The Disney Channel: The Fall of Greatness

My experience with the rise and fall of The Disney Channel, seen from the eyes of an 80's/90's kid.
August 05, 2013
I have always been a Disney kid. My parents both have fond memories of their own childhoods, growing up with The Magical World of Disney (in all its various forms). Originally started as "Disneyland" in 1954, it aired Disney cartoons and movies throughout the years. It changed names many times, notably to Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color in 1961, when color was first introduced to the Disney television programming.

Growing up with a vivid imagination, I would daydream that "Disney" was a place I could visit or live in. A place that was wholesome, fun, and where no worries existed. Disney cartoons and movies were ever-present in my life. When I was around 5 (making the year roughly 1986 to 1987), my family first got cable. I was excited when my mom specified that we had to have The Disney Channel. At the time, I had no idea that such a marvelous invention existed. "An entire television channel devoted to Disney!? Orgasmic!" Though at the time I didn't know what an orgasm was, so it was probably closer to the feeling of waking up on Christmas and finding out you got what you were hoping for.

The Disney Channel was still new. It was created in 1983, and didn't have much of its own specialized programming yet. In the early days of cable, most channels that were part of premium cable didn't have commercials either. It was the best of everything for me. Classic Disney movies and cartoons, and no commercials to sit through or break in to my programming. Check out a promo from 1983:

I realize that many on RetroJunk have different views of what is classic Disney. For me true classic Disney are movies and cartoons created either during Walt Disney's life or soon after his death (when his influence was still strong at Disney). As a kid I loved all of the Hayley Mills movies. I had a bit of a crush on her as an 8 year old, and imagined marrying her one day.

She was the star of the original "The Parent Trap" movie as well as another one of my favorites, "Summer Magic". Boy was I bummed when I found out she was already 44, and not the cute girl I was seeing in my movies.
Still, like an old friend, The Disney Channel was there playing all of my favorite things. As time passed however, things began to change for the worse. Disney began to change up the programming to add in more cartoons created just for channel, pushing the classic Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony cartoons out of the lineup. Still, they were pretty good shows in the beginning so I was okay with it.

Like a band-aid on a scab however, I began to realize that Disney was simply pulling the classic items out slowly. Soon commercials began to play. At first they were simply clips of other Disney shows and they played only once in the middle of the show. Movies played uninterrupted. Another stab of pain came when movies began to be cut by commercials as well, and the only safe time to see a movie without being disturbed was during the two hours of movies in the afternoons. This coincided with their change from a premium channel to basic cable in 1997. Like the movie "The Social Network" someone advised them to drop the "The". It was now Disney Channel. This is when many on RetroJunk first saw what they call their retro TV, like "Lizzy McGuire" and "Even Stevens". My classic cartoons and movies were relegated to a late night slot they called "Vault Disney"

It was the one place left where I could find my old friends. This was where Michael Eisner (CEO of Disney from 1984 to 2005) began to crap on my heart. I had already had some run-ins with this heartless fart-face. At the ripe age of 12 I wrote a furious letter to him asking him to stop destroying Disney and stamping out my childhood. As if in response to my letter, he stepped up the pace. "Vault Disney" was the harbinger of death for my classic Disney programming. Eisner's departure from Disney in 2005 was not quick enough to save it. Even "Vault Disney" was discontinued in 2002. Normal commercials began airing, and nothing was left untouched. It was just another channel, airing yet more shows I had no interest in. The end of "Vault Disney" marked the end of my interest in Disney Channel. I haven't watched since.

Now when I get the urge to see a classic I'm forced to fire up Youtube or pull out one of my DVDs or Blu-Rays. Oh, I suppose I could spend 9 bucks a month (the cost of an entire Netflix subscription) to see a few decent movies on-demand through the Disney Family Movies option, but screw you Disney. You hurt me. You hurt me bad. I'm going to go watch "Summer Magic", eat some pizza and cry.

Thanks for reading.
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