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The Disney Afternoon was a created-for-syndication two-hour television programming block which aired from September 10, 1990, until August 1997. At that time, it was taken out of syndication, and a new Disney weekday afternoon block was started on UPN. The Disney Afternoon was produced by the Walt Disney Company.
The two hour block was broken up into four half-hour segments, each of which contained a cartoon series. As each season ended, the first cartoon shown in the lineup would typically be dropped, and a new one added to the end. The Disney Afternoon itself featured unique animated segments consisting of its own opening and "wrappers" around the cartoon shows shown.
This block did not air in every market across the United States, but for those markets that did not air the block in full, individual shows featured on The Disney Afternoon could be packaged by themselves. In Europe, there was a similar series called the Disney Festival, in Denmark it was called Disney Sjov, in Russia (when translated from Russian) and in Spain it was known as Disney Club, and in Latin America it was referred to as Disney Show.
History of the block and series that aired
Some of the early cartoon series in The Disney Afternoon came from already in-circulation cartoons, such as Adventures of the Gummi Bears (created years earlier). DuckTales and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers had been a one-hour long cartoon block in 1989-1990, until both were incorporated into The Disney Afternoon the next year. TaleSpin was the first series presumably created expressly for The Disney Afternoon.
Some of the later additions were inspired by shorter cartoons in the short lived series Raw Toonage, which appeared on the CBS network in Fall, 1992 -- for example, Marsupilami; also He's Bonkers!, which has characters that also appear in Bonkers.
Another source for Disney Afternoon cartoons were series inspired by movies created previously; for a time, a 'two year rule' of sorts became almost reliable, whereby about two years after a Disney summer movie came out, a Disney Afternoon series by the same name or featuring characters from that film premiered (example: Aladdin, and Timon and Pumbaa, from The Lion King).
Beginning with the 1994 season, the name of The Disney Afternoon was shortened to TDA. That same year, Marvel Comics began publishing a comic book series based on the programs featured on the block, as part of their line of comics based on modern Disney properties (the classic properties were licensed to Gladstone Publishing). The series mainly consisted of stories based on Darkwing Duck, with occasional stories featuring Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers and TaleSpin. It ended at 10 issues, but stories based on the block's shows continued in Marvel's Disney Comic Hits! and in the children's magazine Disney Adventures.
The popularity of the Disney Afternoon led to a temporary sub-park at Disneyland called Disney Afternoon Avenue, from March 15 to November 10, 1991. At this time, the block even garnered its own parade and a stage show titled Plane Crazy (not to be confused with the Mickey Mouse short of the same name). Walk-around costumes were created for the characters featured on the shows and regularly appeared throughout the theme parks, mostly in Mickey's Toontown, which featured an attraction based on Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers - Gadget's Go Coaster. As of today, most of the character walk-arounds have been retired.
Disney Afternoon Avenue actually came to Disneyland before Mickey's Toontown (name based on the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit) ever opened. This temporary "land" actually used cartoon building fronts to occupy the space leading up to the "it's a small world" attraction and the Fantasyland Theatre, known as the Small World Mall. The Entrance to Baloo's dressing room was actually under the train tracks, where the entrance to Mickey's Toontown is now. Some say that Disney actually used Disney Afternoon Ave was a test, to gauge interest in a Mickey's Toontown concept.
Mickey's Magical TV World
There was a live stage show called Mickey's Magical TV World (aka Mickey's Starland Show) which opened on May 1990 at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. It featured Zummi and Gruffi from The Gummi Bears, Scrooge McDuck and Launchpad McQuack from DuckTales, and Chip 'n' Dale and Gadget from Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers. In the fourth quarter of that year, Gruffi and Gadget were removed and Baloo and Louie from TaleSpin took over the section where Mickey would appear and come down the stairs as the Mickey Mouse Club plays. Also, the hostess was named C.J. and the machine located on the right side of the stage became a computer rapper name D.U.D.E. who changes his voice and some of his rapping lines (especially for Darkwing Duck) every year.
When Walt Disney World celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1991, Darkwing Duck replaced the Gummi Bears and Roger Rabbit was added to the show to appear when C.J. and the audience were about to expect Mickey and then bring a young volunteer to throw a ball into the Roger cut-out's mouth.
In 1992, Scrooge, Launchpad, and Roger Rabbit were cut out of the show as DuckTales was replaced by Goof Troop to feature Goofy and Max and the vault was replaced by Goofy's house. So the Darkwing Duck segment script changed and had Darkwing and C.J. did the box trick without Launchpad. And also, after the Goof Troop segment, when Goofy shuts the door, he gets trapped in his house by the home security system which would stop Max from doing his science project.
In 1993, Bonkers D. Bobcat from Bonkers replaced Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers. Launchpad returned to the show as Darkwing's sidekick, Baloo and Louie's lines switched places during the finale. TaleSpin remained in the show until the attraction's closure in 1996.
Toon Disney and cancellation of the block
By 1997, The Disney Afternoon was terminated as a formally named series. An eighth season, only 90 minutes long, was no longer named The Disney Afternoon or TDA, and was by accounts essentially a simple 90 minute syndicated block of cartoons.
On December 8, 1997, Disney announced the planned launch of Toon Disney, a 24-hour cable cartoon network, effective on April 18, 1998. At the same time, local stations found it hard to comply with FCC restrictions on children's advertising in terms of allowed quantity and content and still remain profitable in such blocks. Still FOX, UPN, and WB wanted to try to hold on to children's programming during the week. Disney continued the 90-minute syndicated block until the fall of 1999, at which time Disney and UPN teamed up for a UPN Kids block. Also, a two-hour Sunday Morning kids' block of shows from Disney aired on UPN stations.
By the 1999-2000 television season, some remnants of The Disney Afternoon package were moved to Saturday mornings, solely on the ABC network, under the name Disney's One Saturday Morning. Weekdays, the remnants of this block aired on UPN affiliates. By early 2001, One Saturday Morning had begun broadcasting a weekday afternoon spinoff called Disney's One Too, which bore virtually no resemblance to the Disney Afternoon.
Some of these cartoons, when originally airing on Disney Afternoon also had Saturday morning episodes that were being broadcast for ABC and CBS. These are:
Gargoyles does not fall into this category because only the third season, subtitled The Goliath Chronicles, aired during the 1996-1997 season on ABC, while The Disney Afternoon was only showing reruns of the first 2 seasons. Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears continued running on Saturday mornings during the 1990-1991 season on ABC, but ABC was only showing new episodes while the Disney Afternoon was also showing only reruns.
There were a few ideas for shows planned for inclusion in The Disney Afternoon that never made it off the drawing board.
Maximum Horsepower - A show about Horace Horsecollar which gives an explanation as to why he stopped appearing in cartoons after the 1930's. It would have the background that Horace was getting tired of playing minor roles and found out about Mickey's big role in Fantasia. Horace decided that he would go to Walt to try and get him a big role in a movie, but never made it to his office due to getting abducted by aliens that transported him halfway across the galaxy, wanting a hero. Horace, however, wants to return to Earth to continue his acting career.
Double-O Ducks - A James Bond-style show that would have starred Launchpad McQuack as the main character. One problem with developing this show was that the name "Double-O" had been copyrighted and Disney couldn't use it. Another problem was that producer Tad Stones had trouble developing Launchpad as a leading character. However, ideas of this show would lead to the production of Darkwing Duck.
The Magic Kingdom Show - It would involve a boy and a girl finding out that there is a Walt Disney World in the clouds in which that version of the park and the characters in its attractions and shows are actually alive and can interact with each other.