The Mickey Mouse Club players were introduced to the public before the
television show began on a stage at Disneyland. It was on October 3,
1955 that the famous children's show first aired. They started out as
hour-long shows from Monday to Friday, and later were reduced to
half-hour shows. Each day of the week had a different theme, and was an
opportunity for the youngsters to showcase their talents. There were
many Mouseketeers, only about nine remaining as regulars throughout the
run from 1955 to 1959. The ears were a result of an idea from
"Mooseketeer" Roy, who remembered a Mickey Mouse cartoon in which Mickey
removed his ears and tipped them like hat. As well as the trademark
ears, each member had his or her first name stitched boldly across the
front of a T-shirt. Popular members went on to bigger and better
careers including Bobby Burgess, to the Lawrence Welk Show and Annette
Funicello, to the big screen. Other members showed up here and there,
the club giving them a boost to future projects, notably Johnny
Crawford. Although the first club had a short-lived lifespan, and the
driving force, Jimmy Dodd, passed away at an early age, it was
resurrected again in 1977
and later in 1989, and has included other notable entertainment stars,
such as Christina Aguilera. The popular theme song is still remember
fondly by aging youngsters, a song that of course incorporated many of
Walt's most famous characters.
Although the Walt Disney characters, like Disney's Tinkerbell, were the drawing cards for the show, there were many basic concepts built into the presentation that virtually guaranteed success. Latter day children's shows studied the success of the Mickey Mouse Club and in some instances patterned their child recruits after the style of the great Walt Disney institution. One of those was "Barney", but a close study of the two, finds that the Disney children are much more natural as they were expected to be less-than-perfect. The result is that they are much more identifiable than the overly coached purple dinosaur crew.
One of the most popular children was Annette Funicello. Her presence on
television was innovative, as an "ethnic" member. Many reviewers have
commented that her screen presence was magical or undefinable, with that
special something which created a desirable screen presence. They are
unable to identify the reasons. For those of you who may be interested,
the opinions of this author likely explain the essence of her magic. She
had a slightly wider nose than most of the other children, which gave
her a very cute appearance, combined with her dark eyes and early
budding stature. The boys and girls in the audience could not take
their eyes off her, as a result one barely remembers the lesser
Mouseketeers such as Don, Mike, and Nancy, all of whom were excellent
dancers and performers in their own right. The cute ethnic appearance
of Annette has been successfully but quietly identified and reproduced
in the charming characters of the animated series, "Lilo and Stitch."
Just take a look at the noses, and you'll see the reason for the
charm. Of course, it helped that the Mickey Mouse club children were
often encouraged to behave like children, so you will see them waving
their hands and jumping for attention, and behaving bored or moody
just within the range of the camera, like the little girl Mary who is
frowning when the camera is not on her. The older Mary is less candid
and more adult, aware that the camera might be watching.
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