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|Disneyland / The Wonderful World of Disney / Walt Disney / Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color|
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Walt Disney anthology series, commonly called The Wonderful World of Disney, premiered on ABC on October 27, 1954 under the name Disneyland.
Hosted by Walt Disney himself, the show presented cartoons and other material (some original, some pre-existing) from the studio library. This is significant because the series was the first one from a major movie studio. Other studios feared television would be the death of them.
The show spawned the Davy Crockett craze of 1955 with the mini-series about the historical American frontiersman, starring Fess Parker in the title role. Millions of dollars of merchandise were sold relating to the title character, and the theme song, "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," was a hit record that year. Three historically-based hour-long shows aired in late 1954/early 1955, and were followed up by two dramatized installments the following year. The TV episodes were edited into two theatrical films later on.
In July of 1955, the opening of Disneyland was covered on this show, hosted by Walt along with Bob Cummings, Art Linkletter, Ronald Reagan, and various other guests.
The series moved to NBC in 1961 to take advantage of that network's ability to broadcast in color. In a marvelous display of foresight, Disney had filmed many of the earlier shows in color, so they were able to be repeated on NBC. To emphasize the new color feature, the series was re-dubbed Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color and retained that moniker until 1969. The first NBC episode even dealt with the principles of color, as explained by a comical character named Ludwig Von Drake, a bumbling professor and uncle of Donald Duck. The character's voice was supplied by Paul Frees.
When Walt Disney died in 1966, no one replaced him as host, as everyone agreed that his presence, characterized by a warm, folksy persona, was irreplaceable. The series continued to get solid ratings, often in the Top 20, until the mid-1970s. At this time, Walt Disney Productions was facing a decline in fortunes, with declining box-office revenues. It also did not help that CBS had placed 60 Minutes directly opposite it. The show continued to slip in the ratings until NBC cancelled it in 1981; an attempt to modernize the show in the fall of 1979 was purely cosmetic. Much of the decline is often attributed to the declining amount of new material. The show became increasingly dependent on airings of theatrical features and cartoons and reruns of older episodes.
CBS picked it up and moved it to Saturday night; the format remained unchanged, and ratings were marginally improved. It lasted two years there, its end coinciding with the birth of The Disney Channel on cable television. While ratings were a factor, the final decision to end the show came from then-company CEO E. Cardon Walker who felt that having both the show and the new channel active would cannibalize each other.
After the studio underwent a change in management, the series was revived on ABC in 1986, with new CEO Michael Eisner hosting. His presence couldn't compare with Walt's (Eisner himself is said to have required 68 takes in his first introduction), and the show moved to NBC in 1988 before ending in 1990. The series was revived again on ABC in 1997 after Disney purchased ABC where it ran on Sundays until 2003 when it moved to Saturday night.
Reruns of the 1954-1983 shows were a staple of The Disney Channel for several years, when it was an outlet for vintage Disney cartoons, TV shows and movies, basically serving the same function that the anthology series served in the days before cable. When the channel purged all vintage material, this show went with it. However, a few select episodes can be found on videotape or DVD, and there is no reason to suggest that more won't come out eventually.
All of the episodes from 1954-1990 are listed in the book The Wonderful World of Disney Television, by Bill Cotter, published in 1997.
The original format consisted of a balance of theatrical cartoons, live-action features, and informational material. Much of the original informational material was to create awareness for Disneyland. In spite of being essentially ads for the park, entertainment value was emphasized as well to make the shows palatable. Some informational shows were made to promote upcoming studio feature films such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Darby O'Gill and the Little People. Some programs focused on the art and technology of animation itself.
Later original programs consisted of dramatizations of other historical figures and legends along the lines of the Davy Crockett mini-series. These included Texas John Slaughter, Elfego Baca, and Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox."
Also included were nature and animal programs similar to the True-Life Adventures released in theatres, as well as various dramatic installments which were either one part or two, but sometimes more.
This format remained basically unchanged through the 1980s, though new material, as discussed earlier, was scarce in later years.
When the show was revived in 1986, the format was similar to a movie-of-the-week, with family-oriented TV movies from the studio making up much of the material. Theatrical films were also shown, but with the advent of cable TV and home video, they were not as popular. The 1997 revival has followed this format as well.
Show Description Credit: Wikipedia
|> Airing History & Information|
|Last Airing||Sep 09, 1990|
|Premiere||October 27, 1954|
|Network||ABC / NBC|
|Format/Time||Black & White / 60 Minutes|
|Upcoming Airs||Not currently airing|
Gary Owens.... Announcer (1979-1981)
Fess Parker.... Davy Crockett / Himself (13 episodes)
Walt Disney.... Host (1954-1967)
Michael Eisner.... Host (1986-1990)
Jeff York.... Joe Crane / Mike Fink (14 episodes)
Paul Frees.... Ludwig Von Drake (voice) (1961-1983)
Rex Allen.... Narrator (occasional) (voice)
Dick Wesson.... Narrator (opening credits) (voice) (uncredited) (1954-1979)
Slim Pickens.... Old Bill Williams / Pete Bracken (16 episodes)
Tom Tryon.... Texas John Slaughter (17 episodes)
Brian Corcoran.... Willie Slaughter / Isreal Boone (11 episodes)
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