On Oct. 3, 1955, the now-famous Mickey Mouse Club aired on ABC for the first time. Today, Disney is the largest media conglomerate in the world, but its first steps into the television industry weren't as easy.
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The Mickey Mouse Club series evolved over three waves: the 1950s, 1970s and 1990s. From its debut in 1955 to the final air in 1994, the company struggled with budget issues, advertisers, network agreements, and managing cast members.
Today, the series lives on in the careers of major American pop stars like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. But these cast members were only in the last two seasons of the final series. The influence and reach of Mickey Mouse Club dates much further.
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To celebrate the magic of an iconic moment in Disney and television, the following is a breakdown of three different generations of Mouseketeers. Take a look at some of the memorable moments in the galleries below.
Did you watch the show when it aired? Share your Mickey Mouse Club memories with us in the comments below.
1950s: The Mickey Mouse Club
The Mickey Mouse Club was Walt Disney's second attempt at a television series. His first show was a theme park anthology called Disneyland.
The program aimed at a target audience of kids aged 3 to 14. Each episode had a unique theme, such as "Circus Day."
For four seasons, it aired every weekday from 1955 to 1957 at 5 p.m. The original series aired on ABC, which had no programs earlier than primetime before giving The Mickey Mouse Club its slot.
There were thirty-nine kids and three adults casted as Mouseketeers during the show's original run.
The first host and lead Mouseketeer was Jimmie Dodd, who would end the show with closing thoughts on life. He encouraged young viewers to make the right moral choices, which were eventually known as "Doddisms."
The most popular Mousketeers were placed on the Red Team. Among them was Annette Funicello, who was discovered at age 12 by Walt Disney himself. Funicello became so popular for her singing and dancing on the show that she was the only castmember on contract after the third season.
Most children's shows in the '50s included one to two commercials per airing. The Mickey Mouse Club was packed with commercials and product placement throughout the show. Because it was a family show, and not just children's programming, parents were actually sitting down and watching with their kids, so it drew more attention than other shows.
Eventually, budget cuts were made due to other Disney endeavors, like the theme park and production of the television series Zorro. The studio focused more attention to the most popular Mouseketeers, and the number of castmembers began to dwindle. By the third season, the show had been retargeted toward older kids and was unable to attract them. An agreement was made to rerun shows for the fourth season.
ABC and Disney failed to reach an agreement afterward and the show was cancelled in September, 1959.
1. Mouseketeer Alma Mater
1970s: The New Mickey Mouse Club
In the 1970s, Walt Disney Productions revived the concept of the original Mickey Mouse Club, with the intent to modernize the show to the disco era. It was short-lived, only surviving two seasons. The first episode debuted on Jan. 17, 1977, airing on only 38 television stations.
The theme song had a new, pop sound to it and the sets were brightly colored to meet the new demands of TV programming. By that time, most shows were filmed to accommodate color televisions. Even the daily vintage cartoon was in color.
The new Mouseketeers consisted of a more ethnically diverse group. Some of the more popular members were Lisa Whelchel, who would later star in Facts of Life. Her Mouseketeer teammate Julie Pierkarski also appeared in the first season of the sitcom.
Despite its more colorful, diverse programming, the show had trouble syndicating. It was discontinued by June, and repackaged material aired until Jan. 12, 1979.
1. The New Theme Song
The final revival of Mickey Mouse Club had the most successful run, airing seven seasons. The series premiered Monday, April 24, 1989.
Formally, the show was called The All New Mickey Mouse Club, but it was more commonly known as MMC.
Like it's casual title, the show was edgier. It was taped live at the Disney-MGM Studios, and aired on the Disney Channel, which had launched in 1983.
The original variety show format was combimed with a popular new type of show: sketch comedy. A unique theme remained for each episode, but there were skits and songs. It became the Saturday Night Live for a younger crowd.
One of the new segments featured the Mouseketeers singing their own live version of popular songs. The show successfully took note from the early MTV era, when music videos ruled the airwaves.
Adding music proved not only successful for the show, but for the future of its cast members as well.
In 1990, five of the original MMC cast members came together as the music group The Party. Their biggest single was a cover of Dokken's song "In My Dreams." In 1993, the season five cast released an album called MMC and toured the country in support of the record.
In its sixth and seventh season, MMC was the starting platform for some major American pop stars and actors. Castmembers included Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, Kerri Russell, Christina Auguilera and JC Chasez.
Like every classic series, the show must eventually come to an end. Ratings began to decline in the last two seasons and executives decided to cancel the show. Production ended in 1994, and reruns aired regularly until May 31, 1996.
1. The All-New Mickey Mouse Club Opening
The third season intro to The All-New Mickey Mouse Club (MMC), with the first major cast additions since its premiere. This was the only season opener that to date had never been included on YouTube seperately...save for the 1990 reunion show with the 1950s Mouseketeers. I don't have much more MMC material of any kind at this time, so please keep the requests on that to a minimum. Thanks.
This story originally published on Mashable here.