Disney TV sacrificed nostalgia for pop

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

It always bugs me during my nightly channel flip to come across the Disney Channel.

The station has heavily invested its morning, noon and nights in programming geared towards the pre to early teen audience. The television shows smack of &#8220Saved By The Bell” reincarnations. For those not in the know, &#8220Saved By The Bell” was Saturday morning TV's early attempt at capturing the teenage market not interested in Spider-Man or Bugs Bunny cartoons. Okay, being a child of the 80s, I'll admit it: I watched it. If only for cute girls with their bubbly personalities.

But the Disney Channel has taken that programming to the extreme.

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Not too long ago, the Disney Channel was actually pretty good TV. Instead of forsaking the millions of baby boomers who had grown up with Walt Disney and the Mouseketeers, the show embraced its past, with nightly replays of &#8220The Wonderful World of Disney,” as well as classic movies like the original &#8220Herbie: The Love Bug” and &#8220The Parent Trap,” or &#8220The Apple Dumplin' Gang.” Cartoons were frequent as well. And you can't beat the classic Disney cartoons, whether it's the short features or the full-length animated productions.

I barely remember the Ritz Theatre before it closed for good. However, I do recall seeing &#8220Bambi” there, as well as several other films like &#8220Pete's Dragon.”

Before the Disney Channel went all teen, all the time, the classic &#8220Dr. Syn: Alias the Scarecrow” was a regular feature on the station during Halloween. Another classic movie that I saw at the Ritz.

I always associate the Ritz with Disney, because I was too young to see anything above a G rating. Just walking into that old theatre today, with its soft lobby lights and leather folding seats, takes me back to when I was just a little boy, clutching my father's hand and staring wide-eyed at the elaborately designed movie posters on the wall. My eyes usually caught the horror posters; ones which suggested that scary monsters lurked on both the movie screen and in the aisles around you. I half-expected the Frankenstein monster to step out from behind the theater's long red curtains and move toward me. When the Ritz closed, someone told me it was because the rats had taken over; no doubt a story fabricated to sensationalize its finality.

Movie theaters in my life have come and gone, but I still remember the Ritz.

That's why I always welcomed the nostalgic television of the Disney Channel.

But it's the young, it seems, that shall inherit the Earth.

Not the meek. Or old.

Kevin Pearcey is Group Managing Editor of Greenville Newspapers, LLC. He can be reached by phone at 383-9302, ext. 136 or by email at: editor@greenville.advocate.com.