The Walt Disney anthology television series refers to a television series which has been produced by the Walt Disney Company under several different titles from 1955 to 2008. These include Disneyland (1954–1958), Walt Disney Presents (1958–1961), Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (1961–1969), The Wonderful World of Disney (1969–1979), Disney’s Wonderful World (1979–1981), Walt Disney (1981–1983), The Disney Sunday Movie (1986–1988), The Magical World of Disney (1988–1996), then finally back to The Wonderful World of Disney (1997–2008), and The Magical World of Disney Junior (2012–present).
The first incarnation of the show premiered on ABC, Wednesday night, October 27, 1954. The same basic show has since appeared on several networks. The series finale aired Christmas Eve 2008 on ABC. The show is the second longest showing prime-time program on American television, behind its rival, Hallmark Hall of Fame (see List of longest running U.S. primetime television series). However, Hallmark Hall of Fame was a weekly program only during its first five seasons, while Disney remained a weekly program for more than thirty years.
The series moved to NBC on September 24, 1961 to take advantage of that network’s ability to broadcast in color. In addition, Walt Disney’s relationship with ABC had soured as the network resisted selling its stake in the theme park before doing so in 1960. In a display of foresight, Disney had filmed many of the earlier shows in color, so they were able to be repeated on NBC, and since most of Disney’s feature-length films were also made in color, they could now also be telecast in that format. To emphasize the new feature, the series was re-dubbed, “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”, and retained that moniker until 1969. The first NBC episode even dealt with the principles of color, as explained by a new character named Ludwig Von Drake (voiced by Paul Frees), a bumbling professor with a thick German accent, and uncle of Donald Duck. Von Drake was the first Disney character created specifically for television.