Annette Funicello, beloved Disney star of the fifties and sixties, died Monday April 8th 2013 from complications stemming from multiple sclerosis. She was 70.
“She’s on her toes dancing in heaven,” her daughter Gina Gilardi said in a statement. “My brothers and I were there, holding her sweet hands when she left us.”
Originally hailing from Utica, N.Y., Funicello and her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 4. Nine years later, in 1955, she was discovered by Walt Disney himself while dancing the lead in a production of Swan Lake, and he invited her to audition for his new series, “The Mickey Mouse Club.” She was hired on the spot and quickly became a fan favorite, going on to star in a bevy of Disney movies.
“Everyone who knew Annette loved and respected her,” remarked Diane Disney Miller, Walt Disney’s daughter. “She was the consummate professional [and] . . . one of the loveliest people I’ve ever known.”
The pretty, dark-haired Funicello was just 13 when she gained fame on Walt Disney's television kiddie "club," an amalgam of stories, songs and dance routines that ran from 1955 to 1959.
Cast after Disney saw her at a dance recital, she soon began receiving 8,000 fan letters a month, 10 times more than any of the 23 other young performers.
When "The Mickey Mouse Club" ended, Funcillo was the only club member to remain under contract with the studio. She appeared in such Disney movies as "Johnny Tremain," "The Shaggy Dog," "The Horsemasters," "Babes in Toyland," "The Misadventures of Merlin Jones" and "The Monkey's Uncle."
She also became a recording star, singing on 15 albums and hit singles such as "Tall Paul" and "Pineapple Princess."
She gained even more popularity when she starred with Frankie Avalon in a series of "Beach Party" movies in the mid-1960s, including "Beach Party" (1963), "Muscle Beach Party" (1964), "Bikini Beach" (1964), "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965), and "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" (1965).
Here at Moviestore we have some terrific images of Annette from all of her famous and favorite movies. Some wonderful pin-ups and memories from her career, available in poster size too!