The Mickey Mouse Club was a 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.
Although the series had been terminated in the United States, many members of the cast assembled for highly successful tours of Australia in 1959 and 1960. The television series was very successful in Australia and was still running on Australian television. The cast surprised Australian audiences as by then they had physically developed and in some case bore little resemblance to the young cast with whom Australians were so familiar. Television did not reach Australia until 1956 so the series screened well into the sixties when the back catalogue expired.
The 1950s series
The Mickey Mouse Club
was Walt Disney
's second venture into producing a television series
, the first being the Walt 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:
(Cubby and Karen were initially "Meeseketeers".)
The remaining Mouseketeers were Nancy Abbate, Don Agrati (later known as Don Grady when starring as "Robbie" on the long running sitcom My Three Sons), Sherry Alberoni, Billie Jean Beanblossom, Johnny Crawford, Dennis Day, 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., Tim Rooney, Mary Lynn Sartori, Bronson Scott, Michael Smith, Jay-Jay Solari, Margene Storey, Ronnie Steiner, Mark Sutherland and Don Underhill. Dennis Day was a Mouseketeer for two seasons; 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:
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:
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 "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.
Although the show remained popular, ABC decided to cancel the show after its fourth season, as Disney and the ABC network could not come to terms for renewal. 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. After cancelling The Mickey Mouse Club, ABC also refused to let Disney air the show on another network. 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
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
until January 14
. It has since been rerun on cable specialty channels Disney in the U.S. and Family
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
Almost all of the original Mouseketeers were reunited for a TV special in 1980, which aired on Disney's Wonderful World
in November of that year
Several original Mouseketeers performed together at Disneyland in the fall of 2005, in observance of Disneyland's 50th birthday, and the 50th anniversary of the TV premiere of The Mickey Mouse Club.
1970s revival, the All New Mickey Mouse Club
In the 1970s, Walt Disney Productions
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
(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)
Troubled syndication run
The series debuted on January 17
, on only 38 local television stations
in the United States, 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
; 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
. 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."
The cast had a more diverse ethnic
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 also appeared with Lisa Whelchel on the first season of The Facts of Life. Kelly Parsons went on to become a beauty queen and runner-up to Miss USA. Shawnte Northcutte appeared once on Facts of Life. Billy 'Pop' Attmore 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 appeared at the tail end of an episode of Fantasy Island.
Other Mouseketeers from the 1970s show:
- Scott Craig — born in Van Nuys, California, in 1964; lived in Las Vegas, died 30 December 2003.
- Nita Dee (Benita DiGiampaolo) — born in Long Beach, California, 1966
- Mindy Feldman — born in Burbank, California, 1968, and sister of Corey Feldman.
- Angel Florez — born in Stockton, California, 1963; died 25 April 1995.
- Allison Fonte — born in Anaheim, California, 1964
- Todd Turquand — born in Hollywood, California, 1964
- Curtis Wong — 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
1990s revival (MMC)
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
. The show structure was originally developed by Walt Disney Television in the mid-1980s.
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
, ended production in 1994, and ran reruns until Thursday, May 31
. The series was also syndicated to local television stations throughout the United States
. 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 the Disney-MGM Studios
, now Disney's Hollywood Studios
in Lake Buena Vista
, FL as 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 and several actors who exclusively appeared on these segments, 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
; and The Party's Over...Thanks For Coming
. They had a radio hit with the Dokken
cover of "In My Dreams
The show would be the starting point for several American pop superstars and actors. The fourth season introduced us to JC Chasez and Golden Globe winning television actress Keri Russell. The sixth season featured Grammy Award winning singers Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake and Academy Award nominated actor Ryan Gosling. 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 1994 were Lindsey Alley, Jennifer McGill and Josh Ackerman with Tiffini Hale and Chase Hampton back for the final season.
Theme days and other notable episodes
In 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 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." MMC
celebrated its 200th episode with a show about Racial Unity. It featured Rev. Jesse Jackson
, Tracie Spencer
, Young Nation and Tevin Campbell
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 1990s Mouseketeers