Playhouse Disney was the name of Disney Channel's programming block for pre-schoolers. It aired weekdays from 6 AM until 2 PM and on weekends from 6 AM until 9 AM. Playhouse Disney also had a 24-hour television channel, but this was only available in certain countries outside of the United States.
Playhouse Disney started on the Disney Channel on May 8, 1997. However, it did not use its actual on-screen logo until 1999. In Spring 2001, it re-launched with new graphics. On October 7, 2002, the block re-launched with a new logo and an animated yellow clay ball named "Clay" (voiced by Debi Derryberry) whose catchphrases were "It's true!" and "Are you with me?" Clay would often morph himself into different things.
The previous programming announcer was actress Allyce Beasley. On January 1, 2007, it received substantial upgrades to its on-air presence. At this time, "Clay" was replaced by two monkey hosts, Ooh and Aah. Every summer since 2007, usually starting sometime in May, Playhouse Disney's end time on weekdays aired only four hours. Disney Channel original series are aired over this time slot during the change of lineup. On weekends, Playhouse Disney still aired six hours.
In the UK and Ireland, the block was launched on September 28, 1999, and spawned a separate channel on September 29, 2000. Playhouse Disney UK originally had live presenters Dave Benson Phillips and Alex Lovell, referred to as 'Big Dave' and 'Little Alex'. In addition to presenting the 'Playhouse', both Dave and Alex presented 'Music Time', where they sang classic Disney songs. Dave also presented the children's cookery show, 'Bite Size' alongside Sophie Aldred and Karl Woolley. In addition, there was the 'Circle Time' segment, presented by Jason Canning, where children made up stories from animated drawings that the viewers sent in. There was also 'Art Play', where Sara-Louise Harper helped children create a piece of artwork based on a popular Disney movie. Playhouse Disney also used this presentation format in Australia, Spain, Italy, Germany and several other territories outside North America.
The main Playhouse Disney had new graphics introduced in March 2003, coinciding with the debut of the main Disney Channel's new look. In April 2004, the format of the channel changed. 'Circle Time' was removed, and Art Play presenter Sara-Louise Harper was replaced by Olivia Bonnici. From 6am to 6pm, a dedicated nighttime block was introduced called 'PJ's Bedtime', presented by Olivia and Big Dave. In June 2004, the original Playhouse Disney block on the main Disney Channel was disposed of. Big Dave and Little Alex eventually left on August 27 2006, and Art Play and Music Time were also removed. PJ's Bedtime was disposed of in November 2007 and in May 2008, Bite Size was axed. The final set of graphics was introduced in September 2007, before the channel became Disney Junior in February 2011 (May 2011 in the UK).
On May 26, 2010, it was announced that the block as part of a new rebranding strategy would be renamed "Disney Junior", and a new 24-hour channel replaced Disney-owned SOAPNet in the United States on March 23, 2012. International channels with the Playhouse Disney name were also changed to the Disney Junior rebranding in 2011. Playhouse Disney ended its 14-year run on February 13, 2011, and Disney Junior started the next day.
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