Taking A Look At Disney Junior

This morning, I happened to have Disney Junior on (actually, my nephew was watching it and I just kept it on when he went to school) and, since I've been a little Marvel and Star Wars heavy as of late (I couldn't help it!  So much news over the last few days!), I thought I'd slow things down a bit and talk about how I impressed with the shows that have been coming out of this network.

I know a lot of people think that all Disney should be entertaining for all ages and not just for a specific age group.  I agree with this for the most part, but I don't think there's anything wrong with having programming targeting younger audiences.  Small children tend to learn and be entertained by different things...yes, things with lots of color and soft looks.  I see how my youngest nephew reacts to the programming.  And, for anybody who's been with a child who's been semi-bored at a Disney Park only to watch their eyes light up while watching Disney Junior: Live On Stage, you'll get it.

For this blog entry, I wanted to focus on five of programs produced specifically by Disney.  These are the programs that have premiered since the launch of the network - Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Henry Hugglemonster and Sheriff Callie's Wild West.

Photo: Disney
Jack and the Never Land Pirates takes from the rich Disney history by bringing kids to Never Land and using the infamous Captain Hook and his right hand man Mr. Smee as the villains.  Other Never Land denizens also make appearances, including Tick Tock Crock, Tinker Bell and even Peter Pan himself.  When this show was first announced, I admittedly took a purist approach and winced at it being an affront to a Disney classic, especially one of my favorites.  But, as I watched the program with my nephews, I realized that the show wasn't really about Peter Pan (even though he has made appearances), but about these specific kids not only taking kids on adventures, but teaching kids about problem solving and team work.

Photo: Disney
The next program to hit Disney Junior was Doc McStuffins which is about a girl who administers care to her toys.  Doc McStuffins, I think, is probably my favorite of the Disney Junior shows.  Not only does it feature an African American girl, but a girl as the main character in a show that isn't specifically targeted to girls or boys.  It is made for children and has wonderful messages to relieve any fears that children have about going to the doctor and to demystify healthcare.  I think it's a wonderful program.

Photo: Disney
Perhaps the biggest hit on Disney Junior is Sofia the First which, like Jake and the Never Land Pirates, looks to Disney's history for the basis of its storytelling.  Sofia is a little girl who finds herself not only part of a blended family, but a princess as well.  And, like the other princes and princesses, she attends Royal Prep where she receives lessons from Flora, Fauna and Merryweather from Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty.  And, when Sofia is in need, she is able to call upon the other Disney Princesses for help.  This show has some nice messages about being part of a blended family as well as messages about being yourself.

Photo: Disney
Next is Henry Hugglemonster.  This show is based on a book entitled I'm a Happy Hugglewug by Irish author Niamh Sharkey.  Part of what the show does is try to let children know that not all monsters are scary.  Having a nephew that suffers from bad nightmares, it's nice to have a show with friendlier monsters.  But, it also gives children an opportunity to learn about living and finding your role within a larger family by teaching about teamwork and communication.

And, finally, the newest show, premiering earlier this year, Sheriff Callie's Wild West.  I have to admit that the first time I watched this show was this morning and, truth be told, I kept it on because I knew Mandy Moore was the voice of Callie and I LOVE Mandy Moore.  This show was really the impetus for writing this as I also enjoyed watching this program.  It teaches children how to be good citizens by teaching them how to make right decisions and how your actions can impact your community.  It also teaches children about friendship.  Also, like Doc McStuffins, I like that the show features a female lead without being aimed at any gender in particular.

In fact, it's nice to see that these Disney Junior shows embrace a level of diversity that you don't always get in other programming.  Another byproduct of this programming I'm hoping to see is a greater acceptance of people's differences at an earlier age.

Again, Disney Junior might not be everybody's cup of tea, but, it's not meant for everybody.  It's meant for small children.  And, I think it's doing a good job in teaching children critical lessons in an entertaining way that we can only hope come from Disney.


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