What was then called The Disney Channel (as opposed to Disney Channel today) signed on at 6:56:45 a.m. on the morning of Monday, April 18, 1983, with a short “launch show” followed by Good Morning, Mickey. From those humble beginnings 30 years ago, when it showcased classic Disney animated shorts along with kid-friendly learning programs, Disney Channel has become the cable powerhouse it is today, creating such massive pop-culture touchstones as High School Musical, Hannah Montana, Phineas and Ferb, and Shake It Up!
What was significant about its launch, though, is how important it was culturally—so important, actually, that it received special proclamations from the congress and the president. Here are samples from a few of these sent to James P. Jimirro, then Disney Channel president.
From President Reagan, May 27, 1983:
“Dear Mr. Jimirro: I was delighted to learn of the debut of the Disney Channel—creating new opportunities for millions of American cable subscribers to enjoy the informative, entertaining, and wholesome family entertainment for which Walt Disney and the organization he founded is so justly famous throughout the world.”
“…he was a true pioneer—always seeking to enrich the world’s treasury of joy, and always finding new ways. The Disney Channel is in the best tradition of the spirit of pioneering….”
“I wish you all success, and I just know that Walt Disney, a fellow Californian whom I knew and admired, will be smiling down on you from his perch on one of the brightest rainbows in heaven.”
“God bless you. Sincerely, Ronald Reagan.”
In addition to this presidential letter, congress also sent this proclamation to the then president of The Disney Channel.
From the Congressional Record, the Senate, Monday, May 2, 1983:
“Mr. President, I wish to call to your attention the latest creative endeavor designed to bring happiness and enchantment to the American public. Debuting in 43 of our 50 states on Monday, April 18, The Disney Channel continues the Disney tradition of quality and responsible entertainment, represented by definitive, alternative programming for the family.”
“Since 1923, the imagination of Walter Elias Disney has captivated the world through the heart and soul of Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney believed in quality, family entertainment and believed the American public embraced the virtues upon which our nation was founded. Times have changed, and Walt Disney Productions has grown. But the Disney name, which has become synonymous throughout six decades with happiness and laughter, has become a pioneer in premium cable television by providing educational programing and positive ethical values for all family members.”
“From their first venture into the early medium of television in 1950 to their entry into the burgeoning cable television market, I commend the Disney organization for maintaining a policy of public responsibility and unparalleled excellence in family entertainment.”
D23′s Disney Fanniversary Celebration 2013 continues. Join us in Boston, Newark, Orlando, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, or Washington, D.C.
By D23: The Official Disney Fan Club’s Jim Frye