Disney gets more 'Handy,' enrolls fans at 'HSM 2'


PASADENA -- Disney Channel has ordered a second season of "Handy Manny," with Wilmer Valderrama returning to voice the title character, and is giving "High School Musical" fans a chance to take part in the sequel.

Those were among the announcements made Wednesday by Disney Channel Worldwide president of entertainment Gary Marsh during Disney's portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel.

The animated series "Handy Manny," part of Disney's preschool programming block "Playhouse Disney," airs at 9 a.m. weekdays and 10:30 a.m. on weekends. Marsh also said that "Playhouse Disney" is getting new hosts, the puppet monkeys Ooh and Aah, and new graphics starting March 31.

Meanwhile, "HSM" fans can go online starting Friday to determine elements of "High School Musical 2," which begins filming in Utah in the spring for an August premiere. At the Web site, they can answer 10 poll questions that will determine such elements as the type of dessert that Zeke bakes for Sharpay and the clever sayings on Chad's T-shirts.

In addition, the fourth season of the animated series "Kim Possible" is set to debut with a two-hour marathon from 8-10 p.m. Feb. 10, while "Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board," the sequel to the movie "Johnny Tsunami," is going into production this month in Auckland, New Zealand.

Earlier in the day, Billy Campbell, president of Discovery Networks U.S., said that Discovery Channel is planning to devote an entire evening to programming on "living with cancer." The special night of programming, airing April 29, will feature a documentary followed by a live town-hall discussion involving Ted Koppel, cancer survivor Lance Armstrong and Leroy Sievers, former executive producer of ABC's "Nightline," who is battling cancer, Campbell said.

In addition, Animal Planet executive vp and general manager Maureen Smith said her network will premiere its first-ever on-air/online series, "Saving Grace," with a half-hour special March 2 followed by 20 five-minutes webisodes available starting March 5, with a final half-hour special to air March 30. The show centers on a family's commitment to help an abandoned baby otter return to the wild.

Also present was Philippe Cousteau, chief ocean correspondent for Animal Planet and a panelist for the network's upcoming six-week "Spring Watch USA" event, who was asked about the "Ocean's Deadliest" documentary he was filming with Steve Irwin when Irwin died from a stingray attack.

"It's a good tribute to him and his work," he said. "We were able to film pretty much everything we planned on filming. There are some pieces missing that we didn't get to film, but that's the case when filming any nature program."

The docu airs from 8-10 p.m. Jan. 21.

Also on Wednesday, TV One said it is going into production on a new theatrical competition series, "David E. Talbert's Blackstage," with playwright Talbert and Edmonds Entertainment. Eight contestants and two alternates will compete for the chance to be understudies in Talbert's latest play, a touring production of "Love in the Nick of Tyme," which stars Morris Chestnut and R&B singer Avant.