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Disney Muscle Backs 'XD’

The soon-to-launch Disney XD, set to take the place of Toon Disney, will leverage the reach of its corporate siblings to announce the Feb. 13 rebranding.

Richard Loomis, senior vice president of marketing and creative for the channel on-air and online, said “synergy outreach” has already begun, with the Disney theme parks in Florida and California “planting the seed” for the new network. Beginning in December, Disney XD signs and video were placed in guest rooms at the two resorts and advertising was placed on tram panels and bus shelters announcing the new arrival. The company’s DVD division also placed advertising in its latest releases.

Grassroots marketing is also a part of the rollout plan: Disney XD will have a strong presence at corporate sibling ESPN’s Winter X Games Jan. 22-25 in Aspen/Snowmass, Colo., sponsoring the sledding hill, the executive said.

The company has also created a “teaser” Web presence, a site called HeroRising.com, named for the imaginary video game featured in Aaron Stone, the channel’s initial original series. The eponymous character is a whiz at the game and becomes an action hero in the series at the behest of its billionaire designer.

The Web site, which launched in November, was touted on-air and through ads at kids-targeted casual game Web sites, said Loomis. He would not detail traffic to the site but said executives have gotten positive feedback about the show and the revised programming due on Disney XD.

The series’ cast and creative team will also tout the network at the annual Comic Con in San Diego on Feb. 6 to 8.

Disney is revising the focus of the channel, which reaches 72 million homes as Toon Disney, to reach a core demographic of 6-to-14-year-old boys, with a target of boys aged 8 to 12. This should complement sibling Disney Channel, which with hits like Hannah Montana and The Cheetah Girlsmovies, tends to attract more girls. However, the new channel brand is not meant to exclude girls or their parents if they are fans of the aspirational goals of challenge, discovery and accomplishment that will be at the heart of Disney XD programming, Loomis said. Disney XD programming will be a mix of animation (including a short-form 3D series), live action, comedy, sports (some produced in partnership with ESPN) and original movies.

Disney contracted with a small New York design firm, Loyal Kasper, to design the on-air image IDs for the channel. The logos incorporate the Disney XD name, but a variety of versions will be used, with images of sports balls or other games superimposed within the graphic.

“We were looking for something simple, bold, confident and flexible, which brings us into the real world of kids … It’s a logo which plays well both on a big and small [mobile] screen,” Loomis said.

As part of the online and mobile game experience to go along with the TV channel, DisneyXD.com will include single and multiplayer games, online exclusive video, fan pages, community elements and a personalization feature which will allow young fans to create avatars to represent themselves, complete with personalities and emotions that will represent them throughout the site. Kids may even make personalized versions of the network logo which could be incorporated on air.

On Jan. 29, the first episode of Aaron Stone will be made available free at the iTunes Store, with episodes from two other channel originals Jimmy Two Shoes and Kid vs. Kat added one week later.

The channel will convert to Disney XD at midnight Feb. 13 on TV, video-on-demand and mobile platforms with an episode of Phineas and Ferb.