ABC Kids (also known as Disney's ABC Kids, and originally titled Disney's One Saturday Morning until September 7, 2002) was an American children's programming block that aired on ABC from September 13, 1997 to August 27, 2011. It featured a mix of animated and live-action series from Walt Disney Television Animation and (beginning in 2001) sister cable network Disney Channel, aimed at children between the ages of 7 and 14.
The block regularly aired on Saturday mornings in the U.S., though certain programs within the lineup aired on Sundays in some parts of the country due to station preferences for non-educational programming or scheduling issues with regional or network sports broadcasts. Under its original "One Saturday Morning" brand, the block also aired in Canada on CTV from 1997 to 2002, and on the Baton Broadcast System (BBS) from 1997 until it was integrated into CTV in 1998.
After five years of mainly repeats of programs introduced onto the block prior to the 2007-08 season, ABC decided it would cease to provide children's programming during the Saturday morning timeslot, and entered into an agreement with Litton Entertainment to program that period; the block that resulted from this deal – Litton's Weekend Adventure, which is structured as a syndication package distributed with virtual exclusivity to ABC's owned-and-operated stations and affiliates – replaced ABC Kids on September 3, 2011.
In the years immediately prior to The Walt Disney Company's purchase of ABC corporate parent Capital Cities/ABC Inc. in 1996, the network's children's program block at the time, ABC Saturday Morning, aired such Disney-produced series as The Mighty Ducks, DuckTales and Gargoyles. It was also known for its famous jingle "After these messages we'll be riiiiiight back!" that existed from 1987 until Disney's takeover of the network. However, many other Disney-produced animated series (such as The Little Mermaid, Timon & Pumbaa and Aladdin) aired at the time as part of CBS' competing Saturday morning lineup. After Disney formally took over ABC's operations in 1996, Disney head Michael Eisner sought to create a Saturday morning block that was different from those carried by its competitors at the time.
In February 1997, Peter Hastings left Warner Bros. Animation in a heated dispute over the direction of two massive Warner Bros. animated series hits he had written for, Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain, and joined Disney, where was tasked with overhauling ABC's Saturday morning lineup. He pitched an idea around the concept that Saturday is different from every other day of the week, and the representation of weekdays as buildings. Hastings also proposed the use of virtual set technology; although he knew little about it at the time and the technology used was just starting to be developed, Disney and ABC liked the idea. He hired Prudence Fenton as consultant manager and co-executive producer. Together, they sampled virtual set technology at the 1997 NAB Show and chose technology developed by Accom and ELSET. Rutherford Bench Productions, which had previously worked with Disney on other projects, hired Pacific Ocean Post (now POP Sound) to produce the virtual set. The building was initially a drawing of Grand Central Terminal with a roller coaster added, but evolved into a towering mechanical structure. Even the interior has similarities such as a central high raised room, with two wings on the left and right sides and another on the south side.
On September 13, 1997, Disney's One Saturday Morning premiered as a two-hour sub-block within the ABC Saturday Morning lineup. It was originally scheduled to debut the Saturday prior on September 6, however its premiere was pushed back one week due to ABC News' coverage of the funeral of Princess Diana (a news event which also resulted in CBS and Fox pre-empting their children's programs block that day).
One Saturday Morning – advertised as "five hours of summer, once a week!" (as referenced in the theme song that introduced the block each week) – featured two parts: three hours of regularly scheduled cartoons and a two-hour flagship show that included feature segments, comedy skits, and the virtual world Hastings had proposed, along with episodes of three series: Doug (which had been acquired from Nickelodeon), Recess and Pepper Ann, all of which were interspersed through the show. Schoolhouse Rock!, a longtime staple of ABC's Saturday morning block since 1972, also aired as an interstitial segment (typically it aired during The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show, the only non-Disney series to carry into One Saturday Morning and one that would air until Warner Bros. ended ABC's contract in 2000). Among the educational features were:Manny the Uncanny, in which the title character (played by Paul Rugg) would visit an unusual job site and observe how the job is performed;
Great Minds Think for Themselves, in which Genie (voiced by Robin Williams, reprising of the character he voiced in Aladdin) highlighted moments in (mostly American) history in which famous figures bucked conventional wisdom;
How Things Werk, a 1950s comic book styled segment explaining feats of American engineering; and
Mrs. Munger's Class, in which a page from an actual elementary school yearbook had its faces syncro-voxed for humorous effect (the actual people whose photos were featured never granted their permission for their likenesses to be used, prompting legal action against its producers and the eventual removal of the sketch). A similar sketch called Centerville replaced Mrs. Munger's Class in 1999.
The live-action wraparound segments were originally hosted by now New York City based lawyer Jessica Prunell (in the role of Charlie) for the block's first season in 1997, and later by Valarie Rae Miller (in the role of MeMe) beginning in September 1998; the segments also featured an elephant named Jelly Roll (voiced by stand up comedian and actor Brad Garrett), who served as a sidekick to the human host.
During One Saturday Morning's intro sequence as well as the opening titles of programs during the 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 saying, "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 (including a hand of Pooh from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh), differing depending on the program (such as the lightbulb turning into a rocket, falling into a garbage can, turning red, yellow or green when it's driving as a racing car, turning into a helicopter or jumping in a pool). The icon continued to be used after the rebranding to "ABC Kids" until 2004, when it was replaced for the remainder of ABC Kids' run by an "e/i" icon adorned on a mortarboard hat and a ball version of the ABC logo (based on the one seen in the logo used for the block) that bounced to the top of the screen to wear the e/i hat at the start of each act.
A spin-off of One Saturday Morning, Disney's One Too, debuted on UPN on September 6, 1999; produced through a time-lease agreement between Disney and UPN, the block aired each weekday (either in the morning or afternoon, depending on the station's preference) and on Sunday mornings, and featured many of the programs shown on One Saturday Morning (including Recess, Pepper Ann and Sabrina: The Animated Series).
The shorts and hosted segments were dropped in 2000 in a reformatting of the ABC block due to low ratings; by this time, the interstitials within the block were relegated to bumpers and program promotions. In September 2001, live-action series were added to the One Saturday Morning lineup with the addition of the "Zoog Hour," an hour-long sub-block featuring the Disney Channel original sitcoms Lizzie McGuire and Even Stevens (the sub-block, advertised in promos for One Saturday Morning promoting the two programs as "powered by Zoog," was named after Disney Channel's weekend programming block at the time, Zoog Disney).
On July 23, 2001, the Walt Disney Company purchased the assets of Fox Family Worldwide, primarily for its Fox Family Channel, which was included in the sale as well as Saban Entertainment, a company in which Fox purchased a 50% interest in 1994. On September 14, 2002, ABC rebranded its Saturday morning block, as a subtle nod to the Fox Kids brand acquired by Disney through its purchase of Fox Family Worldwide, to ABC Kids (as a result of the sale, Fox Kids ceased to exist; Fox's children's program lineups would be handled from that point onward by 4Kids Entertainment).
The rechristened block originally contained a mix of first-run programs exclusive to the block, as well as reruns of several original series from Disney Channel. NBA Inside Stuff also began airing on the block as a result of ABC's acquisition of the broadcast television rights to the NBA from NBC (where the series originally premiered in 1992), beginning with the 2002–03 season's Christmas Day game; Inside Stuff continued to air on ABC Kids until 2004. Replacing the massive building theme used on One Saturday Morning was a stadium motif, a theme that would last for all seven years of ABC Kids' run.
Through Disney's acquisition of Saban Entertainment, ABC also moved the Power Rangers series from Fox Kids to the ABC Kids block. All first-run episodes from the franchise premiered on ABC Kids beginning with the second half of the show's Wild Force season (starting with the episode "Unfinished Business"), with the entirety of the Wild Force and Ninja Storm seasons subsequently airing in reruns on ABC Family (the former season aired in part both prior to the introduction of and during the ABC Family Action Block). Subsequent seasons from Dino Thunder to Jungle Fury had their first-run episodes debut on Jetix first and re-air on ABC Kids. The RPM season aired exclusively on ABC Kids, after which ABC canceled production of the series. In lieu of a new season, ABC instead reran the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, with an updated title sequence, for the 2010–11 season.
In September 2004, ABC Kids almost exclusively carried live-action and animated series from Disney Channel as a result of the short-lived Fillmore! (which had been airing in reruns since the summer of 2003) and Recess (which was airing in reruns on the block since it ended in 2001) being dropped from the lineup. With the expanded regulation of federally mandated educational programming guidelines defined by the Federal Communications Commission's Children's Television Act, ABC chose to fulfill the three-hour quota by carrying select episodes of Disney Channel live-action comedies and animated series (anywhere between eight and 13 episodes from a given season) featuring moral lessons and/or educational anecdotes. Furthermore, some of the network's affiliate groups – primarily Hearst Television and Allbritton Communications – refused to carry any show aired within the ABC Kids lineup that did not fulfill E/I requirements (such as Kim Possible or the Power Rangers series during their tenure on ABC Kids) 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. In one case with Hearst's Milwaukee station WISN-TV, Kim Possible and Power Rangers aired early Monday morning before ABC World News Now during the 2005–06 season to fill the contractual need to air those series but also express disinterest to the network in carrying the shows altogether, which was a factor behind the chain-wide decision to end airing Power Rangers altogether the next season.
Beginning with the 2007–08 season, ABC Kids (outside of Power Rangers) consisted mainly of repeat episodes of Disney Channel series that first aired on the block between September 2005 and May 2007 (Hannah Montana, The Emperor's New School and The Replacements were the last Disney Channel series to be added to the block in September 2006). In fact, all of the shows aired on the lineup were out of production by September 2011 (most notably, That's So Raven, which aired its series finale in 2007 but continued to air on ABC Kids for four more years, even after reruns of the sitcom stopped airing on Disney Channel in June 2010).
Airings of Power Rangers ended on the network's West Coast affiliates on August 14, 2010, due to a two-week preemption caused by ABC's coverage of the 2010 Little League World Series and the educational programming makegoods by those stations that resulted from it; the program officially ended its run on the block nationwide two weeks later on August 28. On September 4, 2010, ABC turned over the hour held by Power Rangers to its local affiliates (with many that carried the program and some that did not using that time to debut an additional hour of their existing Saturday morning newscasts on that date). Through Haim Saban's repurchasing of the intellectual rights to the franchise from Disney and a deal reached in May 2010 which gave the cable network the television rights, all new seasons of Power Rangers began premiering on Nickelodeon with the debut of the Samurai season on February 7, 2011. Repeats of new seasons and all previous seasons also began airing on that network the following day.
In March 2011, ABC announced that it would no longer provide educational programming to its owned-and-operated stations and affiliates as part of its Saturday morning network lineup. The network decided to lease out the three-hour timeslot and seek other programmers for an agreement to produce a syndicated block for its stations. On May 24, 2011, ABC's affiliate board announced that it had reached a deal with Litton Entertainment, a production company which produces syndicated programming (including educational programs aimed at children and teenagers), to produce original content for the Saturday morning block.
ABC Kids aired for the final time on August 27, 2011; the Litton-produced Litton's Weekend Adventure block effectively replaced ABC Kids the following week on September 3, 2011. As a result, ABC discontinued airing animated programming, making it the first network not to air animated series within its children's program lineup since August 1992, when NBC discontinued its animation block on Saturday mornings to launch the live-action block TNBC.