Judge Clark Douglas will see ya real soon. Why? Because he likes you.
"Annette, Annette, Annette!"
I was not yet born when The Mickey Mouse Club originally aired, and yet as a kid, I knew that I loved it. I had a record of Mickey Mouse Club songs, beginning and ending with the one we all know: "M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E!" I never actually saw an episode of the show, believe it or not. I just played that record over and over again until I reached the age of 8 or 9, when I suddenly realized how embarrassing such music was and gave the album to a friend.
The Mickey Mouse Club only ran for three seasons, from 1955 to 1958. Each weekday, the program presented a variety of kid-friendly fun. Animated sequences, musical numbers, serialized stories, and other entertaining activities provided kids of the 1950s with a cheerful half-hour viewing experience. Many children of the era yearned to be a member of the club, and most of those children knew all the club members by name. One of the most popular was Annette Funicello, a charming young actress who would soon go on to have a successful career as a musician ("Tall Paul") and as an actress (The Shaggy Dog).
In the third and final season of The Mickey Mouse Club, Annette was given a chance to shine in the spotlight. A new serial with the simple title of Annette was created, based on a children's book called "Margaret" by Janette Lowrey. This 20-part daily feature followed the adventures of Annette, a friendly girl from Nebraska who goes to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle. Early on, the show focuses on Annette's attempt to adjust to life in a new situation. She meets new friends, goes to school, and generally endears herself to almost everyone she meets. Annette quickly meets three different boys who all are somewhat interested in her romantically. The prime candidate seems to be Spin (Tim Considine), the most popular boy in town. The only problem is that he's dating Laura, the most popular girl in town. Laura certainly isn't too thrilled about the fact that Annette is in town. The second boy is Steady, a little brat who likes Annette, but his first love is food. He gets a lot of that food from Marty (David Stollery), the third candidate for Annette's heart. Marty works at the malt shop, and yearns for nothing more than to be able to hold Annette's hand every day.
Annette could be described as thoroughly generic and predictable, but I can't say I disliked it. Funicello has a very graceful screen presence, and she is backed up by a capable supporting cast. Annette is a pleasant and innocent little serial, and it has been lovingly preserved by Disney as part of the "Walt Disney Treasures" collection. I've always found the packaging for this collection to be somewhat entertainingly lavish. A sturdy oversized DVD case is housed inside an attractive tin, which adds an air of importance to the whole thing. Further adding to this illusion is a "Certificate of Authenticity" declaring that this is #33,659 of 39,500 official releases. Ha! Suck it, #33,660! There's also a nice black-and-white photograph of Annette, in addition to a booklet with some info on the show. It's a very attractive package.
Not all of the extras are physical, however. Disc 1 offers an introduction from the omnipresent Leonard Maltin, who offers us an enthusiastic endorsement of Annette (in addition to a bit of television history, of course). The very first episode of Annette is also offered within a full-length episode of The Mickey Mouse Club, which is a whole lot of fun in and of itself. There's also a 12-minute tribute to Annette that was recorded back in 1993 for a CD release spotlighting her musical career. Disc Two brings us even more thoughts from Maltin along with yet another full episode of The Mickey Mouse Show, this one containing the very final segment of Annette. Finally, "To Annette, With Love" is a brand new 16-minute tribute to Funicello. The transfer here is very good considering the age of this material, containing a very minimal amount of flecks and scratches. The mono audio is very clean and crisp, and the musical numbers sound particularly solid. Well done, Disney.
Though Annette will never be regarded as anything other than a lightweight piece of serialized fluff, fans of Funicello will undoubtedly be very pleased with this set. Disney has done a fine job of in terms of preservation and presentation, so this one is recommended for the first 39,499 with some interest.
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• Full-Length Mickey Mouse Club Episodes
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