Disney Junior is a defunct British and Irish pay television kids channel that was owned by Disney–ABC Television Group that focused on preschool programming. It was launched on 29 September 2000 as Playhouse Disney. The channel was rebranded as Disney Junior on 7 May 2011, it later ceased broadcasting on 30 September 2020.
During the rebrand of Disney Channel in 1997, a block titled "Disney Channel Underfives" was added, featuring programming aimed towards a young audience. On September 28, 1999, it was rebranded as Playhouse Disney (thus expanding the Playhouse Disney brand outside the US) with the introduction of live presentation. On September 29, 2000, Disney Television International launched Playhouse Disney as a standalone channel alongside Toon Disney and Disney Channel +1 on the Sky Digital platform. Since the channel was exclusive to Sky Digital at this time, the Playhouse Disney block continued to broadcast on Disney Channel during school-term weekdays. Playhouse Disney was later launched on NTL and Telewest in 2002 and 2003 respectively. The Playhouse Disney block later reduced its hours of programming featured and was eventually disposed of in July 2004. In June 2006, a Playhouse Disney block was added to the morning schedule of ABC1. It was removed after Disney ceased transmission of ABC1 in September 2007. ABC1's slot itself on Sky would be used to launch a 25-minute timeshift of Playhouse Disney in October 2007.
Playhouse Disney, which existed as over 22 channels or blocks in 156 countries and territories, rebranded as Disney Junior in 2011. In the UK and Republic of Ireland, Disney Junior began on May 7, 2011 with the first program to air being Handy Manny. At the same time, Disney Junior (who replaced Playhouse Disney Canada the day before) started broadcasting in 16:9 widescreen. The last show that aired on Playhouse Disney before it became Disney Junior was JoJo's Circus. A high-definition simulcast of Disney Junior was made available to Sky+ HD subscribers in April 2013. In September 2017, Disney XD +1 was turned into a pop-up channel titled Mickey and Pals, which aired various programming from Disney Junior.
Disney Junior, along with its sister channels Disney XD and Disney Channel, closed in the UK on 30 September 2020, after 20 years on-air, due to Disney failing to reach a new carriage deal with Sky and Virgin Media. The closure was announced on 25 June that year. All of the channels' content were transferred to Disney's streaming service, Disney+.
The last programme to be broadcast before it closed was Gigantosaurus. It then showed a selection of promos and music videos before cutting to the channel's ident image featuring Mickey, Gonzalo and Vampirina.
Virgin Media removed the channels on 29 September, with CBBC and CBeebies taking over the network's former Sky EPG slots on 1 October.
When Playhouse Disney originally launched in the United Kingdom, it used live presentation and links, being set in a large "Playhouse" featuring different rooms and areas. This presentation format was also used for Playhouse Disney in Australia, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Germany and several other territories outside North America.
Playhouse Disney UK's main live presenters were Dave Benson Phillips and Alex Lovell, who were referred to as Big Dave and Little Alex. In addition to presenting the "Playhouse", both Dave and Alex presented "Music Time", where they sang mostly Disney songs, with the original recordings of the songs. Dave also presented the children's cookery show, Bite Size, alongside Sophie Aldred and Karl Woolley and puppet Mitzi the Oven Glove.
Two other segments were also featured. The first was "Circle Time", presented by Jason Canning, where he alongside a few children, made up stories from animated drawings that viewers sent in. The other was "Art Play", presented by Sara-Louise Harper, which featured her and a few children creating a piece of artwork based on a popular Disney movie.
New graphics and a new logo were introduced in March 2003, coinciding with the debut of the main Disney Channel's new look. Along with this, came a refreshing of the format. The 'Circle Time' strand was removed without a replacement presenter after Jason Canning left to pursue other work, and Art Play's presenting role was taken by Olivia Bonnici after Sara-Louise Harper left after becoming pregnant. While the "Playhouse" format would remain for the next few years, the channel's presentation gradually began to focus more on out-of-vision links, like what its American counterpart would use.
In 2004, A dedicated nighttime block called "PJ's Bedtime" was introduced, being presented by Olivia and Big Dave alongside the titular puppet PJ Mole.
On 27 August 2006, Dave Benson Philips and Alex Lovell left the network, while the Art Play and Music Time strands were removed around the same time due to budget cuts. The two remaining strands, PJ's Bedtime and Bite Size, were removed in November 2007 and May 2008, respectively. By then, the channel featured a format and identity in-par with its American counterpart.
In September 2007, the channel logo in the external promotionals (programme press releases, promos for terrestrial television) were changed to include the inscription "Channel" as in all Playhouse Disney Europe channels, but on the channel itself, the logo was not changed. This move was to differentiate the channel from the "Playhouse Disney" block, shown all mornings on the American Disney Channel, using the two monkeys Ooh and Aah as hosts from Ooh, Aah & You between the channel links as well as using the same on screen graphics as the US block up until 2011.
Presenters were re-added to the channel in September 2009, with new presenters Samantha Pearl and James Sherwood presenting on air between 6pm and 8pm 2 hours daily like Monday Sunday everyday until Friday 6th May 2011. Similar to Cbeebies bedtime hour with Alex Winters and Cerrie Burnell on February 2009 from 6pm-7pm an hour.
Disney Junior +
A one-hour timeshift service of the channel, Disney Junior +, launched on 29 October 2007 as Playhouse Disney +, replacing the now defunct channel ABC1. It launched on the same day that the Disney Channels were reshuffled on Sky, involving Disney Cinemagic and Disney Cinemagic +1 moving down the EPG, to enable Playhouse Disney to move up the EPG to allow Playhouse Disney + to launch next to it on Sky 611 and 612 respectively. Playhouse Disney + was initially a 25-minute timeshift service until 11 February 2011 when it became a 1-hour timeshift service. It was renamed as Disney Junior +1 on 7 May 2011.