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8 February 1996 (USA)  »

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Annette Joanne Funicello's Outstanding Optimism
8 May 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Robb Weller narrates this account of the life and career of Annette Joanne Funicello, which is merely entitled "Annette" because of her "Mouseketeers" first-name-basis fame, as in "Annette!" applying to shirt and episode introductions.

When Annette turns four years of age, her parents decide to relocate from Utica, New York, to Los Angeles, California, not because of seeking fame in the entertainment industry, but because of those harsh freezing winters across the North, where father, Joseph Funicello, has worked as an automobile mechanic.

In an attempt to socialize this shy child, timid enough to flee into her room when visitors would press her family's doorbell, Annette becomes enrolled in dancing class by her mother, Virginia Funicello, who designs and sews young Annette's costumes. As a result, from here....

* 1955, Walt Disney personally discovers 12-year-old Annette when he notices her performance at a dance recital.

* With 23 "Mouseketeers" rolls cast for the upcoming television series "The Mickey Mouse Club," Walt Disney casts Annette Funicello into the 24th and final spot of original "Mouseketeers" to promote the opening of Disneyland. (She becomes the only cast member selected by Walt Disney himself, and she receives the most fan mail of all.)

* "The Mickey Mouse Club" would usually receive twice the amount of audience viewers than the other networks combined during its five-year run, this, in part, because of the lovely Annette's universal appeal.

* Annette and the others each receives $185 per week during the entire five-year run on the program. Their mouse-ears caps cost $50 each, and if any cast member loses his or her cap, then $50 is docked from salary to replace it. Annette is said to lose three along the way to adoring fans who reach for souvenirs.

* During her stint on a television program, as Annette performs "It's Really Love" in song, viewers write in to request a copy of her record, which doesn't exist until Walt Disney signs the reluctant young star to a recording contract, thus initiating her new second career as a singer.

* After all 360 episodes of "The Mickey Mouse Club" run their course, Annette becomes the only "Mouseketeer" retained by Disney Studio to continue work in forthcoming programs and films.

* Annette retains her wholesome Disney image for her roles in the "Beach" films, which are usually filmed on cold March mornings for summer releases, causing Annette and cast to have to make believe that it's much warmer outside than in reality even after a hosing down, to appear as if they've emerged from the water.

* During the 1970's, Annette appears as spokesperson for a peanut butter advertising campaign, along with her husband at the time and their three children.

* During the filming of her 1987 reunion film with Frankie Avalon, "Back to the Beach," it is revealed that Annette suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, a condition which she has kept to herself, but since has campaigned for public awareness for the sake of its victims, while maintaining her outstanding optimism.

* She has produced her own line of Teddy Bears for "The Annette Funicello Collectible Bear Company."

* Annette has penned her Autobiography "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: My Story" (1994).

This episode contains song performances: "How Will I Know My Love" (1958), "Tall Paul" (1959), and "Puppy Love" (Paul Anka, 1960, which he has written for Annette Funicello, to document their experience together).

Interview Guests for this episode consist of Annette Funicello, Actresses Sharon Baird and Shelley Fabares, Arlene Ludwig (Disney Publicity Director), Lorraine Santoli ("The Official Mickey Mouse Club Book"), Glen Holt (Husband), Paul Anka (Singer/Songwriter), Actors Frankie Avalon, Bobby Burgess, Tommy Cole, Tim Considine, Johnny Crawford, and Dwayne Hickman, Salvador "Tutti" Camarata (Maestro/Record Producer), and Robert and Richard Sherman (Film Musical Songwriters).

Archive footage includes Annette Funicello with Walt Disney, Actors Lonnie Burr, Jimmie Dodd and Guy Williams, Jack Gilardi (First Husband), Gina Gilardi (Daughter), Jack Gilardi Jr. and Jason Gilardi (Sons).

Television and Film Clips include a screen glimpse of Annette through the years, in scenes from "Swan Lake" (Burbank, California, dance recital, 1955), "Disneyland" Dedication Ceremony (1955), "The Mickey Mouse Club" (1955-59), "The New Adventures of Spin and Marty" (1957), "Walt Disney Presents: Annette" (1957-58), "Zorro" (1959-61), "The Shaggy Dog" (1959), "Babes in Toyland" (1961), "Beach Party" (1963), "Back to the Beach" (1987), plus Peanut Butter Television Commercials (1970's).


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