Walt Disney Television

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Walt Disney Television
FormerlyWalt Disney Pictures Television Division (1983–1988)
Company typeDivision
IndustryTelevision production
Founded1983; 41 years ago (1983)
Defunct2003; 21 years ago (2003)
FateAbsorbed into the first incarnation of Touchstone Television (which changed name to ABC Studios, then ABC Signature Studios and now ABC Signature), with the animation division (Walt Disney Television Animation (now just Disney Television Animation)) spun-out as a separate standalone subsidiary.
ProductsTelevision shows and films

The first and original incarnation of Walt Disney Television was an American production company and the original/former television production division of the Walt Disney Company which was active from 1983 to 2003.

Productions from this division were broadcast mostly on Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD and ABC. Majority of productions from this division are a plethora of animated series and a notable live-action series named Smart Guy, the latter which ran for three seasons on the WB from 1997 to 1999.

In 2003, its animation division, then known as Walt Disney Television Animation (currently just Disney Television Animation) spun-out as its own subsidiary within the larger Disney conglomerate, with an acquired production company, It's a Laugh Productions, taking over its operations for live-action productions. Walt Disney Television itself was absorbed into the first incarnation of Touchstone Television, which changed names to ABC Studios in 2007, ABC Signature Studios in 2013 and currently ABC Signature since 2020. Following the completed acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019, Disney returned to using this name for its combined television segment for 2 years before they subtly changed name to Disney General Entertainment Content, with Disney Television Studios established on May 15, 2019.


While initially not interest in television back in the 1930s, Walt Disney changed his mind seeing television at least as a promotional tool. Most studios were generating revenue by selling off their permanent television rights to their films made before 1948, while Disney held on to the company's film rights. Thus Walt Disney Productions was the first of the film industry, which saw television as an adversary, to enter the television production field. Walt Disney Productions did an hour-long special on Christmas Day 1950 for NBC then in 1951 for CBS. The specials used Disney film clips, short films and promoted the upcoming Alice in Wonderland theatrical film. Both specials had excellent ratings. The networks pursued Disney to do a full series for them. Disney used this interest in a series to request funding for Disneyland, which the newly merged American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres did for its American Broadcasting Company (ABC) with the airing of the Disneyland anthology series. The "Operation Undersea" episode of the series garnered Disney its first Emmy Award. The series quickly became ABC's first series to hit the top 20 in ratings.[1]

Disney's entry into television impacted the television industry as the Disney anthology show marked a move from live to filmed delivery of television shows. Filming made it possible for higher production value. Also, a couple of the major film studios copied the show's format with MGM Parade and Warner Bros. Presents. Both shows did not last.[1]

With the series' "Davy Crockett" episodes generating high sale of merchandise, Disney Productions produced The Mickey Mouse Club, the first youth audience television program and a daily afternoon show.[1] In 1957, Disney was producing the series Zorro. It lasted until 1959.[2] In 1961, Disney severed its terms with ABC and moved its weekly program to NBC, where it stayed for nearly 20 years until 1981. For years, its anthology series was Disney's lone program on network television.[3] In 1972, it collaborated with the NBC owned-and-operated stations group to launch The Mouse Factory. It didn't last long, and it was canned in 1973.[4]

In 1975, Disney launched a partnership with SFM Media Service Corporation to distribute The Mickey Mouse Club onto syndication starting in 1975, leading up to new episodes in 1977.[5][6]

In 1980, Disney severed its exclusive deal with NBC, and jumped into line as a production company for television programs.[7] The following year, it signed a production agreement with CBS to bring anthology series to the network, and the addition of producing new original programs.[8] Disney had broken its 23-year streak of producing anthology series only in order to produce its first TV show since Zorro's cancellation in 1982, Herbie the Love Bug, which only lasted one season on CBS.[9] This was followed by three short-lived sitcoms produced Gun Shy, Small & Frye and Zorro and Son, which also aired on CBS, but never lasted long, which led to the demise of the anthology series in 1983.[10]


Walt Disney Television was formed in 1983, as the Walt Disney Pictures Television Division, the name was later shortened to Walt Disney Television in 1988. Until 1983, Disney shows were aired under the banner of the parent company, then named Walt Disney Productions. Disney made its firsts in 1985, which are Wildside, which is produced under the Touchstone Films label (now ABC Signature), and two animated cartoons The Wuzzles on CBS and Adventures of the Gummi Bears on NBC.[11][12]

In August 1994, with the departure of Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, its filmed entertainment business was split into two, with Walt Disney Pictures continuing with motion pictures and the newly created Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications for television under Joe Roth and Richard Frank respectively.[13]

At the time when Disney merged with Capital Cities/ABC, Disney Television was a part of Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications (WDTT).[14] With the retirement of WDTT president Dennis Hightower in April 1996 and ongoing post-merger reorganization, Walt Disney Television (along with its Animation unit) was transferred back to The Walt Disney Studios.[15]

The Walt Disney Television group, upon the departure of its president Dean Valentine in September 1997, was split into two units: Walt Disney Television (WDT) and Walt Disney Network Television (WDNT), reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Joe Roth. WDT would be headed by Charles Hirschhorn as president and consisted of Disney Telefilms for ABC, the-direct-to video-unit, and Walt Disney Television Animation. WDNT would handle primetime programming, headed by David Neuman as president.[16] Neuman was also named president of Touchstone Television.[17] In March 1998, WDNT was placed under Buena Vista TV Productions, a newly formed group under chairman Lloyd Braun, along with Touchstone Television.[18] in June 1998, Neuman left as did his top two executives due to this reorganization.[19]

In late 1999, Walt Disney Television Studios (also called Buena Vista Television Group or Buena Vista Television Productions), were transferred from the Disney Studios to the ABC Television Network to merge with ABC's primetime division, ABC Entertainment, forming the ABC Entertainment Television Group. Walt Disney Television Studios was later merged into Touchstone Television (became ABC Studios, now known as ABC Signature) in 2000, while its name continued to be used on new cartoons from Walt Disney Television Animation (now Disney Television Animation, which is now a unit of Disney Channels Worldwide) until 2003, when Disney later merged the television production company with the television animation division and Touchstone Television (now ABC Signature)[20][21][22]


Television series[edit]

Title Year Network Co-production
Good Morning, Mickey! 19831992 Disney Channel Walt Disney Productions
Donald Duck Presents
You and Me Kid 19831986
Welcome to Pooh Corner
Contraption 19831988 ACME Game Show, Inc.
Zorro and Son 1983 CBS
Dumbo's Circus 19851986 Disney Channel Walt Disney Productions
The Wuzzles 1985 CBS Disney Television Animation
Adventures of the Gummi Bears 19851991 NBC/ABC
Sidekicks 19861987 ABC/Disney Channel Motown Productions
Videopolis 19871989 Disney Channel
Great Expectations 1989 HTV
Primetime Television Ltd.
Tesauro Television
DuckTales 19871990 Syndication Disney Television Animation
The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh 19881991 ABC
Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers 19891990 Syndication
TaleSpin 19901992
Brand New Life 19891990 NBC NBC Productions
The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage 1991 Stephen J. Cannell Productions
Dinosaurs 19911994 ABC Michael Jacobs Productions
Jim Henson Productions
Darkwing Duck 19911992 Syndication/ABC Disney Television Animation
The Torkelsons NBC Michael Jacobs Productions
Walt Disney Television (Season 1)
Touchstone Television (Season 2)
Goof Troop 19921993 Syndication/ABC Disney Television Animation
The Little Mermaid 19921994 CBS
Raw Toonage 1992
Bonkers 19931995 Syndication
Adventures in Wonderland 19921995 Disney Channel Betty Productions
The Secret of Lost Creek 1992
Bill Nye the Science Guy 19931998 PBS KCTS Seattle
Rabbit Ears Productions
Marsupilami 19931994 CBS Disney Television Animation
Aladdin 19941995 Syndication/CBS
Gargoyles 19941997 Syndication/ABC Disney Television Animation
Buena Vista Television
The Shnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show 1995 Syndication Disney Television Animation
The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa 19951999 Syndication/CBS/Toon Disney
Sing Me a Story with Belle 19951997 Syndication Patrick Davidson Productions
Brotherly Love NBC/The WB Witt/Thomas Productions
Touchstone Television (Season 1)
Walt Disney Television (Season 2)
Quack Pack 1996 Syndication Disney Television Animation
Mighty Ducks 19961997 Syndication/ABC
Doug 19961999 ABC Jumbo Pictures
Jungle Cubs 19961998 Disney Television Animation
Smart Guy 19971999 The WB de Passe Entertainment
Danny Kallis Productions
101 Dalmatians: The Series 19971998 Syndication/ABC Jumbo Pictures
Disney Television Animation
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show 19972000 Syndication Plymouth Productions
St. Clare Entertainment
Recess 19972001 ABC Paul & Joe Productions
Disney Television Animation
Pepper Ann 19972000 Disney Television Animation
PB&J Otter 19982000 Playhouse Disney Jumbo Pictures
Hercules 19981999 Syndication/ABC Disney Television Animation
Mickey Mouse Works 19992000 ABC
The Weekenders 20002004 ABC/Toon Disney
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command 20002001 UPN/ABC Pixar Animation Studios
Disney Television Animation
Teacher's Pet 20002002 ABC/Toon Disney Disney Television Animation
House of Mouse 20012003
Lloyd in Space 20012004 Paul & Joe Productions
Disney Television Animation
The Legend of Tarzan 20012003 UPN Disney Television Animation
Teamo Supremo 20022004 ABC/Toon Disney
Kim Possible 20022007 Disney Channel
Fillmore! 20022004 ABC
Lilo & Stitch: The Series 20032006 Disney Channel

Disney Telefilms[edit]

Disney Telefilms (DTF), or Walt Disney Telefilms, was a TV film production company and a division of Walt Disney Television. The division provided movies for The Wonderful World of Disney.

Telefilms history[edit]

With the purchase of Capital Cities/ABC Inc., Disney CEO Michael Eisner wanted to relaunch The Wonderful World of Disney on ABC in 1996 with a movie franchise. Walt Disney Telefilms was formed to produce films for the anthology TV series[23] by 1995. Leah Keith was transferred from Walt Disney Pictures that year to the telefilms division.[24]

Hollywood Pictures executive vice president Charles Hirschhorn oversaw Walt Disney Telefilms as president in June 1996, reporting to Dean Valentine, president of Walt Disney Television and Walt Disney Television Animation, for the Telefilms unit.[25] Mike Karz, a former vice president of Mandeville Films, signed a first look deal with the company through his shingle, Karz Entertainment, based at Walt Disney Studios in May 1997.[26] On September 28, 1997, the division launched the anthology show.[27] The division produced 17 films in nine months[23] while it only expected to provide 16 movies. On October 5, 1997, Disney Telefilms' first production, Toothless, debuted on The Wonderful World of Disney.[28]

The Walt Disney Television group, upon the departure of Dean Valentine in September 1997, was split into two units: Walt Disney Television (WDT) and Walt Disney Network Television (WDNT). WDT would be headed by Hirschhorn as president and consisted of Disney Telefilms and Walt Disney Television Animation, including Disney MovieToons/Disney Video Premiere.[16] Leah Keith and Peter Green were promoted to production vice presidents for the division in March 1998.[24]

Telefilms filmography[edit]

Title Release date Production company(ies) Notes source


Toothless October 5, 1997 1st Disney Telefilms movie [28]
Tower of Terror October 26, 1997 ZM Productions 1st theme park attraction movie [27]
Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella November 2, 1997 [28]
Angels in the Endzone November 9, 1997 Caravan Pictures [29]
Oliver Twist November 16, 1997 A retelling of the Dickens tale starring Richard Dreyfuss and Elijah Wood [27][28]
The Love Bug November 30, 1997 Remake of the 1968 film [28]
Flash December 21, 1997 [27]


Principal Takes a Holiday January 4, 1998 [29]
Ruby Bridges January 18, 1998 A docu-drama at New Orleans all-white school, which takes in its first African American girl student base [28][24]
The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon February 15, 1998 Tony Danza as a trash man who would become a kicker for the Philadelphia Eagles [28]
Goldrush: A Real Life Alaskan Adventure March 8, 1998 [29]
Miracle at Midnight May 17, 1998 Davis Entertainment Starring Mia Farrow, Sam Waterston and Justin Whalin, a fact-based story in which the Danish save thousands from the Nazi [28][27][30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Griffin, Sean. "Walt Disney Programs". Encyclopedia of Television. The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  2. ^ "ABC Promotes Smith, Cummings in Tv Posts" (PDF). Broadcasting. 1957-03-11. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  3. ^ "Program Lineup for Fall Forms" (PDF). Broadcasting. 1961-02-06. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  4. ^ "Disney series bought by NBC-owned TV's" (PDF). Broadcasting. 1971-11-01. Retrieved 2021-08-08.
  5. ^ "M...I...C..." (PDF). Broadcasting. 1975-01-20. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  6. ^ "Mickey Mouse Club" (PDF). Broadcasting. 1976-06-23. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  7. ^ "Down but not out" (PDF). Broadcasting. 1981-01-12. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  8. ^ "Disney to CBS" (PDF). Broadcasting. 1981-03-02. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  9. ^ "CBS realignment" (PDF). Broadcasting. 1982-02-22. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  10. ^ "CBS announces spring tryouts for fall schedule" (PDF). Broadcasting. 1983-01-17. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  11. ^ "In Brief" (PDF). Broadcasting. 1985-03-04. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  12. ^ "New Disney division" (PDF). Broadcasting. 1985-03-11. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  13. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (August 25, 1994). "Chairman of Disney Studios Resigns". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
  14. ^ "Fact Sheet: The Walt Disney Company". Press Release. The Walt Disney Company. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  15. ^ "Roth, Iger Assume Expanded Responsibilities at the Walt Disney Company". PRNewswire. April 16, 1996. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  16. ^ a b Hofmeister, Sallie (September 17, 1997). "Disney Splits Television Group Into 2 Units". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
  17. ^ Carmody, John (September 17, 1997). "THE TV COLUMN". Washington Post. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  18. ^ Hofmeister, Sallie (March 3, 1998). "Disney Taps Lloyd Braun to Head Up Network TV". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  19. ^ Lowry, Brian (June 8, 1998). "Disney TV Unit Changes Executive Lineup". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  20. ^ Hofmeister, Sallie (July 8, 1999). "Disney Plans to Consolidate Two of Its Television Groups". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  21. ^ Hofmeister, Sallie (July 9, 1999). "Disney Combining Network TV Operations Into One ABC Unit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  22. ^ Schlosser, Joe (November 29, 1999). "A Mouse in-house". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on October 11, 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  23. ^ a b Romano, Allison (March 14, 2004). "Game Boy". Broadcasting & Cable. NewBay Media, LLC. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  24. ^ a b c Littleton, Cynthia (March 9, 1998). "Disney Telefilms ups exex". Variety. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  25. ^ "Company Town/Exective (sic) Suite: New President at Brillstein-Grey". Variety. June 25, 1996. Retrieved September 22, 2015.
  26. ^ "Disney TV, Karz cozy up". Variety. May 9, 1997. Retrieved September 22, 2015.
  27. ^ a b c d e "Disney Sets ABC Pix". Variety. May 1, 1997. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h Pierce, Scott (September 28, 1997). "ABC revives weekly Disney series". Deseret News. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  29. ^ a b c "Alley's 'Toothless' tops Disney's Alphabet slate". Variety. February 17, 1997. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  30. ^ Hontz, Jenny (June 4, 1997). "Farrow works 'Miracle' for Disney". Variety. Retrieved October 5, 2016.

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