The Mickey Mouse Club is a former but long-running American variety television show that began in 1955, produced by Walt Disney Productions and televised by the American Broadcasting Company, featuring a regular but ever-changing cast of teenage performers. The Mickey Mouse Club was created by Walt Disney. The series has been revived, reformatted and reimagined several times since its initial 1955-1959 run on ABC. The original series has been repackaged and rerun several times over the decades.
The 1950s series
The Mickey Mouse Club was Walt Disney's second venture into producing a television series, the first being the Disney anthology television series, initially titled Disneyland. Disney used both shows to help finance and promote the building of the Disneyland theme park. Being busy with these projects and others, Disney turned The Mickey Mouse Club over to Bill Walsh to create and develop the format, initially aided by Hal Adelquist.
The result was essentially a variety show for children, with such regular features as a newsreel, a cartoon, and a serial, as well as music, talent and comedy segments. One unique feature of the show was the Mouseketeer Roll Call, in which many (but not all) of that day's line-up of regular performers would introduce themselves by name to the television audience. In the serials, teens faced challenges in everyday situations, often overcome by their common sense or through recourse to the advice of respected elders.
Mickey Mouse Club was hosted by Jimmie Dodd, a songwriter and the "Head Mouseketeer", who provided leadership both on and off screen. In addition to his other contributions, he often provided short segments encouraging young viewers to make the right moral choices. These little homilies became known as "Doddisms". Roy Williams, a staff artist at Disney, also appeared in the show as the "Big Mooseketeer". Roy suggested the Mickey Mouse ears ("Mouseke-ears") worn by the cast members, which he helped create, along with Chuck Keehne, Hal Adelquist, and Bill Walsh.
The main cast members were called "Mouseketeers," and they performed in a variety of musical and dance numbers, as well as some informational segments. The most popular of the Mouseketeers constituted the so-called "Red Team," which consisted of:
- Annette Funicello (1955-1959, 1977, 1980, 1990, 1993)
- Tommy Cole (1955-1959, 1980, 1990)
- Darlene Gillespie (1955-1959, 1977, 1980, 1990)
- Cheryl Holdridge (1956-1958, 1980)
- Bobby Burgess (1955-1959, 1980, 1990)
- Doreen Tracey (1955-1959, 1980)
- Cubby O'Brien (1955-1959, 1977, 1980)
- Karen Pendleton (1955-1959, 1980)
- Lonnie Burr (1955-1959, 1980)
- Sharon Baird (1955-1959, 1980, 1990)
- Nancy Abbate (1955-1956)
- Johnny Crawford (1955-1956, 1980)
- Dennis Day (1955-1957, 1980) [Joined the Red Team in the second season]
- Michael Smith (1955-1956, 1980)
- Jay-Jay Solari (1956-1957)
- Don Underhill (1955-1956, 1980) [Left the Red Team by the end of the first season]
(Cubby and Karen were initially "Meeseketeers".)
The remaining Mouseketeers were Don Agrati (1955-1959, 1980, 1990) (later known as Don Grady when starring as "Robbie" on the long running sitcom My Three Sons), Sherry Alberoni (1955-1959, 1980, 1990), Billie Jean Beanblossom, Eileen Diamond, Dickie Dodd, Mary Espinosa, Bonnie Lynn Fields, Judy Harriet, Linda Hughes, Dallas Johann, John Lee Johann, Bonni Lou Kern, Charlie Laney, Larry Larsen, Paul Petersen, Lynn Ready, Mickey Rooney Jr. (1955-1956, 1980), Tim Rooney (1955-1956, 1977, 1980), Mary Lynn Sartori, Bronson Scott, Margene Storey, Ronnie Steiner, and Mark Sutherland. Dennis Day was a Mouseketeer for two seasons and 1 special episode; the others served for shorter periods. Larry Larsen, on only for the 1956-57 season, was the oldest Mouseketeer, being born in 1939. Among the thousands who auditioned but didn't make the cut were future vocalist/songwriter Paul Williams and future actress Candice Bergen.
Other notable non-Mouseketeer performers appeared in various dramatic segments:
- Tim Considine (1955-1959)
- Tommy Kirk (1955-1959, 1977)
- Roberta Shore a.k.a. Jymme Shore (1955-1959)
- Steven "Steve" Stevens (1955-1959), (not to be confused with musician of same name)
- David Stollery (1955-1959)
- Judy Nugent (1955-1959)
- Kevin Corcoran a.k.a. "Moochie" (1955-1959)
- J. Pat O'Malley (1955-1959)
- Sammy Ogg (1955-1959)
- Alvy Moore (1955-1959)
- Julius Sumner Miller as "Professor Wonderful" (1955-1959)
These non-Mouseketeers primarily appeared in numerous original serials filmed for the series, only some of which have appeared in reruns. Certain Mouseketeers were also featured in some of the serials, particularly Annette Funicello and Darlene Gillespie.
Major serials included:
- Spin and Marty (three serials, starring Tim Considine and David Stollery in the title roles)
- Hardy Boys (two serials, starring Tim Considine and Tommy Kirk)
- Corky and White Shadow, starring Darlene Gillespie
- Walt Disney Presents: Annette, starring Annette Funicello
- Adventures in Dairyland, also called An Adventure in Dairyland, featuring Funicello and Sammy Ogg, and introducing Kevin Corcoran as Moochie
The opening theme, "The Mickey Mouse March", was written by the show's primary adult host, Jimmie Dodd. It was also reprised at the end of each episode, with the slower "Now it's time to say goodbye" verse. A shorter version of the opening title was used later in the series, in syndication and on Disney Channel reruns. Dodd also wrote many other songs used in individual segments over the course of the series.
Each day of the week had a special show theme, which was reflected in the various segments. The themes were:
- Monday - Fun with Music
- Tuesday - Guest Star
- Wednesday - Anything Can Happen
- Thursday - Circus
- Friday - Talent Round-up
Scheduling and air times
The series ran on ABC Television for an hour each weekday in the 1955-1956 and 1956-1957 seasons (from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.), and only a half-hour weekdays (5:00 to 5:30 p.m.) in 1957-1958, the final season to feature new programming. Although the show aired for the 1958-1959 season (5:00 to 5:30 p.m.), these programs were shows from the first two seasons, re-cut into a half-hour format. The Mickey Mouse Club was featured on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and "Adventure Time," featuring re-runs of The Mickey Mouse Club serials, ran on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The cancellation in 1959 was attributable to several factors: The Disney studios did not make a profit on the merchandise, the sponsors were uninterested in educational programming for children, and many commercials were needed in order to pay for the show. Walt Disney filed a lawsuit against ABC, and won the damages in a settlement; however, he had to agree that both the Mickey Mouse Club and Zorro could not be aired on any major network. This left Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (later retitled the Wonderful World of Disney) as the only Disney series left on prime time until 1972, when The Mouse Factory went on the air.
However, in response to continuing audience demand, it went into syndicated reruns from 1962 to 1965, with some new features such as Fun with Science and Marvelous Marvin in the 1964-1965 season. In response to an upsurge in demand from baby boomers entering adulthood, the show again went into syndicated reruns from January 20, 1975 until January 14, 1977. It has since been rerun on cable specialty channels Disney in the U.S. and Family Channel in Canada. The original Mickey Mouse Club films aired five days a week on the Disney Channel from its launch in 1983 until the third version of the series began in 1989. The last airing of the edited 1950s material was on the Disney Channel's Vault Disney from 1995 to September 2002.
- Broadcast history
1970s revival, the New Mickey Mouse Club
In the 1970s, The Walt Disney Company revived the concept but modernized the show cosmetically, with a [disco re-recording of the theme song and minority cast members. The sets, though colored, were simplistic, lacking the fine artwork of the original. Like the original, nearly each day's episode included a vintage cartoon, though usually color ones from the late 1930s and onward.
Serials were usually old Disney movies, cut into segments for twice-weekly inclusion. Movies included Third Man on the Mountain, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones and its sequel The Monkey's Uncle (both starring Tommy Kirk), Emil and the Detectives (retitled The Three Skrinks), Tonka (retitled A Horse Called Comanche), The Horse Without a Head (about a toy horse), and Toby Tyler (starring Kevin Corcoran). In addition, one original serial was produced, The Mystery of Rustler's Cave, starring Kim Richards and Robbie Rist.
Theme days were:
- Monday - Who, What, Why, Where, When and How
- Tuesday - Let's Go
- Wednesday - Surprise
- Thursday - Discovery
- Friday - Showtime (at Disneyland, with performers usually at Plaza Gardens)
The series debuted on January 17, 1977, on only 38 television stations, and by June, when the unsuccessful series was discontinued, only about 70 stations in total had picked up the series. Additional stations picked up the canceled program, which continued to run until January 12, 1979; 130 new episodes, with much of the original material repackaged and a bit of new footage added, and a shortened version of the theme song, were produced to start airing September 5, 1977. The series has not had more than token reruns, unlike its 1950s predecessor, and while both the 1950s and 1990s series had DVD releases in July 2005, the 1970s series seems forgotten except by that short generation of youthful viewers for whom it defined "the club".
CastThe cast had a more diverse background than the 1950s version. Several 1970s cast members went on to become TV stars and other notable icons.
The show's most notable alumna was Lisa Whelchel, who later starred in the NBC television sitcom The Facts of Life before becoming a well-known Christian author. Mouseketeer Julie Piekarski (1976-1977) also appeared with Lisa Whelchel (1976-1977) on the first season of The Facts of Life. Kelly Parsons (1976-1977) went on to become a beauty queenand runner-up to Miss USA. Shawnte Northcutte (1976-1977) appeared once on Facts of Life. Billy 'Pop' Attmore (1976-1977) appeared in a few movies before and after the series, a fifth-season episode of The Brady Bunch ("Kelly's Kids"), and as a streetwise hood in the short-lived Eischied crime drama. Nita Dee (1976-1977) appeared at the tail end of an episode of Fantasy Island.
Other Mouseketeers (from seasons 1-2 (recorded in 1976 and released in 1977) from the 1977 show:
- Scott Craig (1976-1977) — born in Van Nuys, California, in 1964; lived in Las Vegas, died December 30, 2003.
- Nita Dee (1976-1977) — born in Long Beach, California, 1966
- Mindy Feldman (1976-1977) — born in Burbank, California, 1968, and sister of Corey Feldman
- Angel Florez (1976-1977) — born in Stockton, California, 1963; died April 25 1995.
- Allison Fonte (1976-1977) — born in Anaheim, California, 1964
- Todd Turquand (1976-1977) — born in Hollywood, California, 1964
- Curtis Wong (1976-1977) — born in Vancouver, British Columbia, 1962
Theme song and soundtrack
The lyrics of the Mickey Mouse Club March theme song were slightly different from the original, with two additional lines: "He's our favorite Mouseketeer, we know you will agree" and "Take some fun and mix in love, our happy recipe."
A soundtrack album was released with the show.
This incarnation was not distributed by Disney alone; while Disney did produce the series, it was co-produced and distributed by SFM Entertainment, who also handled 1970s-era syndication of the original 1950s series (Disney has since regained sole distribution rights). The syndication rights for this version are now with CBS Television Distribution.
1980s-1990s revival (the All New Mickey Mouse Club)In 1989, the Disney Channel revived the show with a different format, which was very similar to other popular shows of the time like You Can't Do That on Television or Saturday Night Live.
Scheduling and air times
The series aired Monday - Friday, 5:30/4:30 CST during Seasons 1-5. It aired Monday - Thursday, 5:30/4:30 CST Season 6. In its final season it aired Thursdays only at 7:30/6:30 CST. The show premiered Monday, April 24, 1989, ended production in 1996, and ran reruns until Thursday, May 31, 1996. Seasons 3, 5 and 7 had the most episodes. Seasons 4 and 6 were shorter, having about 35 episodes each.
The long version of the new show's title was The All New Mickey Mouse Club, but it was more commonly called MMC. Recorded before a studio audience at Disney-MGM Studios in Bay Lake (Buena Vista Lake), Florida, it featured teens from all races. The show was a mix of live skits, recorded comedy and songs. The Mouseketeers did their own versions of popular songs live and in music videos. Emerald Cove was a recurring soap opera type segment starring Mouseketeers that aired once a week for 10 minutes.
Five members of the show (Damon Pampolina, Tiffini Hale, Chase Hampton, Albert Fields and Deedee Magno) broke off and formed the musical group The Party, and released four full length albums: The Party; In The Meantime, In Between Time; Free; and The Party's Over...Thanks For Coming. They had a radio hit with the Dokken cover of "In My Dreams".
The sixth and seventh seasons of the show would be the starting point for several American pop superstars and actors. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Keri Russell, and Ryan Gosling were all on the show and had future stardom. Jessica Simpson and Countess Vaughn were finalists but did not make it onto the show.
The only Mouseketeers who remained on the show until its cancellation in 1996 were Lindsey Alley, Jennifer McGill and Josh Ackerman, and with Tiffini Hale and Chase Hampton in The Party back for the final season.
Theme days and other notable episodesIn 1990, as part of Season 3, six former Mouseketeers Tommy Cole, Sharon Baird, Sherry Alberoni, Bobby Burgess, Don Grady and Annette Funicello made a special appearance, actually participating in some skits and a couple of musical numbers. They were presented with 1980s-1990s MMC jackets. Annette thanked everyone very much and told the new Mouseketeers that "the Club is in good hands because of all of you." This fact needs citing. MMC celebrated its 200th episode with a show about Racial Unity. It featured Rev. Jesse Jackson, Tracie Spencer, Young Nation and Tevin Campbell. This fact needs citing.
Theme days were:
- Music Day- Mondays (Seasons 1-5), Tuesdays (Season 6)
- Guest Day - Tuesdays (Seasons 1-5), Mondays (Season 6)
- Anything Can Happen Day! - Wednesdays (seasons 1-5), was not used in Season 6
- Party Day - Thursdays (Seasons 1-4, 6), Fridays (season 5)
- Hall of Fame Day - Fridays (Seasons 1-4), Thursdays (Season 5), Wednesdays (Season 6)
(Note: In Season 7, the show was shown on Thursdays only, therefore, no theme days were used.)
Full cast of 1980s-1990s Mousketeers
- Josh Ackerman (1989-1996)
- Christina Aguilera (1993-1996)
- Lindsey Alley (1989-1996)
- Rhona Bennett (1991-1996)
- Nita Booth (1991-1996)
- Mylin Brooks (1990-1992)
- Brandy Brown (1989-1990)
- Jason Blain Carson (1991-1992)
- JC Chasez (1991-1996)
- Braden Danner (1989)
- Tasha Danner (1991-1992)
- Nikki DeLoach (1993-1996)
- T.J. Fantini (1993-1996)
- Albert Fields (1989-1991)
- Dale Godboldo (1991-1996)
- Ryan Gosling (1993-1996)
- Tiffini Hale (1989-1991, 1994-1996)
- Chase Hampton (1989-1991, 1994-1996)
- Raquel "Roqué" Herring (1989)
- David Kater (1989)
- Tony Lucca (1991-1996)
- Ricky Luna (1990-1996)
- Tate Lynche (1993-1996)
- Deedee Magno (1989-1991)
- Jennifer McGill (1989-1996)
- Terra McNair (1991-1992)
- Ilana Miller (1990-1996)
- Jason Minor (1990-1992)
- Terri Misner (1991-1994) (Adult co-host)
- Matt Morris (1991-1996)
- Fred Newman (1989-1994) (Adult co-host)
- Kevin Osgood (1989-1992)
- Damon Pampolina (1989-1991)
- Mowava Pryor (1989-1990) (Adult co-host)
- Keri Russell (1991-1994)
- Britney Spears (1993-1996)
- Justin Timberlake (1993-1996)
- Marc Worden (1990-1996)
- Donald doing a different thing at the beginning of every episode was the inspiration for Gonzo's trumpet gag on The Muppet Show, as well as the famous Couch Gag on The Simpsons.
- Previous to the TV series, there was a theater-based Mickey Mouse Club. The first one started on January 4, 1930 at 12 noon at the Fox Dome Theater in Ocean Park, California with 60 theaters hosting clubs by March 31. The Club released its first issue of the Official Bulletin of the Mickey Mouse Club on April 15, 1930. By 1932, the Club had 1 million members. And in 1933, its first British club opened at Darlington's Arcade Cinema. In 1935, with so many clubs around the world, Disney begins to phase out the club.
- ↑ Disneyland #2501