The Playhouse is an unofficial name given to the main continuity strand on Playhouse Disney blocks and channels outside North America between 1999 and 2006. It was set in a colourful house which was the channel's central framing location, occupied mainly by the channel's two main presenters (Big Dave and Little Alex in the United Kingdom).
The Playhouse was Playhouse Disney's original form of presentation for all Playhouse Disney channels and block outside North America. In the United Kingdom, it was used within the first 7 years of Playhouse Disney's existence, hosted by the channel's two main presenters, Big Dave and Little Alex.
Every day of the week, the continuity for that day would have a different theme (a few such examples including Post Day, Bug Day and Shape Day). Dave and Alex would open the Playhouse every day introducing the theme of the day, and then sing their opening number; Come Into Playhouse Disney. Throughout the day they would create arts and crafts, sing songs and do various other activities based on that day's theme. From 2002 onwards they would be joined by the puppet Monty Mole (puppeteered by Neil Sterenberg).
The Playhouse was complemented with several shorter segments throughout the day. The first of these was Art Play presented by Sara-Louise Harper, where she would show children how to make a piece of artwork based on a Disney movie (in one episode she made a replica of Aladdin's Magic Carpet). After Harper became pregnant and left in 2002, she was replaced with Olivia Bonnici and a puppet called Splodge, made of everyday DIY objects.
The second segment was Circle Time, presented by Jason Canning, where he and a group of children would make up a story from pictures that viewers sent in. This segment was eventually dropped when Canning left to pursue other work in 2003.
Another popular segment was the children's cookery programme Bite Size showed kids how to make Disney-themed dishes, with a puppet oven glove called Mitzi (puppeteered by Helena Smee).
Dave and Alex would also host Music Time, where they sang new recordings of popular Disney songs. Although some of the songs used original instrumental recordings of Disney songs, other songs used alternate versions instead, which would prove to be a costly option.
Up until 2004, Dave and Alex would also celebrate viewers' birthdays; the Playhouse Disney Postman (Phil Gallagher) would bring viewers' birthday cards, the talking animatronic birthday cake Victoria Sponge would then sing 'If Today Is Your Birthday'. The talking gargoyles Uncle Charlie and Auntie Rosie would read cards or viewer-sent pictures on Dave and Alex's behalf while their attention was turned.
At the end of the day, Dave and Alex would close down the Playhouse with 'See You Soon Inside Playhouse Disney', which remained unaltered throughout the strand's run.
After the channel's format was refreshed in April 2004, the Playhouse remained largely unaltered, albeit with an increased reliance on out-of-vision continuity, and removing The Playhouse Disney Postman, Victora Sponge, and Circle Time segments with the presenting role of "Art Play" was taken by Olivia Bonnici after Sara-Louise Harper left after becoming pregnant. The strand also finished at around 5:55pm from 2004 onwards due to the introduction of the PJ's Bedtime nighttime block. The strand was eventually abandoned altogether on August 27, 2006, due to budget cuts across all four Disney Channels, marking the beginning of Playhouse Disney UK's transition to a more American format of presentation.
Outside the United Kingdom, the format's life varied, For example in Spain, Latin America, Mexico, Brazil, and Australia, the format was not removed at least until 2007 and 2008.
Places of Interest
- The Lounge: The largest area of the Playhouse which occupies most of the ground floor, where Dave and Alex would most often go to play games, for the Birthday sequences (until 2004), or to introduce the 'Music Time' sequences.
- The Bedroom: Another common area of the Playhouse home to most of Dave and Alex's cuddly toys. They would also typically watch Art Play taking place through the window into the Art Studio. This room's use was scaled back significantly, however, after PJ's Bedtime was introduced in 2004.
- The Bathroom/Libary: Home to a large bath-style fish tank containing various fish. Dave and Alex would occasionally make their own arts and crafts here, while in the Australian version for a 2005 TV series, the "Bathroom" format were renovated into a libary-like room for a "Story Time" format, in which Colin would tell a viewer a story here.
- The Attic: This is an area occupying most of the top floor where Dave and Alex would often meet up to sing 'Come Into Playhouse Disney' and 'See You Soon Inside Playhouse Disney'. It was also home to the two talking gargoyles; Uncle Charlie and Auntie Rosie (debuted in 2001), who would typically read out birthday cards and look at pictures that viewers sent in (from 2001 onwards), and the anthropomorphic unnamed Clock who appears to have a face with a moustache and a long beard, however in some countries such as Mexico, Brazil, (and sometimes Spain) had Uncle Charlie and Auntie Rosie being removed into a random picture (either 1 or 2 of them) or a object, sometimes the clock wasn't used in the attic in some UK continuity links and the Australian version where the clock itself was replaced by stars and a yellow lamp.
- The Art Studio: Where the Art Play segments would take place.
- The Playhouse Disney Garden: Jason and various children would meet up here for the 'Circle Time' segments, and where Mr. Postman would arrive with viewers' birthday cards.
- The Bite Size Kitchen: Dave would slide down into the underground kitchen for Bite Size via the beanstalk slide at the entrance to the Playhouse Disney Garden, rarely in the French input, Uncle Charlie and Auntie Rosie may appear at the far right.
- In the United Kingdom, the Playhouse would sometimes be recorded at the French set (In Walt Disney Studios Park) or the Spanish set in Madrid.