This was an anthology of a brilliant series that ran for more than 50 years on network television. It went on to become one of the longest running variety shows of all time. From the premiere telecast which premiered on October 27,1954 was the longest running program of any show on television in prime-time and from there ending its astounding run on television on September 14, 2005,after so many years of service to dedication to the public and the world. In was shown on all three major television networks(ABC,NBC,and later CBS).
When it premiered in 1954 it marked the first big plunge by a major Hollywood movie studio into television production. Disney changed the face of television in many ways. At the time the show premiered,the big studios,afraid of competition from the new medium,were television's sworn enemies,not only refusing to produce programming but denying TV the use of any of the latest or best theatrical films. Until Disney led the way,the lavish movie-style series so familiar today were an impossibility during the time the series came out in 1954. Luring Disney into television was a major coup for at the time the struggling network ABC. Both CBS and NBC had negotiated with the moviemaker,but neither could agree to his seemingly exorbitant terms. Among other things,Walt Disney wanted the network to help finance his proposed amusement park called Disneyland in Anaheim,California which opened its gates to the public and the world in 1955. Only ABC was willing to take a chance,paying a then-fabulous $500,000 plus $50,000 per program. However,ABC won big. Both the TV series and the park,Disneyland were fabulous successes. The program,"Disneyland",hosted by Walt Disney himself,which premiered on the ABC-TV network on October 27,1954 was the network's first major hit series sending the show to unprecented heights from which it has never before seen,and it remainded with the network for seven seasons until its departure from ABC in the spring of 1961. "Disneyland" consisted of a mixture of sorts---cartoons,live-action adventures, nature stories,and documentaries,and theatrical previews of new releases from the Disney studios. At first it was divided into four rotating segments,which was listed at the beginning of each week' show by the cartoon character Tinkerbell(from Peter Pan). They were Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Adventureland. The first telecast was a variety show,but what really got "Disneyland" off the ground was the Frontierland adventures based on the frontiersmen hero Davy Crockett. The Davy Crockett segments took America by storm sending the show to Number One in the ratings because of it tremendous success and its loyal base of fans. One of the reason is because of its star,Fess Parker as Davy Crockett. Even the theme song,"The Ballad Of Davy Crockett" became one of the biggest hits of the mid-1950's. Others included stories of actual Western heroes,not to mention stories based on heroes of the Revolutionary War and others as well including heroes based on Mexican folklore. One of the most successful out of these was based on the character of "Zorro",which was a astounding hit for Disney and ABC,and it was also transformed into a hit-weekly series starring Guy Williams. There were other presentations as well on Disney beyond the boundaries of Frontierland. Some were adaptions of classic stories and American folklore as well.
The animated segments of the show tend to feature well-known Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse,Donald Duck,Pluto,and Goofy and sometimes in full-length stories sometimes,"narrating" on documentaries on various subjects. Not to mention others of interest with child-like themes,for example to emergence of "The Mickey Mouse Club",and other children adventure shows were blended in as part of the program. When the series moved to NBC in October of 1961,it was titled "Disney's Wonderful World Of Color",a new characters were added,along with animated character Professor Ludwig Von Drake,who co-hosted many of the shows with Walt Disney. This time around documentaries covered subjects ranging from space travel to how cartoons are made not to mention live-action segments featured "non-human" counterparts and various productions that were for the first made for television. Some of which were made for TV-movies under the Disney banner. And of course there were plenty of plugs for the Disneyland park,and later on segments featuring construction for at the time the newest Disney amusement park,Walt Disney World about the work in progress which was the second Disney theme park to opened its doors to the public and the world in Orlando,Florida in 1971. Other segments included opening galas for theatrical Disney movies,and later-on location variety shows.
In 1965,the titled would be changed to "The Wonderful World Of Disney". Walt Disney continued as the host of the program until his untimely death on December 15,1966. The show went on as scheduled and voice-over narration by Dick Wesson was added. The loyalty with NBC-TV and its viewers kept the series on the air for an astounding 23 years ending its run with the network in September of 1983. However,it would return to the peacock network under a new format in October of 1988 and would continued until September of 1990.
The series would move to CBS in October of 1983 and would run one season and was cancelled in March of 1984 due to low ratings. During the 1985-1986 season,the series shifted to cable for a new venture at the time "The Disney Channel",under the title "The Best Of Disneyland". In February of 1986,the Disney series made a triumph return to ABC and this time around Micheal Eisner,who stepped in as the host of the program under its new title,"The Disney Family Hour",aka "The Disney Sunday Movie". The ratings soared back to Number One,and of which the series remained back at ABC-TV,under the title,"The Wonderful World Of Disney",from the years 1986-1988,and again from 1990-1996,and would remain on the network for astounding eight years until the final episode on September 14, 2005 after more than five decades on network television. One of the many great shows of my childhood era.