I’m too young to have caught Annette Funicello’s run on the original Mickey Mouse Club. Her early films with Frankie Avalon didn’t first air when I was old enough to appreciate them or even care about them. No, my first time seeing her was in a film called Lots of Luck in 1985 and the second time she grace my eyesight was in 1987 in a film with Frankie Avalon called Back to the Beach. That’s when I realized how talented she was. Later I discovered just who she was and what all the fuss was about. Checking back I found some of her older beach films and also some old episodes of MMC where it was evident why she is one of the most beloved Mousketeers of all time.
Back during the original Mickey Mouse Club, the show began running serial movies that appeared in segments each episode. Funicello starred in her very own serial entitled “Annette” which seemed appropriate considering that it’s her first name. And it was a no-brainer, really, for her to have her own serial, because she was without a doubt one of the most popular kids from the show. Besides all the dancing, singing, and so-called humor, Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club had all the talent necessary to put on serious and dramatic serials that told some great stories. Annette Funicello’s “Annette” ran from early February to mid-March in 1958 and rings a lot of similar bells to the wonderful Hayley Mills’ flick, Pollyana.
Annette McCleod has moved out west from her home and foster parents in Nebraska to live with her aunt and uncle in the ranch-filled town of Ashford. Annette doesn’t exactly fit in as she seems to be a tad different from everyone else in town and sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. Being the lovable girl that she is though, Annette soon finds friends from both sides of the tracks and begins to close the gap between the popular kids and the loner gang. Annette first makes friends with Jet Maypen who is a girl that is straight off the farm, er…ranch. They hit it off and become great friends, but the fun times don’t stop there. Her next stop in the friendship cycle is Steven Abernathy who is what one could only assume is the head of the popular kids and one of the most sought after boys in school.
Steven takes to Annette right away and why shouldn’t he considering she’s so incredibly likable. The only problem is that Steven’s girlfriend Laura (in town for the year) is very stuck-up and extremely insulting towards the little country girl because she doesn’t want her making the play on her man. Laura even goes as far as to blame on Annette once her bracelet goes missing even though Laura hid it on purpose. Not really knowing who to believe, the mysterious plot thickens and it is then when true friendships are determined.
If you are older then the age of forty or just have a thing for the old style of living, then you are going to absolutely love this little serial. Those of you stuck in today’s younger generation may not totally buy into this earlier version of Mean Girls starring another of Disney’s former “good” girls, Lindsay Lohan. “Annette” tells a simplistic story of country girl come to town, but instead of just meeting up with city folks, she meets those from both the city and the country as well. Cliques were formed even way back in the fifties and it shows here with the popular kids and the not so popular kids, but at least here we see them all accepting of one another. All except for Laura of course who is the essential bad seed in this story.
The one problem I can find with this entire serial is one thing that even I find it hard to get past: all the politeness. Yes it was the fifties and it was Disney and it was Annette Funicello, but come on now man. Everyone is extraordinarily polite beyond compare. The type that causes nausea and gets to be a bit too much when the kids play a game of “spin the bottle” that is almost taboo. Oh, and the fights going on between everyone just seem like they’re about to say, “Well, will you please go jump off a cliff? Thank you!” It’s a bit frustrating at times, but then you have to just sit back and remember the time period this is all happening in and the company it is coming from. That’s just how everything went down in the fifties and if you’re going to watch material from that decade that day, then deal with it.
“Annette” is one of the better Walt Disney Treasures that has been released and that is really saying something because of the awesomeness of the Donald Duck Chronicles, Walt Disney Presents, and Silly Symphonies just to name a few. It delivers some old fashioned values that should be looked at with a stern amount of attention and taken into account when people live their lives today. We could all learn a little something from Annette Funicello and the rest of the Mickey Mouse Club players.
The film is shown in 1.33:1 Full Screen format and it is in black and white. Believe it or not, this entire presentation looks great for its age and not being in color. I saw little to no grain throughout most of it and saw no problems with the transfer to DVD so it came off without a hitch.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital Mono sound and it also does a great job without many problems again considering its age. There is a little crackling and hiss from time to time, but not much.
Musically Yours, Annette – Here is a feature that looks inside the recording career of Annette. It is from 1993 and produced by Disney records and includes interviews from friends and family as well as words from the most awesome Frankie Avalon. This feature runs just at twelve minutes.
The Mickey Mouse Club Episodes – We are given two episodes from the television series and they are those which started the Annette serial and then ended it. The first episode is from February 11, 1958 and the second episode is from March 7, 1958. These are good and, as always with that series, fun to watch.
To Annette, With Love – This sixteen-minute feature goes through Annette’s entire career with comments and stories from friends, her husband, and many more. This is a nice look at one of the most famous Mousketeers and how successful she has been through her career and also life with multiple sclerosis, but it’s rather short.
As I’ve already stated, this is one of the better releases from Walt Disney Treasures and it’s a great continuation to go along with The Hardy Boys and Spin & Marty. These serials teach some great lessons in values and just home style manners which need to be learned by a great number of younger kids these days. It just never seems like there are nearly enough shows on television to get kids started off on the right and polite foot at an early age. By the time they are old enough to realize that “sir” and “ma’am” aren’t parts of their vocabulary; it’s already too late. “Annette” even shows that it’s alright to be different and alright to accept those that are different from what you consider to be normal. I know plenty of people that could learn some things from this Mickey Mouse Club serial and also just enjoy it because of the entertainment value it puts forth. The special features are pretty good too, but maybe I was expecting a few more then what was given. The tribute is good as are the episodes but it just seems like something is missing and there is always hope that a good Annette Funicello DVD-pack is somewhere in the future. Everyone should pick this up for their own enjoyment and especially if you have younger kids. Let them get a good idea of what real manners and politeness is all about.
Just don’t have them overdo it.
Walt Disney Video presents Walt Disney Treasures: The Mickey Mouse Club Presents Annette: 1957-1958 Season. Directed by: Charles Lamont. Starring: Annette Funicello, Richard Deacon, Judy Nugent, Sylvia Fields, Tim Considine. Written by: Lillie Hayward & Janette Sebring Lowery. Running time: 286 minutes on 2 discs. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: November 11, 2008. Available at Amazon