Sunday, July 26

Disney Afternoon

Many non-Americans may not know about this or people who were not kids from 1987 to 2000, the popular cartoons Duck Tales and Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers were part of a programming block known as "The Disney Afternoon," that ran from 3pm to 5pm. I used to love it and always looked forward fro the new cartoon to premiere at 4:30pm every fall. The Disney Afetrnoon aired in syndication, syndication is when shows are not part of a network channel. This is really rare these days. The only syndicated programs today are Jerry Springer and The Legend of the Seeker. The most popular syndicated shows known are Baywatch, Xena and Hercules.

Duck Tales started in 1987 and Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers started in 1989 on the Disney Channel with a 2 hour TV Movie that was split into four episode. DuckTales and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers started it all with one hour long cartoon block in 1989-1990. Disney invested a far greater amount of money into the TV series than they had previously been spent on animated series (Wuzzles and Gummi Bears). This was considered a risky move, because animated TV series were generally considered low-budget investments for most of the TV cartoon history. The studio gambled on the idea that a larger investment into quality animation could be made through syndication — a concept that worked well with live-action TV reruns, but which had only been used with inexpensive cartoon series that either recycled theatrical shorts from decades past or only featured low-budget animation.
In 1990, the Disney Afternoon officially began. Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears (created in 1985 for NBC and then ran on ABC in 1989) was put at 3pm with DuckTales and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers and TaleSpin was the first series presumably created expressly for The Disney Afternoon. When Tad Stones (Hellboy: Sword of Storms, Buzzlighter of Star Command and Darkwing Duck) first came up with the idea of the Rescue Rangers series, Chip 'n Dale were not part of the show, but Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg wanted established Disney characters to work with. Tale Spin was also supposed to have Lunchpad from Ducktales.

In 1991-1992, my favorite--Darkwing Duck premiered, the first spin-off from Ducktales. New episodes premiered on ABC and then went into the syndicated rotation. It lasted three seasons and ended in 1992. When a new cartoon came in at 4:30pm, the cartoon at 3pm was retired and the other cartoons were bumped up in time.

The popularity of the Disney Afternoon led to a temporary attraction at Disneyland called Disney Afternoon Avenue in 1991. Gadget's Go Coaster is the only remaining Disneyland ride to be based on the Disney Afternoon. At Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Mickey's Birthdayland was renamed Mickey's Starland in 1990. This new "land" featured a stage show called Mickey's Magical TV World and starred the new Disney Afternoon characters. I remember seeing Darkwing Duck, Tale Spin and the Rescue Rangers there, they all each had their own area on the stage.

In 1992-1993, Goof Troop joined the block. Because of the failure of the theatrical release of Ducktales the movie, the Goofy Movie lost too many refrences to Goof Troop. The only characters from Goof Troop that survived the movie were Max and Pete's son, who had grown in age. In 1993-1994 season, Bonkers was added. I will cover more on Bonkers in my next post. In the 1994-1995 season this practice changed somewhat, as Gargoyles and Shnookums and Meat premiered at 4:00 p.m. Aladdin aired at 4:30pm. Also, the practice changed again as Bonkers was replaced with the 1996-1997 season, which featured Darkwing Duck, Gargoyles, Aladdin and Quack Pack. At 4:30pm, The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa ran on Mondays, and The Mighty Ducks, on Fridays and Quack Pack ran on the other weekdays.

Many Disney cartoons on the Disney Afternoon alternated from CBS and ABC for their first run. Mighty Ducks started in 1996 and new episodes aired on ABC, while Timon and Pumbaa started in 1995 and new episodes aired on CBS. Disney's The Little Mermaid Animated Series aired from 1992 to 1994 on CBS. Raw Toonage (which ran in 1992) and The Schnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show (1993-1995) also ran on CBS. All other series aired on ABC like Winnie the Pooh, Darkwing Duck, etc. Gummi Bears was the only Disney cartoon to air on NBC, I believe.

'First-run' means to run first with new episodes, not repeats. I am aware many of the Disney Afternoon shows have been on the Disney Channel or Toon Disney, but they did not premiere or star on Toon Disney.

Disney Afternoon Cartoons to first-run air on CBS, other than syndication:
The Schnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show (1993-1995)
Aladdin (1994-1995)
The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa (1995-1998)

Disney Afternoon Cartoons to first-run air on ABC, other than syndication:
Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears (1989-199o), it originally ran on NBC from 1985-1999.
Chip n' Dale's Rescue Rangers (1989-1990)
Darkwing Duck (1991-1992)
Goof Troop (1992-1993)
Gargoyles (1996-1997), it ran from 1994-1997
Mighty Ducks (1996-1997)
Disney's 101 Dalmations: The Series (1997-1998)
Hercules (1998-1999)
Disney's Doug (1996-1999)

Disney Afternoon Cartoons to first-run air on Disney Channel, other than syndication:
Chip n' Dale's Rescue Rangers (1989-1990)
Bonkers (1993-1995)

Non-Disney Afternoon Disney Animated Series:
(These series were from Disney but were not part of the Disney Afternoon)
The Wuzzles (1985-1986), CBS and (1986-1987), ABC
The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1988-1991), ABC
Raw Toonage (1992), CBS
The Little Mermaid (1992-1994), CBS
Disney's House of Mouse (2001-2003), ABC

By the time of 1997-1998, Disney Adventures had been reduced from 2 hours to a 90 minutes. By 1997, The Disney Afternoon was terminated as a formally named series. DuckTales, Quack Pack, Mighty Ducks on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Disney's 101 Dalmatians: The Series. In 1998-1999, it was Disney's 101 Dalmatians: The Series, Disney's Doug, and Hercules: The Animated Series. At the same time, local stations found it hard to comply with FCC restrictions on children's advertising in terms of allowed quantity and content and still remain profitable in such blocks. Still, FOX, UPN, and WB wanted to try to hold on to children's programming during the week. Disney continued the 90-minute syndicated block until the Fall of 1999, at which time UPN made a deal for Disney to take programming control over their children's block, which had struggled to find an audience under two iterations as a general cartoon block and with programming targeting young teenage girls.

By 2002, Fox Kids had died and there was no longer weekday afternnon cartoons on Fox. While Kid's WB's weekday slot ended in 2001, Kids' WB ceased airing weekday morning programming, and gave that slot to the local affiliates. On January 6, 2006, the weekday afternoon Kids' WB block was dropped "at the request of the local affiliates", replaced by Daytime WB. By the 1999-2000 television season, some remnants of The Disney Afternoon package were moved to Saturday mornings, solely on the ABC network, under the name Disney's One Saturday Morning. Weekdays, the remnants of this block aired on UPN affiliates under the name of Disney's One Too until its full discontinuation in the fall of 2003. These cartoons included Disney's Recess (1997-2003), Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000-2001), Digimon Frontier, Disney's Doug (1996-1999), Hercules: The Animated Series (1998-1999), Pepper Ann (1997-2001), Sabrina: The Animated Series (1999-200), The Legend of Tarzan (2001-2003) and The Weekenders (2000-2004). I will cover this more in detail on another post.