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Mickey Mouse Club, History And Facts. Why? Because We Like You

Uncategorized | October 3, 2020

Left: Mickey Mouse Club title card. Right: Anette Funicello in the '70s, holding a picture of herself from her Mickey Mouse Club days. Sources: Wikimedia Commons; IMDB

The Mickey Mouse Club was a '50s TV institution that gave us Mouseketeers a shoutable theme song, a yearning to wear Mickey Mouse ears, and Annette Funicello. When ABC first aired the children's show, the network could not have known that this offshoot of Walt Disney's empire -- freshly expanded with the 1955 opening of Disneyland -- would not only thrive in the '50s but live on in several reboots. Then there's the Disney Channel, Disney Plus -- it all started with 39 kids wearing turtleneck sweaters with their first names across the chest, and mouse ears. Those big round mouse ears.

Source: (Wikimedia Commonst)

In the 1950s, the Disney company was stretched a bit thin financially as growth of the company started to drain their finances. They needed money to help fund Disneyland, which opened in 1955, and decided to offer two shows to ABC; the network then gave Disney half a million dollars and Disney promised the network two shows, one of which was The Mickey Mouse Club. The original vision was for the show to be a live show. However, the show was not live, but followed a specific format, beginning with the animation that accompanied the opening theme song, “(The) Mickey Mouse Club March,” written by Jimmie Dodd:

The Opening Song

Donald Duck in the opening animation. Source: (Pinterest)

Who's the leader of the club

That's made for you and me

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

Hey! there, Hi! there, Ho! there

You're as welcome as can be

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

Mickey Mouse!

Mickey Mouse!

Forever let us hold our banner

High! High! High! High!

Come along and sing a song

And join the jamboree!

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

Mickey Mouse club

We'll have fun

We'll be new faces

High! High! High! High!

We'll do things and

We'll go places

All around the world

We'll go marching

Who's the leader of the club

That's made for you and me

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

Hey! there, Hi! there, Ho! there

You're as welcome as can be

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

Mickey Mouse!

Mickey Mouse!

Forever let us hold our banner

High! High! High! High!

Come along and sing a song

And join the jamboree!

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

This was followed by the Mouseketeers dancing to some big band music and, of course, the roll call to introduce each of the individual Mouseketeers, proudly wearing their names.

The Format Of The Show

Annette Funicello. Source: (IMDb)

During the first two seasons, each episode ran for an hour that was divided into four 15-minute segments. By the third season, the show was cut down to a half hour and the fourth season was comprised simply of half hour episodes of remixed parts of the old episodes. The 15-minute segments included newsreels for kids and serials such as “Spin and Marty” and “The Hardy Boys.” They also featured featurettes on careers and documentaries teaching kids about things like farming. Each day had a specific theme as well:

Monday – Fun with Music Day

Tuesday – Guest Star Day

Wednesday – Anything Can Happen Day

Thursday – Circus Day

Friday – Talent Round-up Day

Finding The Right Kids

Source: (Laughing Place)

When casting for the show, Disney wanted to appeal to all children, so they strove to include a variety of children with different vibes. They looked for average children with lots of talent. Bill Walsh even watched children on playgrounds, looking for the ones that seemed to draw other kids.

All told, there were a total of 39 Mouseketeers over the course of the show. The most popular ones were on the red team (there was also a blue team and a white team). The red team was comprised of the following kids:

Sharon Baird

Bobby Burgess

Lonnie Burr

Tommy Cole

Darlene Gillespie

Cubby O’Brien

Karen Pendleton

Doreen Tracey

And of course, Annette Funicello. Walt Disney himself discovered Annette Funicello when he saw the 12 year-old perform the role of the Swan Queen from Swan Lake in a dance recital in Burbank, California and personally cast her in the show. The kids worked a six-day work week, and often on Sundays, performed at Disneyland. They also went to school on set.

There Were Two Adults On The Show

Source: (Pinterest)

Two adults were also included in the cast: Jimmie Dodd and Roy Williams. Williams was a Disney artist and was the one who suggested the cast wear the Mickey Mouse ears. He also was the Big Mouseketeer on the show. Jimmie Dodd was the Head Mouseketeer, wrote the theme songs (he was a songwriter), and often had short segments to encourage kids to make the right moral choices. These little homilies became known as “Doddisms.”

The End Of Its First Incarnation

Source: (The Enchanted Manor)

Although it was popular, the first run of the show lasted until 1959; Disney and ABC had a dispute, in part because ABC wanted to add more commercials, which Disney was opposed to doing. ABC would not allow Disney to sell the show to another network either. After the show ended, Annette Funicello was the only Mouseketeer to remain under contract and she appeared in several Disney projects, including The Shaggy Dog and Babes in Toyland. She also went on to star in low-budget beach party films alongside Frankie Avalon and two stock car films. Funicello had a number of other roles, but was diagnosed with MS in 1987, which she revealed in 1992, in part because rumors were abounding about the reasons for her impaired carriage; people claimed she was an alcoholic. She died in 2013.

The Final Song, Including Lines Spoken

Source: (The Clarion-Ledger)

Each episode ended with a song, “Mickey Mouse Club Alma Mater,” written by Jimmie Dodd.

Spoken:

Now Mouseketeers

there's one thing we want you

always to remember.

Come along and sing our song

and join our family

M-I-C

K-E-Y

M-O-U-S-E

Through the years we'll all

be friends

wherever we may be.

M-I-C

K-E-Y

M-O-U-S-E

Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse

forever let us hold our

banner high.

Now its time to say goodbye

to all our company.

M-I-C

Spoken:

see you real soon

K-E-Y

Spoken:

why? because we like you

M-O-U-S-E.

It Really Wasn't Over

Cast from The New Mickey Mouse Club. Source: (MiceChat)

And the show did see us real soon, as The New Mickey Mouse Club. For this revival, the serials were typically old Disney movies, chopped into smaller segments. Each day still had a theme, although the themes were different. The show ran from 1977-1979, and included Lisa Whelchel, who went on to star on Facts of Life.

In 1989, The All-New Mickey Mouse Club premiered, and introduced the world to several youngsters who would go on to become big names: Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, Justin Timberlake, and Britney Spears. It ran until 1994. It still had theme days, but for this incarnation, included skits, some of which were comic, music videos and live performances.

Tags: Annette Fucinello | Childrens Television | Disney | The Mickey Mouse Club

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!