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A sad day for Mousketeers and Disney fans everywhere…

by Rod Wheaton on April 8, 2013

A sad day for Mousketeers and Disney fans everywhere...

She was the smiling, fresh-faced girl next door every grade school boy in the 50’s adored. I had an uncle who once told me that every day at 3:30 the ball field would empty of all the boys in his neighborhood because even though they didn’t want to admit it, every boy rushed home to see Annette Funicello on the Mickey Mouse Club.

It’s easy to see the appeal. Walt Disney himself discovered her at a ballet performance. From the time she landed a spot on the “Mickey Mouse Club” at the age of 12, she was America’s sweetheart. In no time she was getting 6,000 fan letters a week, along with rings watches and other gifts from adolescent admirers.

In 1987, she learned she had Multiple Sclerosis. In her typical upbeat and cheerful style, her reaction to learning she had the disease was to soon found a charity in search of a cure.

And so today it was with greeted with great sadness by Baby Boomers, men and women alike, when it was announced from the official Disney Fan Twitter that Annette Funicello had finally lost her battle with Multiple Sclerosis.

To Disney fans, though, she’ll always be remembered best for the many roles she played as the Disney ‘it” girl. Not only was she beloved as one of the 24 original Mousketeers, but she also played roles on the popular Mickey Mouse Club mini-series “Spin and Marty” and others. She was quoted as saying “Mickey is more than a mouse to me. I am honored to call him a friend”.

She had a special relationship with Walt himself, whom she considered like a second father. In 1958 he offered her a studio acting contract–the only Mousketeer to be given one. She starred in Disney classics like “The Shaggy Dog” and “Zorro”, and later moved into the “Beach Movie” roles so popular in the 60’s (in 1987 she showed her sense of humor in a movie send-up that lampooned those same roles).

When we remember the little girl in the mouse ears, we will always smile.

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