Animation History
March 17, 2014 posted by

The Launch of “Toon Disney”

toon-disney-movie-To a lot of us back in the 1990s, the very idea of a 24-hour television channel devoted to cartoons seemed like a fantasy – and when Ted Turner launched Cartoon Network in 1992 that fantasy came true.

Hard to believe it now, but back then nobody thought a Network devoted 100% to animation could work. But it did, big time, and it sent the other kids channels scrambling. It took several years but Disney launched its all animation channel – Toon Disney – in 1998 (Nickelodeon jumped in with its Nicktoons channel started in 2002).

Strangely enough, I found myself employed full time by Disney (TV Animation) in 1998. What I did there is the subject of another post someday – but I was slightly (almost invisibly) involved with the launch of Toon Disney. As I was on the payroll I was asked for some slight input – which I don’t think was ever used. I was also asked to contribute to the press kit. For one, I was asked to contribute some Trivia Questions – a 3-page, 27-question trivia quiz was inserted in the press packet.

For another, they had me “interviewed” and this interview was sent out to the media in the press kit. I’ve posted the interview below. It’s a little embarrassing – as, if you know anything about Disney, its not really “me” talking. It’s been heavily gone over by the Disney P.R. machine to sound as positive as they require. It’s not entirely bad… but I don’t think I’ve ever shown it to anyone before.

Below are several other items found in the launch press kit – including the original programming schedule and information on what was telecast the first day. I’ve posted some of this below (click thumbnails to enlarge). But first, just below, for historic purposes I’ve embed the first six minutes of Toon Disney – which I taped off the air on April 18th. There is some discrepancy over what time this was recorded… most of the press info says the programming began at 3pm ET/12pm PT, but the title card says it’s beginning at 10:30am …

As we all know, Toon Disney passed away on February 13th 2009 – since replaced by Disney XD. It was a good idea while it lasted, and it could have been great if they stuck to the original plan to run the “gold” in their library. But in the land of children’s cable, ’twas not to be…



  • Had no idea that even in it’s earliest days, it seemed to just stick entirely to Disney Afternoon and ABC cartoon properties. With all your talk of the “gold” theatrical short properties in your interview, one would think at least a half hour weekend slot could have been devoted to them, Vault Disney style. But nope, just the Saturday AM stuff.

    • It did seem like slim pickings really. I suppose I was hoping more for what The Disney Channel did in the 80’s and often picked up a lot of foreign toonage to play like the Unico movies I probably bought up earlier. This just seemed kinda weak.

    • Mickey Mouse Tracks, Quack Attack, and Magical World of Toons all featured classic Disney animation shorts.

    • How come mighty ducks and gargoyles aren’t on that launch schedule?

  • Nice work, Jerry.

  • It was a darn shame when Toon Disney died. Though even before then, it had already started to go downhill, taking some of their shows off to make room for the ever-expanding Jetix. It was at its best from about 2000 to 2005. I only wish I had taped more during that time.

  • Yeah, it’s a shame that the channel’s no more. Some Disney fans last year were hoping that Disney XD would become some D23 related channel as they devotied a fan block in honor of their bi-annual fan/company convention of the same name, but apperantly it wasn’t so successful (they didn’t do a good job on the 15 minute program about “Disney Legands”).

    Maybe when they finally break up that live-action production sitcom company that seems to think that Brewster show was the best family sitcom of all time and model every show after it, the channel (and Disney Channel) would change, but what would I know?

    • You’d think there would be an interest to devote a channel to that by this point. I would certainly watch it.

  • Watching the YouTube vid, I see whoever typed the message used a Videonics Titlemaker unit, I recognize those fonts/backgrounds anywhere! Perhaps that message was put together by a local cable operator on their side. My town barely carried Toon Disney at all and it wasn’t until it was too late and it became Disney XD, of course I didn’t get much use out of it already being a ‘grown up’ I suppose.

  • Speaking of Disney…
    Does anyone know if the company has any plans to release their shorts on Blu-Ray?

  • Wow. That dedicated evening of Mickey shorts they opened with may be the weakest selection I’ve ever seen… anywhere. They couldn’t have done worse if they actually tried to pick the specific titles in which Mickey had the shortest amount of screentime.

    • Well, it wasn’t that bad. I mean, to be fair, Mickey was becoming a secondary character by the time he got into color as pointed out on your book and Maltin in the introduction to “Mickey Mouse in Living Color Vol. 1”. But yeah, they could’ve streangthen the mini-Mickey marathon (pun not intended) by replacing some of the last stuff in the list with “The Band Concert”, “Thru the Mirror”, “The Pointer”, or even “Runaway Brain” and “Steamboat Willie”. Heck, I wouldn’t mind if they put some of the computer colorized black and white shorts in there even if the color schemes were extreamely questionable in those.

  • Great posting, Jerry. Who knew The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was the first cartoon to air on Toon Disney?

  • I loved Toon Disney, I remember having it on non-stop once my cable provider made it available. It gave me the chance to finally see the different Disney Afternoon series…that made me fall in love with the likes of DuckTales, Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, and Goof Troop. Along with some others like The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh thrown into the mix as well. It’s interesting to see the first six minutes of the station’s life there, and I guess it’s somewhat fitting to start with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment of Fantasia. Well…fitting to start with anything Mickey Mouse in general. Thanks for sharing this with us, brought back some great memories.

  • I never watched Toon Disney before back in the early days pre-Disney XD

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