Children's programming on the American Broadcasting Company

For most of the network's existence, in regard to children's programming, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) has aired mostly programming from Walt Disney Television or other producers (most notably, Hanna-Barbera Productions and DIC Entertainment). This article outlines the history of children's television programming on ABC including the various blocks and notable programs that have aired throughout the television network's history.


The Schoolhouse Rock! era (1973–1997)

The crown jewel of the network's children's programming lineup was the award-winning Schoolhouse Rock! series of educational shorts, which mixed original songs and animation with lessons on basic school subjects such as mathematics, science and history. The series aired from 1973 to 1985, before going on what turned out to be a temporary hiatus prior to its return to ABC's Saturday morning schedule in 1992. Schoolhouse Rock! was one of several animated interstitials that aired during this era, others included Time for Timer and The Bod Squad, both of which were discontinued in the 1980s.

From 1992 to 1995 (during the latter half of the show's run, and for at most until a year after it was canceled), short 30-second segments from America's Funniest People (a spin-off of the long-running America's Funniest Home Videos), which were branded as America's Funniest Kids, ran within commercial breaks during the ABC Saturday morning lineup. These would usually consist of excerpts from longer segments, usually featuring young children telling jokes or engaging in stunts.

More Cool TV (1991–1992)

At the start of the 1991–92 season, around the same time that ABC launched I Love Saturday Night – a block that was inspired by the success of ABC's Friday night TGIF sitcom block (the former of which ultimately ended after several weeks due to low ratings), executive producer/TGIF creator Jim Janicek also brought the hosted programming block concept to Saturday mornings, under the brand MCTV (More Cool TV). Stars from live-action series aired as part of the Saturday morning lineup, most notably including the cast of ABC's Land of the Lost revival, hosted interstitials every half-hour during the block. The MCTV segments at times were several seconds shorter than those shot for TGIF and I Love Saturday Night. While an opening sequence and custom last-segment show bumpers were included, the theme music used was the instrumental version of ABC's 1991 America's Watching campaign. The MCTV concept was soon abandoned, although not as quickly as I Love Saturday Night.

Disney's One Saturday Morning (1997–2002)

The merger of Capital Cities Communications (which purchased ABC in 1986) into The Walt Disney Company in 1996 marked a shift in the network's Saturday morning cartoon output. The merger resulted in Disney increasing the amount of programming content it produced for the network, including in regards to children's programming (prior to this, most of Disney's animated programming originated on either CBS, with which the studio had a working relationship prior to its purchase of ABC, or Disney's syndicated block, The Disney Afternoon). After Disney formally took over ABC's operations, the company's president and CEO Michael Eisner sought to create a Saturday morning block that was different from those carried by its competitors at the time, recruiting Peter Hastings (who had left Warner Bros. Animation in a dispute over the creative direction of Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain, which he had both written for) to help overhaul ABC's Saturday morning lineup. The concept that was developed revolved around the idea that Saturday is different from every other day of the week; Hastings also came up with the idea of utilizing virtual set technology for the hosted interstitial segments.[1]

The concept debuted as Disney's One Saturday Morning on September 13, 1997, formatted as a two-hour sub-block (before expanding to become the sole brand for the Saturday morning lineup in 1998) that originally featured some programs that had already aired on the co-existing ABC Saturday Morning lineup and incorporated live-action and animated interstitials.[2] It was originally scheduled to premiere on September 6, but was delayed by one week due to ABC News' coverage of the funeral of Princess Diana (a news event which resulted in CBS and NBC pre-empting their children's programming blocks that day). Disney would later create a spin-off block, Disney's One Too, which debuted on UPN on September 6, 1999, which featured many of the programs shown on One Saturday Morning.[3] The hosted and animated segments were dropped from the ABC block in 2000 in a reformatting of the ABC block due to low ratings.

During One Saturday Morning's intro sequence as well as the opening titles of programs during the network's Saturday morning block, a tiny lightbulb icon appeared in a bottom corner of the screen (which during programs, often occurred during a static frame at the end of the program's title sequence) with an announcer reading, "Illuminating Television," in reference to the educational programming content within the block. Various animations in which the lightbulb was removed from the screen occurred after the bulb's chain was pulled by a hand, differing depending on the program (such as the lightbulb turning into a rocket, falling into a garbage can or jumping in a pool). The icon continued to be used after the rebranding to "ABC Kids" until 2004, replaced by an "e/i" icon adorned on a mortarboard hat and a three-dimensional ball version of the ABC logo.

ABC Kids (2002–2011)

In 2001, ABC entered into a program distribution agreement with sister network Disney Channel to air its original programming as part of the network's Saturday morning lineup. As a result, live-action series were added to the One Saturday Morning lineup that September as part of the newly created "Zoog Hour," an hour-long sub-block – named after the cable channel's weekend programming block at the time, Zoog Disney – featuring the Disney Channel sitcoms Lizzie McGuire and Even Stevens (the programming agreement occasionally extended to broadcasts of Disney Channel's made-for-TV movies as part of The Wonderful World of Disney between 2002 and 2008).

On September 14, 2002, One Saturday Morning was rebranded as ABC Kids.[4] Upon the relaunch of the block, in addition to the Disney Channel series, ABC Kids contained two original series (Teamo Supremo and Fillmore!) and reruns of a former One Saturday Morning series (Recess). ABC also acquired the rights to NBA Inside Stuff through the network's acquisition of broadcast television rights to the NBA from NBC (where the series originally premiered in 1992), which aired alongside the ABC Kids block during the 2002–03 and 2003–04 seasons, before being replaced by NBA Access for the 2004–05 season.

However, in September 2003, reruns of Disney Channel original live-action and animated series[4] (with shows such as Kim Possible, The Proud Family and That's So Raven joining Lizzie McGuire and Even Stevens) came to dominate the lineup. To comply with the Children's Television Act, ABC chose to carry only select episodes of Disney Channel series featuring moral lessons and/or educational anecdotes. ABC Kids ceased to import new Disney Channel series onto its schedule after the 2006–07 season, when Hannah Montana, The Emperor's New School and The Replacements were added to the block. As a result, the block (outside of Power Rangers) relied entirely on repeats of the channel's shows that first aired on ABC Kids between September 2005 and May 2007 for the remaining three years of its run (all of which, most notably That's So Raven, were out of production by September 2011).

Power Rangers

The Walt Disney Company acquired the rights to the Power Rangers franchise after its purchase of Fox Kids Worldwide in 2001, which included the rights to the majority of the program libraries of Fox Kids, and the outright purchase of the production studio behind Power Rangers and Fox Kids Worldwide part-owner Saban Entertainment (the purchase was primarily designed to acquire the Fox Family Channel, which was rebranded as ABC Family following the sale's completion).[5]

The series moved to the ABC Kids block from Fox Kids in September 2002 (at which time, Fox replaced Fox Kids with the 4Kids Entertainment-produced block 4Kids TV), midway through the Wild Force season, with all first-run episodes from the franchise's Wild Force and Ninja Storm seasons that premiered on ABC Kids (starting with the Wild Force episode "Unfinished Business", the first to air on ABC) subsequently airing in reruns on ABC Family. The five seasons that subsequently followed, from Dino Thunder to Jungle Fury, had their first-run episodes debut on Jetix (a block that originated on ABC Family and later expanded and shifted to a block on Toon Disney, which carried most of the episodes) and air in reruns on ABC Kids. The RPM season – the final season to air on a Disney television property – aired exclusively on ABC Kids, after which ABC canceled production of the series. ABC subsequently reran the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, re-versioned with an updated title sequence, for the 2009–10 season.

With increased regulation of federally mandated educational programming guidelines, some of the network's affiliate groups – primarily Hearst Television and the Allbritton Communications Company – refused to carry Power Rangers or any other series on the ABC Kids lineup that did not fulfill E/I requirements (such as Kim Possible) in order to instead free up the time to air locally produced programming. However, some stations aired these shows on tape delay, shifting them to either very early in the morning on Saturdays or to Sundays – often before local newscasts, Good Morning America and/or that week's "live" portion of the ABC Kids block began. Power Rangers ended its run on ABC Kids in 2010 after Haim Saban repurchased the franchise's intellectual rights in May 2010 from Disney and leased the broadcast rights to Nickelodeon, which began airing new seasons and repeat episodes of the series starting in 2011.[6]

Litton's Weekend Adventure (2011–present)

In early 2011, ABC dediced that it would no longer provide E/I-compliant programming as part of its Saturday morning network lineup to its affiliates, with the network's affiliate board agreeing to seek a syndication package that would air exclusively on ABC owned-and-operated and affiliate stations. On May 24, ABC announced a time-lease agreement with Litton Entertainment to produce a new Saturday morning block, originally titled ABC Weekend Adventure, which was subsequently renamed Litton's Weekend Adventure, prior to its debut on September 3, 2011 (ending the entirety of conventional children's programming – animated or otherwise – airing on ABC).[7]

The block, designed by Litton to counterprogramming the then-traditional Saturday morning fare of animated and live-action scripted series, features unscripted and "pro-social programming"; however the block is not structured as a conventional Saturday morning lineup, in that purchased advertisements within the block are commercials that would otherwise be targeted at the 18-49 demographic and shows within the block, while educational in nature, are marketed for a family audience – although intended to be aimed at teenagers ages 13–16 – rather than just children.[7][8][9]


Scheduling issues

Programs featured on the current Litton's Weekend Adventure lineup are designed to meet federally mandated educational programming guidelines.[7][9] However, as with its predecessor network-programmed blocks, programs may be deferred to Sunday daytime slots, or (in the case of affiliates in the Western United States) Saturday afternoons due to breaking news or severe weather coverage or, more commonly, regional or select national sports telecasts (especially in the case of college football games) scheduled in earlier Saturday timeslots as makegoods to comply with the E/I regulations. Some stations may air the entirety of the Weekend Adventure block on tape delay to accommodate local news or other programs of local interest (such as public affairs shows, real estate or lifestyle programs).

Honolulu affiliate KITV (channel 4) aired programs within the former ABC Kids and the current Weekend Adventure lineups over three weekdays (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday), with two programs airing each day from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., preceding the ABC Daytime lineup (in particular, the network's soap operas prior to 2012). This scheduling is used only in the event of Saturday afternoon sports telecasts broadcast by ABC – which due to the time difference between the Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone and the United States mainland, may air live as early as five hours behind the game's airtime in the Eastern Time Zone, or six hours during Daylight Saving Time (as Hawaii runs on Standard Time year-round), effectively pre-empting ABC Kids programs from their regular timeslots and forcing the shows to air elsewhere on the station's schedule; this is particularly true of late morning and primetime college football games aired during the fall (for instance, a college football game with a 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time kick off would air in Hawaii at 9:30 a.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Time).

During the college football season, ABC affiliates in the Western U.S. will often realign programming for college football telecasts that have a 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time start (as a noon Eastern Time game is often scheduled). Some affiliates moved the ABC Kids programming to Sunday mornings (something that is still sometimes the case with the Weekend Adventure lineup), however until all Sunday-afternoon NASCAR races moved to ESPN in 2010, this usually pre-empted the pre-race show ESPN NASCAR Countdown.

List of programs

Saturday morning preview specials

See also


  1. Goldman, Michael (September 15, 1997). "ABC hopes for virtual success". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  2. Grove, Christopher (August 29, 1997). "Webs roll out season geared to kids". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  3. Pursell, Chris (July 19, 1999). "Mouse brands UPN kidvid". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  4. 1 2 Bernstein, Paula (September 29, 2002). "Kid skeds tread on joint strategy". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  5. DiOrio, Carl (October 24, 2001). "Fox Family costs Mouse less cheese in final deal". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  6. Littleton, Cynthia (May 12, 2010). "Saban re-acquires rights to 'Rangers'". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  7. 1 2 3 "ABC Orders Saturday Kids Block From Litton". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheck Media. May 24, 2011. Retrieved May 24, 2011.
  8. "ABC to Premiere ABC Weekend Adventure on Sept. 3". Broadcasting & Cable. NewBay Media. May 24, 2011.
  9. 1 2 "Litton Announces "ABC Weekend Adventure"". Business Wire. May 24, 2011.

External links

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