Disney Channel’s first broadcasting day aired on April 18, 1983. At the inception, the Disney Channel only aired 18 hours a day from 7:00 AM to 1:00 AM. 24-hour programming would begin in December 1986. The channel’s programming on the first day on the air was an episode of the 1950s-era Mickey Mouse Club.
During the 1980s, the channel debuted a few programs that later became part of the cultural lexicon of sorts. Early in the network’s existence, in 1984, the musically-oriented sitcom Kids Incorporated became popular. In early 1989, The Disney Channel revived one of Disney’s early TV staples with The All-New Mickey Mouse Club, which was an immediate hit and proved the basic Disney variety show formula could still work, unlike in the short-lived 1970s revival. This edition contained many of the features of the original, however the music was updated for a different generation of viewers.
In 1997, Disney Channel took on a revamped look and dropped the “The” in the network’s name, and split the network into three programming blocks—Playhouse Disney, comprising shows aimed at preschoolers; Vault Disney, featuring classic Disney material such as Zorro, The Mickey Mouse Club, the Disney anthology television series, older television specials and features such as The Love Bug; and the most distinct one, running from afternoon to late evening, called Zoog Disney, aimed at preteens and young teenagers up to the age of 15.
While Disney Channel moved from premium cable to basic cable on January 1997, most of the design elements changed three years later. The Zoogs were redesigned, and a new channel logo (which featured a 1930s-era Mickey Mouse on a black Mickey ear-shaped TV), was introduced in 1997. In 1998, Zoog Disney was introduced to Disney Channel meaning they would have two logos, the “Disney Channel TV” logo, introduced in 1997, and the Zoog Disney logo, introduced in 1998. The two logos lasted from 1998 till 2002, when Zoog Disney was removed and Disney Channel introduced its current logo. The vintage material aired under the Vault Disney banner was also discontinued as of September 9, 2002.
From 2000 through 2003, ratings grew higher with such shows as Even Stevens, That’s So Raven, Kim Possible, Lizzie McGuire and others. Lizzie McGuire became the network’s banner show, and was the highest-rated program on the network. Reruns of Lizzie continued to out rate competing shows, including those from Disney Channel itself.
On January 20, 2006 “High School Musical” was aired on Disney Channel. It is one of the most successful Disney Channel Original Movies ever produced, with a television sequel released on August 17, 2007 and a feature film sequel “High School Musical 3: Graduation Day” that was also highly popular. The film’s soundtrack was the best-selling album in the United States for 2006. The film was shot almost entirely in the Wasatch Front in Utah (namely Salt Lake City and Murray). This was Disney Channel’s most successful movie at its time with 7.7 million viewers in its premiere broadcast in the US. High School Musical 2 brought in a total of 17.2 million viewers in the United States — almost 10 million more than its predecessor—making it, at the time, the highest rated basic cable broadcast in U.S. history. High School Musical 4: East Meets West is in the works with a new cast.
On March 24, 2006 “Hannah Montana”, which is an American Emmy Award-nominated children’s television series starring Miley Cyrus, debuted on Disney Channel. The popularity of the show has far exceeded the expectations of the studio and has become a worldwide sensation. In addition to the high ratings of the TV series, concerts for Hannah Montana have also been exceedingly popular. Tickets for every concert have sold out, with some later being scalped for thousands of dollars. The show wrapped production in Spring, 2010.
Disney XD was launched on February 13, 2009 as the successor to Toon Disney and effectively took over that network’s channel space. According to Disney Channel Worldwide’s President of Entertainmen, “XD” does not “stand for anything” and was chosen simply because it looked “cool”. Marsh notes that “the letter X has many cool associations” and that “the beauty of it is the audience can imbue it with all sorts of positive attributes.” Coincidentally though, the name “Disney XD” was previously used as the name for an online media player and interactive web portal on the Disney.com website, which in that case stood for Disney Xtreme Digital.
On May 26, 2010 Disney-ABC Television Group announced the launch of a new 24-hour preschool-targeted digital cable and satellite channel called Disney Junior, which is set to premiere in February 2012.