Happy Birthday Annette!


Some people wonder why Annette Funcello went from the back row of the Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers to eventually pop culture icon status. Allow me to elucidate.

There were plenty of Mouseketeers with talents beyond Annette's limits. Walt Disney may have personally chosen her for the show that "cartain something" quality that appealed to viewers resulted in bags of fan mail arriving at the studio every day. The public chose her as the favorite, not the studio or even Walt himself.

Annette was not supposed to become a singing star. She did one quick song on her serial, made after her popularity started to climb, and the fans demanded a record be made. She wasn't perfect, she was lovely and real and relatable. No one admitted her limits as a performer more than Annette. In one interview, she said after making twelve albums and countless singles, she didn't know when it would stop -- "I don't sing!"

Therein lies part of her appeal. Instead of constantly shooting for the limelight, she was just herself. And very ethnic for the mid-1950s, when TV had very few kids who looked like her (Walt gets little credit for that).

Without Annette, the Sherman Brothers would never have been connected directly to Walt, who assigned them to The Parent Trap, which led to their being put on staff, which led to the studio's biggest hit of its day, Mary Poppins--the profits from which financed the building of Walt Disney World in Florida.

I'm not making this up, I have spoken and written extensively about it for books and articles, even official Disney company ones, and I've lectured about it around the country. Except for Richard Sherman, probably no one involved in "Mary Poppins Returns" realized the role Annette played in their arriving at the point they have this year.