History of Playhouse Disney Live On Stage

Playhouse Disney originated as Disney's first attempt at a programing block aimed at preschoolers, launching as an offshoot of their successful Disney Channel. It would feature a variety of programs aimed at younger children than the full Disney Channel, and many would gain a significant following.

The programing was so successful that Disney chose to bring it to its theme parks, something it rarely ever does for its TV shows.

Welcome to Disney Parks History, a series here at TPE where we explore the various rides and attractions from the Disney Parks. Today we are exploring the history of Playhouse Disney Live On Stage. Be sure to check out the full series here.

Playhouse Disney Live On Stage would open at Disney's MGM Studios in 2001. It replaced a short-lived Bear In The Big Blue House themed stage show but would continue to prominently feature characters from the TV show Bear In The Big Blue House as the opening and closing segments of the show.

The show was built to feature, with the exception of Bear In The Big Blue House, a rotating set of Playhouse Disney children's series. On opening day it featured segments featuring characters from Rolie Polie Olie, Stanley, and Book of Pooh. Each scene featured a special backdrop, and a set of puppets as the characters from the show. It was hosted jointly by Bear and a live host.

The same show would also open in 2003 at Disney California Adventure, replacing the ABC Soap Opera Bistro, a short-lived restaurant at the park. The shows were identical in content.

Each segment would feature a shortened version of a typical storyline from an episode of each respective show. They each featured lessons that tied in with an overall storyline tied to Bear and the Big Blue House characters.

Playhouse Disney Live On Stage Entrance Disney MGM Studios

While the show was designed to have individual scenes changed out relatively easily, it only happened once during the Bear and the Big Blue House years, with Rolie Polie Olie replaced when the series was set to end with the newer Jojo's Circus. The change happened in 2005.

Eventually, Disney would face a problem with this attraction. Bear In The Big Blue House, which had been one of the early success stories of Playhouse Disney, had ended after successful a run of almost a decade. This delayed the final season for several years, but eventually Bear in the Big Blue House ended in 2006.

The attraction would outlive the show it was primarily based on by about two years, with a major overhaul removing every scene in the attraction, but keeping the same basic storyline.

Bear was swapped out for the characters of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and a new story of preparing for Minnie's birthday was added in. The three segments in the middle became Handy Manny, Little Einsteins, and My Friends Tigger and Pooh.

This version of the attraction would replace both Bear in the Big Blue House versions in 2008, and the only international version opened in 2009 in Walt Disney Studios Park in Disneyland Paris.

This show would change out individual scenes much more often, although for some reason the Paris version would never change after opening.

In 2011, the first major changes to the attraction would happen, and it would permanently remove the Playhouse Disney name from the show as Playhouse Disney itself was no more. Disney had replaced it with the newly renamed Disney Jr. and it featured a whole new lineup of shows.

One segment would be replaced along with the show being renamed, although the basic framing of the show with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse would remain the same. My Friends Tigger and Pooh would be replaced with a new Jake and the Neverland Pirates scene. This would be the first time the attraction operated without a Winnie the Pooh themed segment.

Only two years later in 2013, the remaining two original scenes in the middle, Little Einsteins and Handy Manny, were replaced by newer shows Sofia The First and Doc McStuffins. They would remain with the show for the remainder of its time at both locations.

This was the final update the show would receive. It would continue to run until 2017 in Disney California Adventure, 2018 in Disney's Hollywood Studios, and 2019 in Walt Disney Studios. It closed amid rumors that Disney was looking to cut costs. This show was costly to produce with several puppeteers and live actors required for every single performance. Many similar shows were canceled under similar circumstances, and the show that replaced it in the two US locations, a Disney Jr. themed dance party that mostly used screens in place of the puppets that had been a continuing part of attraction since Bear in the Big Blue House.

The show is set to be replaced by a unique show in Walt Disney Studios also based on Disney Jr. It was set to open, and then every Disney Park in the world closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic. We have yet to figure out what this show was going to be.

Playhouse Disney Live On Stage started as one of the first major entries into the Disney Parks of a Disney television property and turned into a highly successful show that spawned multiple distinct versions in three different Disney resorts over the course of two decades. Even the current dance parties are still a spiritual successor to the initial Bear in the Big Blue House version of the show.

Its highly flexible nature allowed it to incorporate a dozen TV shows over its history, shows that without it would never end up in the Disney Parks. It gave young children something that was exclusive to them, and that is what the Disney Parks are all about. Providing attractions that appeal to every possible demographic that could visit the parks.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out the rest of Disney Parks History here. What attraction should we cover next? Give us your suggestions in the comments below.