Who Are the Greatest Mouseketeers?

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March marked the 65th anniversary of the wrap of the first season of the “Mickey Mouse Club,” and the recent death of one of the original Mouseketeers, Johnny Crawford, reminded fans of the enduring talent that the show, and especially its early 1990s iteration, brought to the entertainment industry. The original “Mickey Mouse Club” launched the career of Annette Funicello, who occupied a beloved niche in audiences’ hearts for six decades, and the 1990s revival produced Oscar nominees and artists who’ve sold tens of millions of albums and redefined pop music and pop culture. But who are the greatest Mouseketeers? It’s a list ready for debate between boomers and gen Z.

  1. Justin Timberlake

“The All-New Mickey Mouse Club”

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A breakout star from the series, Timberlake really hit it big in Ur boy band *NSYNC (with fellow “MMC” castmate JC Chasez). He transitioned into an even bigger solo pop career, landing 10 Grammys and 39 nominations. He took home an Academy Award for “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from 2016’s animated “Trolls” (he also voiced the troll Branch in the film and its sequel). All that training on the “MMC” made Timberlake a consummate performer, in demand for everything from soundtracks to guest appearances on “Saturday Night Live” to the Super Bowl.

  1. Ryan Gosling

“The All-New Mickey Mouse Club”

The actor spent 1993-95 on the show honing his performing chops. Gosling was a teen heartthrob, and while his breakout role in 2004’s “The Notebook” established him as a smoldering love interest, Gosling quickly took a left turn, grabbing roles in such eclectic fare as “Half Nelson,” for which he earned an Oscar nom, “Lars and the Real Girl,” “Drive,” “Blade Runner 2049” and “Only God Forgives.” Being a Mouseketeer also trained him for the singing and dancing in his Oscar-nominated “La La Land” lead role.

  1. Christina Aguilera

“The All-New Mickey Mouse Club”

At 11 years old, Aguilera voice wowed everyone on the “MMC” with her powerful voice. From 1993-95, the former “Star Search” contestant was selected to record “Reflection,” for the Disney animated movie “Mulan,” then solidified stardom with debut, “Genie in a Bottle.” Like fellow castmate Britney Spears, Aguilera cannily turned pop princess tropes upside-down, a challenge to convention backed up by her stunning vocal talent. She’s starred in “Burlesque” with Cher, was a judge for six seasons on “The Voice” and won five Grammys. Her Las Vegas residency was cut short because of the COVID pandemic. Her latest album, “Liberation,” was her seventh top 10 album.

  1. Britney Spears

“The All-New Mickey Mouse Club”

The former “Star Search” contestant always seemed destined for superstardom. After her 1993-95 gig on “MMC” ended, she took over pop music with her 1999 monster “… Baby One More Time,” and following up with “Oops! … I Did It Again,” landing a provocative cover on Rolling Stone and becoming a pop-culture icon. She battled mental-health issues, marriage, kids and divorce in the very public eye, entering a now-controversial conservatorship with her father. The Grammy-winner kept releasing music, leading a wildly successful Vegas residency that ended in 2019. A recent documentary, “Framing Britney Spears,” brought her back into the spotlight and showed audiences a different side of the star.

  1. Annette Funicello

“The Mickey Mouse Club”

A 1950s superstar in the vein of Elvis, Funicello was discovered by Walt Disney. As rock ’n’ roll took off, the girl with the Italian name on the wildly popular series galvanized young fans across America with her wholesome charm and charisma. Her stardom was so great that she became simply known as Annette. She also starred in a variety of TV series, but made another indelible pop culture mark in a series of beach party movies, including “Beach Blanket Bingo” and “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.” Funicello also had a series of pop hits and continued to occasionally guest star in TV series and movies, as well as in commercials for Skippy peanut butter. After the beloved star disclosed that she had multiple sclerosis, she launched a nonprofit to fund research for a cure. She died in 2013.

  1. Keri Russell

“The All-New Mickey Mouse Club”

In her breakout hit series “Felicity,” Russell portrayed the ultimate late-’90s young woman. But before that, in the early 1990s, she made a stop at the “Mickey Mouse Club.” After her stint there, the busy young actor guest starred on a lot of shows before landing as the titular Felicity in the influential series. Maybe she was known too much for her gorgeous hair and not her talent, but she caused an outcry when she chopped off her locks. Still other doors opened, including hit feature “Waitress,” and of course, her Emmy- and Golden Globes-nominated turn on spy drama “The Americans.”

  1. Paul Petersen

“The Mickey Mouse Club”

A busy child actor in the 1950s, Petersen gained fame as one of the original Mouseketeers. He then starred in the hit series “The Donna Reed Show” until 1966, when his career took a hit. Petersen was no longer in demand, and he stumbled badly. But instead of playing out the stereotypical child-actor demise, he launched a non-profit, A Minor Consideration, to advocated for the rights and well-being of young performers. Petersen, who’s also written and published several adventure novels, continues to fight for kids in Hollywood.

  1. Johnny Crawford

“The Mickey Mouse Club”

Crawford was one of the original Mouseketeers but had more of an impact on showbiz on “The Rifleman,” starring Chuck Connors. Crawford earned an Emmy nomination for supporting actor when he was just 13. He died April 29.

  1. Don Grady

“The Mickey Mouse Club”

Another one of the original cast, Grady was a busy young actor who found bigger fame on the hit TV series “My Three Sons,” playing son Robbie to Fred McMurray’s dad from 1960-72. Grady died in 2012.

  1. JC Chasez

“The All-New Mickey Mouse Club”

The performer joined castmate Justin Timberlake in *NSYNC, which helped redefine pop music and opened the door for groups such as New Kids on the Block, 98 Degrees and Backstreet Boys. He continues to perform and write songs.

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