka NoddyDog).[106][107] The branding package was different to the U.S., Latin American and Asia-Pacific package (which was made by Makine Studios and came more than a year after the new EMEA package),[108] and was rolled out across websites, social media, advertising, the Disney Channel App (which was brand new at the time), and also the TV channel. This rebranding package featured vibrancy and playfulness by using strong bold colours, eye-popping patterns and whimsical doodles, which brought out the individual personality for each Disney Channel show, and its stars. A style guide was also produced providing instructions to Disney Channel feeds across the EMEA are on how the rebrand should be implemented.

On 18 March 2019, Disney Channel UK premiered a new locally-produced animated series 101 Dalmation Street. The show is based on a pitch by Anttu Harlin and Joonas Utti of Finland's Gigglebug Entertainment to Disney's original animation team in London. Both the Disney movie (both animated and live-action) One Hundred and One Dalmations, which was in turn based on Dodie Smith’s original 1956 novel of the same name were cited as inspirations behind 101 Dalmation Street. The team at Disney developed the plot with Passion Animation Studios, which produced the series, with Atomic Cartoons acting as the external animation services company.[109][110]

After the channel ceased broadcasting, Disney vacated the building at Chiswick Park and the building was handed back to the property's landlord in June 2021.[111] Even at the end of Disney's occupancy, the building still had the two original attached studios that were installed when Disney originally moved there. The facility was no longer needed due to the move to digital streaming distribution via Disney's new streaming platform - Disney+. Disney still has its Europe, Middle East, and Africa headquarters on Queen Caroline Street in Hammersmith, London (which is 3 miles away).

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