EXCLUSIVE: Parents of kids of a certain age can breathe easier: The preschooler-targeted network has picked up Sofia The First and Doc McStuffins for third seasons and Jake And The Never Land Pirates for a fourth. All three Disney Junior shows ranked among the top cable series among kids 2-5 last year and in the top 10 preschooler cable TV series in total viewers and women 18-49. Sofia The First, which follows the adventures of Disney’s first little-girl princess, has been on a tear ratings-rise: Last month’s special Sofia The First: The Floating Palace was the second-most-watched telecast in cable TV history in the kids 2-5 demo and No. 1 in scores of other preschool demos. It and Doc McStuffins, about a 6-year-old girl who runs a clinic for her stuffed animals and toys, also are nominated for Annie Awards. Jake And The Never Land Pirates, featuring a crew of kid pirates alongside the classic characters Captain Hook and Mr. Smee, was Annie-nommed the previous year. All three series air daily on Disney Junior and Disney Channel and are seen in more than 130 countries.
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Here’s proof that time-shifted viewing and a target demo whose schedules are horribly unpredictable (at least in a certain Deadline editor’s house) equals victory: Disney said today that its Disney Channel special Sofia The First: The Floating Palace was watched by 7.6 million total viewers last week based on Live+7 ratings, making it the second-most-watched telecast in cable TV history in the kids 2-5 demo and No. 1 in scores of other preschool demos. The only show to beat it? The Sofia The First movie (8.2 million viewers) that officially launched the princess franchise in November 2012. The audience for Floating Palace more than doubled in the time-shifted metric in kids 2-5 (2.63 million vs. 1.10 million) and girls 2-5 (1.85 million vs. 706,000), and grew double digits in total viewers (7.62 million vs. 4.72 million), adults 18-49 (2.15 million vs. 1.40 million) and women 18-49 — aka moms — (1.43 million vs. 911,000). At least around here, our own personal Nielsen viewer watches episodes multiple times and almost never when they’re actually on TV unless by accident, so these kinds of numbers make sense — though the viewership numbers are impressive nonetheless.
Disney Junior is in production on its first original TV movie, a toon about a rubber ducky with a broken squeaker who’s trying to find a good home. Christian Borle, Megan Hilty and Tom Cavanaugh lead the voice cast for Lucky Duck, which is set to premiere in summer 2014 in the U.S. then go to Disney Junior channels around the world. Directed by Don Kim and written by Michael G. Stern, the pic follows Lucky (Borle), who fails an inspection at the toy factory but fortunately ends up in a shipping crate with approved toys. After accidentally being tossed off a cargo ship, the ducky teams with tub toys including a sassy hippo (Hilty) and apprehensive turtle (Cavanaugh) for an adventure. Irene Weibel and Colin Bohm are exec producing Lucky Duck, which is produced by Nelvana in association with Disney Junior.
There appears to be a trend here that might disturb studios that released family films with the expectation of seeing a windfall from licensed merchandise sales. The new pre-holiday recommendations from Toys ‘R Us (it lists its “Fabulous 15″) and Walmart (it has 23 items it says were “Chosen by Kids”) feature TV characters including Disney Junior’s Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins, Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Sesame Street’s Elmo. But when it comes to films, Toys ‘R Us suggests one from Universal’s Despicable Me 2, and Walmart has something from Disney’s Planes — but there’s nothing from DreamWorks Animation’s Turbo, Fox’s Epic, Pixar’s Monsters University, or Sony’s Smurfs 2. It’s a sign of a larger trend says International Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association SVP Marty Brochstein. “TV seems to be grabbing more of the attention and shelf space,” he says. Some film properties were hurt by the summer’s animation glut. Read More »
Cinedigm has inked a deal on the animated CG show The Hive, the youngster franchise catering to the pre-school set aired globally in 150 international markets including Disney Junior. The pact with Hive Enterprises, Bejuba! and Disney Junior covers North American home video, VOD, and digital rights to all 26 half-hour episodes of the series about the Bee Family – Buzzbee, Pappa Bee, Mamma Bee, and Rubee – who live in Honeybee Hive. The show debuted on Disney Junior in 2012. Joester Loria Group reps US licenting with domestic and international brand partners extending across puzzles, iOS and other apps, educational toys, furniture, plush toys, music, and more. Cinedigm will put out three new Hive DVDs on November 5 in addition to a digital release for Season One: A Very Buzzbee Christmas, Buzzbee’s Family Adventures, and Party in Honeybee Hive.
As Disney Junior has successfully established itself as a programming block on the Disney Channel and a standalone cable channel, the executive in charge of it, Nancy Kanter, is getting a promotion. Kanter, previously SVP, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide, has been upped to EVP, original programming and general manager, Disney Junior Worldwide. “Nancy’s vision for Disney Junior has transformed it into a creative powerhouse for our youngest viewers and their parents,” said Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer, Disney Channels Worldwide, to whom Kanter reports. Under Kanter, Disney Junior delivered its biggest year (2012) on record for the programming block on Disney Channel and the year’s top 3 cable TV series among Kids 2-5 led by breakout hit Sofia The First, cable TV’s #1 preschool series, which just hit another series high. Since reporting public ratings (as of April 1, 2013), the 24-hour Disney Junior channel, which launched in March 2012, has ranked as TV’s #1 preschool-dedicated network for 16 consecutive weeks among Kids 2-5, outperforming Nick Jr. by double digits and Sprout by triple digits each week. Kanter joined Disney Channel in 2001 and led the rebrand of Playhouse Disney to Disney Junior.
EXCLUSIVE: Production in underway on Disney Junior‘s animated series Miles From Tomorrowland, a space adventure for preschoolers that will follow the voyages of young adventurer and his family. The order will see the series, from creator/executive producer Sascha Paladino (Ni Hao, Kai-lan), air worldwide on Disney Junior and its programming blocks in 2015. “We hope this series will influence a child’s interest in science and technology by introducing them at an early age to the exciting world of space exploration, how things work and what lies beyond the here and now”, said Nancy Kanter, SVP Original Programming and GM of Disney Junior Worldwide. A production of Wild Canary in association with Disney Junior, the series charts the missions of the Callisto family — 7-year-old Miles, big sister Loretta and their scientist parents Phoebe and Leo, who work for the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. Each episode will feature two 11-minute stories.
On the heels of Disney Junior‘s breakout hit Sofia The First hitting series highs for two consecutive weeks, the pre-school animated series has been renewed for a second season. Sofia the First, which airs on Disney Channel‘s daily programming block for preschoolers Disney Junior as well as the 24-hour channel Disney Junior, is the top cable TV series among Kids 2-5, Girls 2-5 and Boys 2-5. It launched with the ratings records-breaking TV movie Sofia The First: Once Upon A Princess and has spawned a successful soundtrack album. Sofia The First toy and apparel lines and theme park attractions are also in the works.
The animated series debuts on Friday, January 11 at 9:30 AM on Disney Channel and at 5:30 PM on Disney Junior. The premiere dates announcement comes just more than a week after the series’ special Sofia The First: Once Upon A Princess delivered 5.2 million total viewers on Disney Channel, becoming the top cable telecast of 2012 among kids 2-5 and girls 2-5. Created for kids ages 2-7, Sofia The First tells the story of Princess Sofia, an adventurous girl who is adjusting to royal life after her mom marries the king and she becomes a princess overnight. The series features the voices of Ariel Winter as Sofia; Sara Ramirez as Queen Miranda, Sofia’s loyal and caring mother; Wayne Brady as Clover, Sofia’s wise-talking rabbit sidekick; and Tim Gunn as Baileywick, the castle’s royal steward. The guest voice cast includes Eric Stonestreet, Viola Davis, Bonnie Hunt, Ellie Kemper, Megan Mullally, Kiernan Shipka and Jeffrey Tambor. Craig Gerber (Pixie Hollow Games) developed the series and serves as co-executive producer and story editor. Jamie Mitchell (Special Agent Oso) is executive producer and director. Sofia The First is a production of Disney Television Animation.
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Show of hands: Who thinks it’s a coincidence that DirecTV made this addition to its children’s offerings the same week that its 20M customers lost Viacom’s 17 channels including Nickelodeon, Nick Jr, and Nicktoons? Of course the satellite company doesn’t actually make that connection in today’s announcement: That would have been insulting to Disney. And who knows? Maybe DirecTV would have made the addition anyway. Still, its hard to avoid seeing this in the context of the spat with Viacom. The release notes that Disney Junior, which targets kids age 2-7, is “one of the most sought after channels by DirecTV customers and will be permanently added to their programming options as a basic channel.” This is the first year that Disney Junior is operating as a 24/7 channel; it launched last year as Disney Channel’s daytime programming block. “When it comes to children and families, nobody has the tremendous programming to compare with Disney,” DirecTV EVP Derek Chang says. “DirecTV is happy to place our trust in Disney as a partner in building this exciting new family service.” Beginning tomorrow, Disney Junior will appear on channel 289, right next to Disney Channel.
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During Day 1 of ABC-Disney portion of TCA, the group revealed that its Disney Junior channel now has a launch date: midnight on March 23. The 24-hour channel that will target kids 2-7 and their parents is replacing SoapNet, which is being phased out. Disney Junior started life in 2010 as a programming block on Disney Channel; that block will remain after the launch. “This marks the beginning of a sea change in the ‘preschool plus’ television landscape,” Disney Channels Worldwide president and COO Gary Marsh said in the release announcing the news. “The response to our Disney Junior programming block has been extremely positive from both our affiliate partners and our viewers’ parents. On March 23, when it launches as a stand-alone channel, our audience will have the opportunity to experience an engaging, learning-focused and uniquely Disney destination on a 24-hour basis.” Disney Junior will include runs of existing shows Jake And The Never Land Pirates and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and new show Doc McStuffins, as well as a weekend movie block.
Meanwhile, Disney XD said it will launch a dedicated Marvel programming block, Marvel Universe,on April 1. It will include the new series Ultimate Spider-Man and the return of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes new among animated short-form series and live-action interstitials that target the channel’s boys 6-14 demo.
Peter Pan himself will make his first appearance in Disney Channel’s Jake and the Never Land Pirates in a primetime special Monday, February 13. In the episode Peter Pan Returns the character comes back to Pirate Island in search of his lost shadow. Adam Wylie (Picket Fences) voices Peter. The episode features six new songs. Sharon Osbourne, Josh Duhamel, Jane Kaczmarek and Tiffani Thiessen voice recurring roles. Other voice cast members include David Arquette, Tori Spelling, Lisa Loeb, Adam West and Ariel Winter. Season two of Jake and the Never Land Pirates debuts Monday February 20 with new episodes daily at 8:30 a.m. ET/PT as part of Disney Channel’s Disney Junior programming block for kids age 2-7.
Disney said today that it is introducing a new princess fairytale line beginning next year with the launch of Sofia The First, which will premiere as an animated TV movie in fall 2012 and continue as a series set to bow in spring 2013 on Disney Channel and Disney Junior channels worldwide. It will be the first time among Disney’s storybook princesses franchises that the main character is a little girl, who is whisked off to a glamorous but often confusing castle world of royalty, pomp and new step-siblings after her mom marries the king. The idea is to target the preschool demo. “In Sofia, we have a ‘peer to peer princess,’ a relatable girl experiencing the same social issues as our young viewers – learning how to fit in, making new friends, conquering new skills and building sibling relationships,” said Nancy Kanter, SVP Original Programming and General Manager of Disney Junior Worldwide. Ariel Winter (ABC’s Modern Family) will provide the voice of Sofia; the voice cast also includes Sara Ramirez (Grey’s Anatomy) as Queen Miranda; Wayne Brady (Whose Line Is It Anyway?) as Clover, a wise-talking rabbit; and Tim Gunn (Project Runway) as Baileywick, the family’s Royal Steward. Read More »