Annette Funicello was the darling of the original Mouseketeers
Annette Funicello was the popular "Mouseketeer" whose career continued with over 20 films and television appearances after her childhood TV roles. Her passing on April 8 was sad news for babyboomers who had grown up with her. Diane Disney Miller posted a personal letter on the Walt Disney Museum blog with a poem written by Byron that she feels could have been written about Annette.
What made Funicello so endearing to the public was her wholesome and beautiful good looks, her demeanor, her ability to stand up to her boyfriends in her films, and her perpetual cheer in life. She lived her life almost as the person in her films, sticking up for herself, helping others, making others happy. There were never stories of a different persona behind Annette. She was genuine on screen, as in life.
The original Mouseketeers of the Mickey Mouse Club were only on the air from 1955 to 1960 but their faces are immortal for those who watched the popular TV show. They could all dance and sing and each had a unique personality. One of the best things about the program was that it was educational but the commercials and merchandising that were used to pay for it were not lucrative enough, which was exactly why Disney and ABC could not hammer out a deal and later cancelled it. However, the show did help in part to finance Disneyland.
Annette was the darling of them all. She seemed taller than most of them and was a big sister to the younger ones like, Cubby O'Brien and Karen Pendelton.
The Mouseketeers continued up through 1997 with new children such as Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears who are big stars now, so it goes to show what Disney magic can do.
In interviews in the 90s's Funicello said her eternal friend was Mickey Mouse. Even if Annette retired from entertainment due to her long illness with MS, her passing yesterday evokes one of the newspaper cartoons at the Walt Disney Museum in San Franciscoshowing Mickey crying when Walt Disney passed away in 1966. This cartoon could just as well apply to Annette as one of Mickey's ardent champions.
Listen to an interview of Annette Funicello starting April 10, 10 pm Pacific time in the Movie Magazine Listening Room, a San Francisco based streaming radio program for 20 seasons nationally. The interview will be on there for a week for national and international audiences.