Pop culture for the tot demographic gets an upgrade:

The Playhouse Disney preschool programming block is being remade this week as Disney Junior, with a revamped lineup as well as name.

Disney Junior, which expands the Playhouse target audience from 2 to 5 to ages 2 to 7, is a precursor to a 24-hour basic cable and satellite channel that is set to replace Disney's SOAPnet in 2012.

The Disney Junior programming block airs on Disney Channel from 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET weekdays and 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET weekends. There's also a companion website.

"We were basically looking to redefine the brand image" to convey what the programming offers, said Carolina Lightcap, president of Disney Channels Worldwide. "`Playhouse' really meant just fun and parents didn't perceive a lot of learning value in the name."

I checked the website yesterday, and it’s less of a mess than other Disney sites. Here's the cast of characters page. When you mouse over a licensed property - sorry, a beloved character - a voice says the name, and I swear it’s the same happy lady who’s been doing Disney TV VOs since 2000. There's some continuity with the old channel;  they didn’t jettison the entire thing, leaving routine-dependent toddlers adrift in a world of new colors and typefaces.

But here’s the part I don’t get. They have hours and hours to fill. They have hours and hours of old shows that no longer run. Why not put them on during the wee hours, let parents DVR the eps, and introduce the next batch of toddlers to the shows kids had a mere nine years ago? Unless there was a study that proved “Stanley” made kids less likely to read books that didn't transport them to the jungle, but I don’t think so. Rolie Polie Olie, for example. One of the best shows they ever made. It’s as if Disney wants us to forget they ever aired it.

Here's an example of the new programming: Chuggington. Talking trains with human faces: where did they ever get that idea?

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