It’s hard to believe that another Christmas Season is upon us. It seems like just yesterday I was putting up decorations, and getting back from last years’ World Chapter Christmas Party, with the theme, “Disney goes to the Movies.” Our theme for this year’s party is even more magical and amazing. This year’s theme is centered around one of the most iconic variety shows on American television…”The Mickey Mouse Club.” This year’s party is the “Mini-Mouseketeer Reunion” theme. For Disney fans worldwide, it is incredible that 57 years have passed since this family staple production began in 1955. But our party this year was made more remarkable, not for the fact we celebrated Walt’s masterpiece, but the fact that attending the affair were four of the original Mouseketeers that starred in that memorable show!
Let’s take a very brief history of the Mickey Mouse Club Show. This ground-breaking children’s variety show was conceived by Walt and produced by Walt Disney Productions. The original series ran for four years on the ABC television network from 1955 until 1959; millions of baby boomers (and their parents) were glued to their sets, with Mickey Mouse Ears on while the Mouseketeers (And in some cases, “Meeseketeers and one big “Mooseketeer”) entertained them with music, cartoons, comedy, newsreels and talent skits. And leading the Mouseketeers were the hosts, Head Mouseketeer Jimmy Dodd and his helper, big Mooseketeer Roy Williams. The show was not just about entertainment, it was sort of a kid’s manual, showing children how to overcome many challenges they might face by common sense, or seeking out advice of their elders. Mickey Mouse himself appeared in every episode in special opening and closing segments made for the show and in classic cartoons, and new ones animated for the show. And Walt himself voiced Mickey in both the vintage and new shorts, even though he stopped voicing Mickey in 1947.
Our local chapter of the NFFC is the World Chapter is located here in Florida. Our meetings and events all have Disneyanna items for auction, both silent and open. The goal is of course to raise funds for our organization and to donate to charities. This year’s party, in addition to four of the original Mouseketeers, had an amazing plethora of Disneyana items for auction. These items were all donated by members and sponsors. We had a special guest and contributor to the auction this night…World renowned Sports and entertainment artist Paul Madden. Since 1972 this talented artist has presented his one-of-a-kind works to athletes and entertainment figures worldwide. He produced for our auction, several original artworks depicting, what else, Walt Disney and his Mouseketeers. This along with our other items netted much needed funds for our charity this year, “The Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Disease.s” As you know, Annette, one of the most recognized Mouseketeers, has Multiple Sclerosis and has been battling it for years. It’s appalling to see what this disease does, and that is why, for our Mouseketeer Reunion, all donations go to this cause.
Our party was held in the Ballroom of the Americas in Disney’s Contemporary Resort. We started with the guests getting a chance to bid on the silent auction items, and see what other goodies were offered. Then a sumptuous all you can eat buffet was served. Before the Mouseketeers came onstage, member and World renowned Disney historian Jim Korkis stepped on the podium to give members a bit of history of the Mickey Mouse Club and regale us with some humorous stories of the Mouseketeers. Then the moment we all were waiting for…The chance to see four of Walt’s original Mouseketeers live on stage. On hand were Tommy Cole, Sherry Alberoni, Doreen Tracey and Johnny Crawford. (You might remember Johnny as Mark McCain, the son of Lucas McCain in the hit show “The Rifleman”).
The moderator for the question and answers with the Mouseketeers was member Alex Maher, senior Disney Design artist. For more than an hour, these stars of our childhood reminisced and told tales of working with Walt himself, how the show was produced and working as kids on set, going to school, rehearsing and being part of a big family. They delved in their personal experiences, recanted some amazing stories and happenings. For any Disney fan or for that fact anyone who has watched this show, it was a glance into history and for all listening, very moving. One common thread was that all of the Mouseketeers remembered head Mouseketeer Jimmy Dodd with great affection and respect. They could not say enough about their mentor and leader. All agreed that Jimmy was in real life exactly as he portrayed himself on the show…A caring and loving individual, who devoted himself to the kids and shined as a leader.
After the interviews were done, our NFFC Legends chairman Allan Halcrow stepped up to the dais and presented to our guests the 2012 Disneyana Fan club Legends awards. After the presentation, we had the auction and the bidding was fast and furious. Some amazing items of memorabilia were offere – signed drumsticks by Mouseketeer Cubby O’Brien, an original prototype of the Mickey Mouse Ears, a “Mouseguitar” and much more. When the auction was over, the Mouseketeers sat down for an autograph session and a chance to get a couple of pics with these famous folks.
It was, for me at least the highlight of the Christmas season. Just to see and hear these stars from my childhood was nothing short of magical. And we can thank the event committee of our World Chapter organization for this and all of the other memorable events over the years. In addition to all this magic, we have several Disney luminaries as members…Jim Korkis, internationally known Disney author and historian, Lou Mongello, author and webmaster of the WDW Trivia site, and Alex Maher, Disney senior design artist.
Anyone interested in joining our chapter and becoming part of the fun and magic, it’s easy. You first join the National organization, headquartered in Irvine California. Visit their sit www.disneyanafanclub.org or call 714-731-4705. Once a member of the national club, you can now join any of the 26 worldwide chapters, each with its own activities and events. Our chapter is the World chapter. To join, log on t http://www.disneyanafanclub.org/content/join-world-chapter and be part of the magic.