Disney 'Toons’ In a New Brand

What are little boys made of?

Disney will find out in February when it rechristens Toon Disney as Disney XD, aimed at boys 6 to 14.

The service, currently available in 73 million households, is a complement to sister service Disney Channel, whose appeal rests largely with girls of the same age. The revamp will extend across all of Toon Disney’s current platforms: mobile, television, online and video-on-demand.

The programming mix will include more live-action fare, along with the cartoons that have been on its schedule.

Sports-oriented programming will also be created for the youth network, in partnership with corporate sibling ESPN.

“We heard loud and clear that sports are an important part of kids’ lives,” said Disney Channels Worldwide president Rich Ross. Working with ESPN for new programming will be a great competitive advantage for the newly branded channel, he said.

The programming shift should differentiate Disney XD from other animation-centric cable networks such as Nicktoons and Cartoon Network.

Disney channels “build on what we don’t see in the marketplace, not on what we do [see],” Ross said. “We wouldn’t do this if there was not an appetite in the marketplace.”

Ross said the name search had been underway for almost a year. Someone in an international office suggested Disney XD, the name of an area on Disney.com.

The online division was going in a different direction, so the channel was able to “clear the name” for use as a channel moniker.

There is a possibility other Toon Disney (there are six under that brand globally) or Jetix channels (19 around the world) could be rebranded, the company said. Those decisions will be made on a network-by-network basis at a later date. Now a programming block on Toon Disney, the Jetix name will no longer be used in the United States.

To appeal to the new target demo, the channel will introduce new shows during its relaunch phase, including Aaron Stone, a live-action series about a teenager enlisted to become the live version of a legendary online game character; Hero or Not, an animated short-form series; and RoboDz, a 3D, computer-generated comedy.

Returning series include Emmy-nominated and Disney Channel transfer Phineas and Ferb, Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man and Iron Man.