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Mickey Mouse Club Transcript
Brief sound clip
The Mickey Mouse Club marched into the consciousness of American children on October 3rd, 1955, when it first appeared on national television, and millions of middle schoolers, myself included, tuned in, eagerly learned the songs, instantly memorized the names of the kids who got the rare privilege of performing on the show, and if you were a boy, probably, promptly and irrevocably fell in love with Annette Funicello. In a fit of inspiration, one of my friends even stitched together his own hat with mouse ears made of cardboard.
The Mickey Mouse Club was a very ambitious idea for a children’s program — an hour-long show, five days a week — with a grueling production schedule. A typical show began with a newsreel of child-related (and often Disney-related) stories from around the world; this was followed by a segment featuring the talents of the mouseketeers (there were nine kids in the original core group in the first year, with an additional fifteen who were brought in for various ensemble pieces; the mouseketeers, incidentally, worked a 48 hour week for $185 dollars each. The program also included a film, such as a “What I Want to Be” segment about career possibilities, and a cartoon that the Mouseketeers introduced with the magic charm, “Meeska, mooka, Mousketeer, Mousecartoon time now is here.” The program always closed with a kind of lullaby-like theme song that, presumable, would send us all happily back to our homes where dinner would be waiting for us (the show ran from five to six o’clock).
Ah, these were kinder, gentler times — decades before even the folks at Disney put a mosh pit in the club house, taught the kids to gyrate, and turned a few of every new crop of mouseketeers into mea-marketed teen superstars. But it’s interesting to note that from the beginning of the show’s production in the Fifties, the Disney studios were telling potential advertisers, as Lorraine Santoli reports in The Official Mickey Mouse Club Book, that “many of the great show-business entertainers of tomorrow will come from this and succeeding companies of Mouseketeers.”
This turned out to be the key to the program’s success. Disney insisted on not having the kids from the usual talent pools and agencies — who could, in his words, “blow trumpets while they’re tap-dancing.” He told the show’s producer, Bill Walsh, that he wanted “ordinary kids” — and he urged him to “go to a school and watch the kids at recess … . you’ll notice that you’re watching one kid ….That kid has star quality …. That’s the kid we want to get in “The Mickey Mouse Club.’” Kids just like us — who dreamed they, too, could be stars.