|The Wonderful World of Disney|
|Created by||Walt Disney|
|Written by||Maurice Tombragel
|Directed by||Hamilton Luske
|Presented by||Walt Disney (1954-1966)
Michael Eisner (1986-1996)
|Narrated by||Dick Wesson (1954-1979)
Mark Elliot (1981-1983)
Danny Dark (1988-1990)
|Opening theme||"When You Wish upon a Star"|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||55|
|No. of episodes||1,224|
|Running time||60–180 minutes|
|Original channel||ABC (1954–1961, 1986-1988, 1997-2008, 2012 - present)
NBC (1961–1981, 1988-1990)
Disney Junior (2012–present)
|Picture format||480i (SD), 720p (HD)|
5.1 Dolby Surround Sound
|Original run||Original series
October 27, 1954 – December 24, 2008
March 23, 2012 – present
|Related shows||ABC Saturday Movie of the Week|
The Walt Disney anthology television series is a television series that has been produced by the Walt Disney Company under several different titles since 1954. These include Disneyland (1954–1958), Walt Disney Presents (1958–1961), Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (1961–1969), The Wonderful World of Disney (1969–1979), Disney's Wonderful World (1979–1981), Walt Disney (1981–1983), The Disney Sunday Movie (1986–1988), The Magical World of Disney (1988–1996), then finally back to The Wonderful World of Disney (1997–2008, 2012-present), and The Magical World of Disney Junior (2012–present).
The first incarnation of the show premiered on ABC, Wednesday night, October 27, 1954. The same basic show has since appeared on several networks. The series supposed finale aired Christmas Eve 2008 on ABC, but it was revived in 2012 on Disney Junior. The show is the second longest showing prime-time program on American television, behind its rival, Hallmark Hall of Fame (see List of longest running U.S. primetime television series). However, Hallmark Hall of Fame was a weekly program only during its first five seasons, while Disney remained a weekly program for more than thirty years.
Originally hosted by Walt Disney himself, the series presented animated cartoons and other material (some original, some pre-existing) from the studio library. The show originally even featured one-hour edits of such then-recent Disney films as Alice in Wonderland, and in other cases, telecasts of complete Disney films split into two or more one-hour episodes. Occasionally, a more educational segment, such as The Story of the Animated Drawing, would be featured.
The show spawned the Davy Crockett craze of 1955 with the three-episode series (not shown in consecutive weeks) about the historical American frontiersman, starring Fess Parker in the title role. Millions of dollars of merchandise were sold relating to the title character, and the theme song, "The Ballad of Davy Crockett", was a hit record that year. Three historically-based hour-long shows aired in late 1954/early 1955, and were followed up by two dramatized installments the following year. The TV episodes were edited into two theatrical films later on.
On July 17, 1955, the opening of Disneyland was covered on a live television special, Dateline: Disneyland, which is not technically considered to be part of the series. It was hosted by Walt along with Bob Cummings, Art Linkletter and Ronald Reagan, and featured various other guests.
In the fall of 1958, the series was re-titled, "Walt Disney Presents", and moved to Friday nights, but by 1960, it switched to Sunday nights, where it would remain for twenty-one years.
The series moved to NBC on September 24, 1961 to take advantage of that network's ability to broadcast in color. In addition, Walt Disney's relationship with ABC had soured as the network resisted selling its stake in the theme park before doing so in 1960. In a display of foresight, Disney had filmed many of the earlier shows in color, so they were able to be repeated on NBC, and since most of Disney's feature-length films were also made in color, they could now also be telecast in that format. To emphasize the new feature, the series was re-dubbed, "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color", and retained that moniker until 1969. The first NBC episode even dealt with the principles of color, as explained by a new character named Ludwig Von Drake (voiced by Paul Frees), a bumbling professor with a thick German accent, and uncle of Donald Duck. Von Drake was the first Disney character created specifically for television.
Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966, twelve years after the anthology series premiered. While the broadcast three days after his death had a memorial tribute from NBC news anchor Chet Huntley with film and TV star Dick Van Dyke, the intros Walt already filmed before his death continued to air for the rest of the season. After that, the studio decided that Walt's persona as host was such a key part of the show's appeal to viewers that the host segment was dropped. The series, retitled, '"The Wonderful World of Disney"', in September 1969, continued to get solid ratings, often in the Top 20, until the mid-1970s.
In 1976, Disney showed its hit 1961 film The Parent Trap on television for the first time, as a two-and-a-half hour special. This was a major step in broadcasting for the studio, which had never shown one of its more popular films on television in a time slot longer than an hour (although they had shown their films Now You See Him, Now You Don't and Napoleon and Samantha respectively in a two-hour format in 1975). A slightly edited version of the Disney classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea made its television debut as a two-hour special on NBC in October of 1976.  Several more Disney films, some of them not especially successful (such as Superdad, an outright flop) were also shown in two-hour formats on the program that year.
The show's continued ratings success in the post-Walt era came to an end in the 1975/76 season. At this time, Walt Disney Productions was facing a decline in fortunes due to falling box-office revenues, while NBC as a whole was slipping in the ratings as well. The show became even more dependent on airings of live-action theatrical features, its True-Life Adventures, reruns of older episodes, and cartoon compilations. Nothing from the Disney animated features canon aired except Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo. (Each feature film which aired on the program was now shown in one evening uncut.) However, in an era when cable TV was in its infancy and VCRs did not exist, this was the only way to see Disney material that was not re-released to theaters. Additionally, in 1975, when CBS regained the broadcast rights to MGM's film The Wizard of Oz, it was scheduled opposite Disney as it had been between 1960 and 1968. At that time, telecasts of that film were highly-rated annual events which largely attracted the same family audience as the Disney series. From 1968 to 1975, when NBC owned the rights to Oz, (which it had bought from CBS in 1967) it usually pre-empted Disney to show it. However, the show's stiffest weekly competition came from CBS's newsmagazine 60 Minutes.
In 1975, an amendment to the Prime Time Access Rule gave the Sunday 7:00 p.m. ET slot back to the networks, allowing NBC to move Disney back a half hour. It also allowed CBS to schedule 60 Minutes at 7:00 p.m. ET starting December 7; before this, 60 Minutes had been telecast at 6:00 p.m. ET and did not begin its seasons until after the NFL football season ended. Disney fell out of the Top 30 while 60 Minutes saw its ratings rise greatly. In September 1979, the studio agreed to the network's request for changes. The show shortened its name to "Disney's Wonderful World", updated the opening sequence with a computer-generated logo and disco-flavored theme song, but kept the format largely the same. After comparing the ratings strength of 60 Minutes to the continuing problems of this show; low ratings, less and less original material, and frequent pre-emptions, NBC cancelled Disney in 1981.
CBS picked up the program in the fall of 1981  and moved it to Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. Despite more elaborate credits and yet another title—now simply, Walt Disney—the format remained unchanged. It lasted two years there, its end coinciding with the birth of The Disney Channel on cable TV. While ratings were a factor, the final decision to end the show came from then-company CEO E. Cardon Walker, who felt that having both the show and the new channel active would cannibalize each other.
After the studio underwent a change in management, the series was revived on ABC as a two-hour program beginning February 2, 1986, under the title, The Disney Sunday Movie (in the summer, the series was temporarily titled, Disney Summer Classics), with new CEO Michael Eisner hosting. Eisner was not the first choice. Many names were considered including Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Cary Grant (who was asked but turned it down), Tom Hanks (Eisner felt he was "too young" and turned him down), Walter Cronkite, Roy E. Disney (who closely resembled his uncle), and even Mickey Mouse. Eisner was persuaded to do it. He was not a performer, but after making a test video with his wife Jane and a member of his executive team (which required multiple takes), the studio believed he could do it. He hired Michael Kay, a director of political commercials for then-U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, to help him improve his on-camera performance.
The Disney Sunday Movie offered more original programming and a larger selection of library films than the Disney program had in the last few years of its original run, including another animated canon entry, 1973's Robin Hood. However, it still faced heavy competition from CBS; not only from 60 Minutes but now from the top-rated Murder, She Wrote at 8:00 p.m. ET. In the fall of 1987, ABC cut the show down to an hour. It moved back to NBC in 1988 under the new title The Magical World of Disney, where the competition problems it faced on ABC remained unchanged. NBC cancelled the show in 1990, and the title was used as a Sunday night umbrella for movies and specials on The Disney Channel from then until 1996; Eisner continued to host. The old name of The Wonderful World of Disney was used throughout the early part of the decade on many network specials.
The series was revived once again on ABC in 1997, one year after Disney purchased ABC. Again called The Wonderful World of Disney, it ran on Sundays until 2003, when it moved to Saturday night; it continued in that time slot until 2008 (airing in the midseason of 2005/06 and the summers of 2007 and 2008). Since 2005, Disney features have been split between ABC, NBC, the Hallmark Channel, ABC Family Channel, and Disney Channel via separate broadcast rights deals. The show aired during the television midseason and/or the summer as an anthology series similar to Hallmark Hall of Fame with features such as the 2005 made-for-TV movie version of Once Upon a Mattress or commercial TV broadcasts of various films. The series finale aired Wednesday 8:00 p.m. ET on December 24, 2008, with a presentation of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Around the same time as the 1980s ABC and NBC incarnations aired, reruns of older Disney episodes, airing under the Wonderful World of Disney banner, were syndicated to local stations in the United States.
Reruns of the shows were a staple of The Disney Channel for several years under the title Walt Disney Presents (which used the same title sequence as the 1980s CBS incarnation), when it was an outlet for vintage Disney cartoons, TV shows and movies, basically serving the same function that the anthology series served in the days before cable. The original opening titles were restored to the episodes in the late 1990s. When the channel purged all vintage material as of September 16, 2002, this show went with it. However, a few select episodes can be found on VHS or DVD (some being exclusive to the Disney Movie Club), with the possibility of more being issued in the future.
All of the episodes and existing material used in the series through 1996 are listed in the book The Wonderful World of Disney Television, by Bill Cotter (Hyperion Books, 1997 ISBN 0-7868-6359-5.)
The original format consisted of a balance of theatrical cartoons, live-action features, and informational material. Much of the original informational material was to create awareness for Disneyland. In spite of being essentially ads for the park, entertainment value was emphasized as well to make the shows palatable. Some informational shows were made to promote upcoming studio feature films such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Darby O'Gill and the Little People. Some programs focused on the art and technology of animation itself.
Later original programs consisted of dramatizations of other historical figures and legends along the lines of the Davy Crockett mini-series. These included Daniel Boone (not the Fess Parker characterization), Texas John Slaughter, Elfego Baca, Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox", and Kit Carson and the Mountain Man (1977), with Christopher Connelly as Kit Carson, Robert Reed as John C. Fremont, and Gregg Palmer as mountain man Jim Bridger.
Also included were nature and animal programs similar to the True-Life Adventures released in theatres, as well as various dramatic installments which were either one part or two, but sometimes more.
This format remained basically unchanged through the 1980s, though new material was scarce in later years.
When the show was revived in 1986, the format was similar to a movie-of-the-week, with family-oriented TV movies from the studio making up much of the material. Theatrical films were also shown, but with the advent of cable television and home video, they were not as popular. The 1997 revival followed this format as well, with rare exceptions. A miniseries entitled Little House on the Prairie ran for several weeks under the TWWOD banner. Incidentally, this ABC revival included some non-Disney family films under the banner, such as 20th Century Fox's The Sound of Music and Warner Bros.' Harry Potter films, as well as television films such as Princess of Thieves from Granada Productions, and the 2001 remake of Brian's Song from Sony Pictures Television.
As of 2010, there are still two classic Disney films that have never been shown on American television at all in their entirety. They are Fantasia and Song of the South. Though it has been re-released to U.S. theatres several times, and the Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah and Tar Baby segments have been shown on television, Song of the South has never been released on VHS or an authorized DVD in the U.S., due to the company's unease over the portrayal of Uncle Remus, a key black character in the film. No reason has been given for the withholding of Fantasia for telecast. Nearly all of its segments have been shown on television separately on the Disney TV program, notably The Sorcerer's Apprentice, as well as the uncensored Pastoral Symphony, but never the entire film with all its animated segments from start to finish.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs never aired in its entirety on US TV (it was broadcast around the world on Disney Channel and Disney Cinemagic and was released on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray) before being telecast on February 14, 2010 on ABC Family, nearly 56 years after the beginning of the first Disney anthology show.
|Network||Season||Timeslot||TV Season||Season Premiere||Season Finale||Season
|ABC||1||Wednesday 7:30 PM ET||1954–1955||October 27, 1954||July 13, 1955||#6||12.00 million|
|2||1955–1956||September 14, 1955||May 30, 1956||#4||13.05 million|
|3||1956–1957||September 12, 1956||June 5, 1957||#14||12.37 million|
|4||1957–1958||September 11, 1957||May 14, 1958|
|5||Friday 8:00 PM ET||1958–1959||October 3, 1958||May 29, 1959|
|6||Friday 7:30 PM ET||1959–1960||October 2, 1959||April 1, 1960|
|7||Sunday 6:30 PM ET||1960–1961||October 16, 1960||June 11, 1961|
|NBC||8||Sunday 7:30 PM ET||1961–1962||September 24, 1961||April 15, 1962||#23||11.02 million|
|9||1962–1963||September 23, 1962||March 24, 1963||#24||11.22 million|
|10||1963–1964||September 29, 1963||May 17, 1964||#21||11.87 million|
|11||1964–1965||September 20, 1964||April 4, 1965||#11||13.54 million|
|12||1965–1966||September 19, 1965||April 10, 1966||#17||12.49 million|
|13||1966–1967||September 11, 1966||April 2, 1967||#19||11.85 million|
|14||1967–1968||September 10, 1967||April 28, 1968||#25||11.73 million|
|15||1968–1969||September 15, 1968||March 23, 1969||#22||12.41 million|
|16||1969–1970||September 14, 1969||March 29, 1970||#9||13.81 million|
|17||1970–1971||September 13, 1970||March 14, 1971||#14||13.46 million|
|18||1971–1972||September 19, 1971||April 9, 1972||#19||13.66 million|
|19||1972–1973||September 17, 1972||April 1, 1973||#9||15.23 million|
|20||1973–1974||September 16, 1973||March 13, 1974||#13||14.76 million|
|21||1974–1975||September 15, 1974||March 23, 1975||#18||15.07 million|
|22||Sunday 7:00 PM ET||1975–1976||September 14, 1975||July 25, 1976|
|23||1976–1977||September 26, 1976||May 22, 1977|
|24||1977–1978||September 18, 1977||June 4, 1978|
|25||1978–1979||September 17, 1978||May 13, 1979|
|26||1979–1980||September 17, 1979||July 27, 1980|
|27||1980–1981||September 14, 1980||August 16, 1981|
|CBS||28||Saturday 8:00 PM ET||1981–1982||September 26, 1981||July 31, 1982|
|29||1982–1983||September 25, 1982||September 24, 1983|
|ABC||32||Sunday 7:00 PM ET||1985–1986||February 2, 1986||June 22, 1986|
|33||1986–1987||September 21, 1986||August 30, 1987|
|34||1987–1988||October 4, 1987||May 22, 1988|
|NBC||35||1988–1989||October 9, 1988||July 23, 1989|
|36||1989–1990||October 1, 1989||August 26, 1990|
|Disney Channel||37||1990–1991||September 23, 1990||September 15, 1991|
|38||1991–1992||September 22, 1991||September 13, 1992|
|39||1992–1993||September 20, 1992||September 12, 1993|
|40||1993–1994||September 19, 1993||September 11, 1994|
|41||1994–1995||September 18, 1994||September 10, 1995|
|42||1995–1996||September 17, 1995||August 25, 1996|
|43||1996–1997||September 2, 1996||December 1, 1996|
|ABC||44||1997–1998||September 28, 1997||May 18, 1998||#30||13.50 million|
|45||1998–1999||September 27, 1998||May 30, 1999||#45||11.90 million|
|46||1999–2000||September 26, 1999||May 14, 2000||#29||12.82 million|
|47||2000–2001||October 8, 2000||May 31, 2001||#39||12.10 million|
|48||2001–2002||September 16, 2001||May 19, 2002||#38||11.20 million|
|49||2002–2003||November 3, 2002||July 27, 2003||#53||10.10 million|
|50||2003–2004||September 27, 2003||May 10, 2004||#98||7.39 million|
|51||Saturday 8:00 PM ET||2004–2005||October 16, 2004||June 17, 2005||#112||5.93 million|
|52||2005–2006||November 3, 2005||July 8, 2006||#159||4.22 million|
|53||2006–2007||December 16, 2006||August 4, 2007||#195||4.28 million|
|54||2007–2008||December 23, 2007||July 26, 2008||#173||4.01 million|
|55||Wednesday 8:00 PM ET||2008–2009||December 24, 2008||#144||4.39 million|
Several home video releases have included episodes of the anthology series.
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