In Memory of Annette Funicello

April 8, 2013


The Disney Community is in mourning today, as we have lost an iconic Disney Legend, Annette Funicello, at the age of 70. Annette won America’s heart as a 12-year-old in Mickey Mouse ears, as one of Walt Disney’s original Mouseketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club. Walt Disney personally discovered her at a ballet performance, she reflected the innocence and wholesomeness that he wanted The Mickey Mouse Club to reflect. Amazingly, she was the last of the 24 original Mouseketeers chosen for popular children’s television show that began in 1955, when fewer than two-thirds of households had television sets. Before long, Annette was getting more than 6,000 fan letters a week, and was part of a huge marketing campaign based on her likeness.

The fame of the Mickey Mouse Club never went to Annette Funicello’s head, she was always modest, and rather shy as well. Walt Disney repeatedly asked her to call him Uncle Walt, but she could manage only “Mr. Disney.” They had a special relationship, and she always had such a sense of respect for him. Walt always believed in her, and was one of her greatest supporters.

While there are some Disney “stars” today who want to distance themselves from Disney, the company that gave them their start, Annette was never like that. She never had the desire to shed her “girl next door” image, or to distance herself from Disney. She was once quoted as saying, “Mickey is more than a mouse to me. I am honored to call him a friend.” Talk about class. So many stars could learn a lot from her. Annette remained true to her Disney roots, and was always grateful for the opportunities that she had.

Annette Funicello was known for her kindness and positive attitude. Her response to learning she had multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease of the central nervous system, was to start a charity to find a cure. She set up the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Disorders and underwent brain surgery in 1999 in an attempt to control tremors caused by her disease. Annette never looked at her illness with self pity, she charged forward and encouraged others who suffered as well, to fight and challenge MS head on. Her death, from complications of the disease, was announced on the Disney Web site earlier today.

There is so much that can be said about Walt’s girl, Annette Funicello. She will always be a substantial part of Disney history. Many Disney fans are heartbroken at the loss of this icon and she will be missed. I only hope that she is finally healed, at peace, and that she and Walt have a lovely conversation today. They have a lot of catching up to do. God Bless you Annette Funicello, and thank you for all the memories you leave behind. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her friends and family.

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