Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me ... and Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, and Ryan Gosling? Mickey Mouse, of course!
Back in 1955, Walt Disney created "The Mickey Mouse Club" TV show to fund the construction of his Disneyland theme park in California. But we doubt he ever imagined he'd be launching the careers of some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, too.
Take a look at a few of the famous faces who got their start on the kid-friendly variety show. (Though the original series ended in 1959, it was revived in both the late '70s and '90s.)
Annette Funicello: Arguably the most famous original cast member, Funicello was discovered by Disney himself, when he saw her perform as the Swan Queen in "Swan Lake" at a dance recital in Burbank, California. After the show, Funicello went on to solidify her fame starring in a series of "Beach Party" flicks with Frankie Avalon in the 1960s. The duo toured the country as a singing act, and went on to parody their earlier movies in the 1987 film "Back to the Beach." In 1992, Funicello announced she was suffering from multiple sclerosis, and largely disappeared from the public eye. She died April 8 from complications of the disease.
Cubby O'Brien: The son of famed big band drummer Haskell "Hack" O'Brien, Cubby was also personally picked by Disney for the original Mickey Mouse Club cast. After the show, Cubby continued his musical legacy, touring with Spike Jones and Ann-Margret before becoming the on-camera drummer for "The Carol Burnett Show" in the late '60s. He eventually moved on to Broadway, acting as musical director for hits like "Hair" and "Oh, Calcutta!"
Lisa Whelchel: Though the actress appeared on the revamped 1977 version of the show, "The New Mickey Mouse Club," for two years, Whelchel is most famous for her good-girl role as Blair Warner on "The Facts of Life." A vocal Christian, she was nominated for a Grammy in 1984 for her contemporary Christian album "All Because of You," and later competed on "Survivor: Philippines" in 2012, tying for second place with Michael Skupin.
Julie Piekarski: Also a star on "The New Mickey Mouse Club," Piekarski followed in castmate Whelchel’s footsteps, appearing as Sue Ann Weaver on "The Facts of Life" from 1970- 1986. Piekarski continued her television career with guest-starring roles on "Three's Company," "Diff'rent Strokes" and "General Hospital" before leaving the limelight to raise her children with dentist John Probst in St. Louis, Missouri.
Keri Russell:The actress, who is most recognized for her starring role in "Felicity," for which she won a Golden Globe, got her television breakout as a cast member on "The All New Mickey Mouse Club from 1991 to 1993. Russell, a CoverGirl spokesmodel, currently stars in the FX series "The Americans" as a Soviet KGB officer alongside Matthew Rhys.
Rhona Bennett: After the cancellation of the Mickey Mouse Club's '90s revival, Bennett, who was a cast member on all four seasons, landed a recurring role on "The Jamie Foxx Show." In 2003, she joined the girl R&B group En Vogue after the exit of its original member Dawn Robinson. The group embarked on a reunion tour in 2012.
JC Chasez: The famed boy-bander was cast on the '90s show's fourth season and stayed on board until it was canceled in 1995. Chasez remained close with fellow castmate Justin Timberlake and reunited with him in boy band *NSYNC. Since the band's breakup, he has released two solo albums and acted as a judge on the MTV competition show "America’s Best Dance Crew."
Ryan Gosling: Gosling went a different route from his "Mickey Mouse Club" peers, focusing on acting after the show's cancellation. The Canada native, who has become an Internet obsession inspiring the vastly popular "Hey Girl" meme, received an Oscar nomination for his performance in "Half Nelson" in 2007. His latest film, "The Place Beyond the Pines," is currently in theaters.
Christina Aguilera: The multiple-Grammy winner also got her start on "The All New Micky Mouse Club" in 1993. After the show came to an end, Aguilera landed a recording deal and went on tour with her former "Mouse" castmates *NSYNC in the early 2000s. Aguilera, who tried her hand at acting in the 2010 movie musical "Burlesque," currently serves as a judge on NBC's "The Voice."
Justin Timberlake: The six-time Grammy award winner appeared on the television show "Star Search" before landing his Disney gig in 1993. While in the "Mouse Club," he roomed with Ryan Gosling, met future girlfriend Britney Spears, future bandmate J.C. Chasez, and future tour mate Christina Aguilera. After conquering the musical world with *NSYNC, Timberlake broke out on his own, releasing two solo albums, "Justified" and "FutureSex/LoveSounds," before trying his hand at acting. The multi-talented star's movie credits include "Friends With Benefits," "Trouble With the Curve," "Bad Teacher," and "The Social Network." JT returned to music this year, releasing his third studio album "The 20/20 Experience."
Britney Spears: Likely the most commercially successful Mouseketeer to emerge from the show's ranks, the Princess of Pop has released seven studio albums, selling over 100 million copies worldwide, starred in the film "Crossroads," and was a judge on America's "The X Factor" in 2012. Although Spears had a much-documented breakdown in 2008, resulting in her father being named her conservator, she has since recovered, and was named the highest paid female musician of last year, bringing in $58 million.
Who's your favorite Mouseketeer?
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