One of TV's longest traditions returns to the local airwaves today as "The Wonderful World Of Disney," a collection of 34 years of Disney programs, begins airing daily on KTTV-TV Channel 11.
The collection, culled from the Disney archives, contains 178 hours of material from the 1940s to the 1980s. Although most of the film has aired on network TV, this is the first time it has been released into syndication.
The Fox station has booked the Disney shows for 5-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. "Wonderful World" replaces two half-hours of "The Facts of Life."
"The Wonderful World of Disney" has been sold to 140 stations nationwide. Some have been showing the programs since September as weekend specials. KTTV will be among a handful of stations to begin showing "Wonderful World" as a daily series this week.
Robert Jacquemin, senior vice president of Buena Vista Television, the syndication arm of the Walt Disney Co., said the films were not released for syndication previously because Disney had an agreement with NBC, which carried the original Disney series from 1961-83, to air the shows only on that network.
(Originally titled "Disneyland" when it debuted in 1954 on ABC, the show also has been called "Walt Disney Presents," "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" and other variations.)
Later, the material was kept out of syndication for use on cable TV's Disney Channel. The Disney Channel, however, became increasingly reliant on its own first-run TV movies, and two years ago Disney began raiding the archives for syndication.
"It's marvelous programming--it's fantastic stuff," said Bill White, vice president and general manager of KTTV. "And we have a whole new generation of people to watch it."
Eric Block, vice president of creative series for Fox Television, said strong weekend performance by "Wonderful World" on Fox stations inspired him to try it out on a daily basis at KKTV and Fox stations in Houston and Dallas. "It's kind of difficult to predict its performance on a five-day-a-week basis," he said.
San Francisco ABC station KGO-TV has been airing the shows as the 6 p.m. lead-in for "The Disney Sunday Movie" since September. Rosemary Roach, KGO director of research, called the series' performance "good, but not great" for the time period.
Jacquemin said he thinks the Disney series will be able to establish a strong repeat audience even though it features a wide range of programming, from movies to animation to science and information programs. "The name Disney is what the viewer is attracted to, the name represents family entertainment," he said. "It's the only brand name in the entertainment business."
Some of the classic Disney product has undergone a face lift. Along with a new opening sequence, Disney has added new music or "re-sweetened" the sound tracks of some films, cut some movies from two hours to one, and edited others to achieve the quicker pace of current TV shows. "We did everything possible to make the product play in the contemporary marketplace," Jacquemin said.
Although no films were colorized for syndication, "The Absent-Minded Professor" was colorized earlier for the Disney cable channel, and the colorized version will appear in the syndicated series. "Davy Crockett," a 1955 color theatrical film that first aired on TV in black-and-white, will be seen in color this time around.
So far, none of the changes have spurred objections, Jacquemin said. "I don't think anybody has noticed the difference. It really still carries the same flavor and feeling the original product had."
Jacquemin said the Disney archives still contain "thousands of hours" of possible programming for syndication. And, he said, Disney also plans to launch "Duck Tales," a syndicated series featuring classic Disney characters in new adventures, this fall.