A brand new home for Mickey and Co

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 July, 2011, 12:00am

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After more than seven years in Hong Kong, Playhouse Disney will be no more. Yet not to worry: as of tomorrow, it's being replaced by Disney Junior.

'There comes a time in the life cycle of brands in TV where you want to take a step back and look at how the market has changed and what's new, and how your fit is, and how you can differentiate yourself from the competition,' Nancy Kanter, general manager of Disney Junior Worldwide and senior vice-president of original programming, told Sunday Young Post.

'We really looked at what Disney could mean in each market, and what were the common things that Disney seems to mean to everybody. And it's pretty universal - it's that attention to quality storytelling and characters that really touch your heart.'

Perhaps taking a page out of Sesame Street, Disney Junior blends learning with entertainment. The channel hopes to serve as a springboard for pre-schoolers to engage with parents in an interactive environment that promotes learning and nurtures their curiosity.

Disney Junior is designed to appeal to a broader audience base. Playhouse Disney was aimed at two- to five-year-olds, but Disney Junior expands the range up to seven-year-olds.

Kanter admits it's a challenge, but she's confident the company's research on child education will pay off.

'There's a term which we borrowed from educators called 'scaffolding',' she said.

'You layer in, scaffold, or build, by adding things that may seem like a stretch for a three- or four-year-old or a five- or six-year-old. There are things they [some age groups] might not get, but it doesn't distract from their enjoyment of the story.'

All Playhouse Disney programmes will make the jump to Disney Junior: classics like Handy Manny, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Special Agent Oso, among others.

The 24-hour commercial-free programming will feature a new animated series, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, which follows the swashbuckling adventures of the title character and his friends as they search for treasures. All the while they have to be on their guard and outwit Captain Hook.

Fun and education has long been a target for child educators and parents in developing learning. It's a tricky balance to achieve in equal measure, but Disney Junior believes it has solved the riddle.