Annette Funicello was America's favorite teenager in the fifties and sixties for the simple reason that there was no one quite like her. When Walt Disney first caught a glimpse of this curly-haired thirteen year old dancing in "Swan Lake" for the Margie Rix School of Dance recital in 1955, he saw something that he knew Americans would fall in love with. Annette's story is somewhat of a fairy tale, for everything she touched turned to gold. Whether it was star of one of the Mouseketeers on the "Mickey Mouse Club," or play opposite Frankie Avalon as "Dee Dee" in the Beach Party movies, Annette was always singled out as everyone's favorite. "Annette was the personification of all the good things Americans wanted to believe about themselves. She was the malt shops and hayrides and kisses on the cheek. She was beach parties, bonfires, and 'Anything Can Happen Day.' And the essence of her star quality, ironically enough, was that she never seemed like a star. No matter how many television shows or movies she made, no matter how many records she sold, no matter how many times her face appeared on the cover of magazines, Annette always remained Annette."
When Annette Funicello was personally picked by Walt Disney to star as one of the twenty four Mouseketeers on "The Mickey Mouse Club," it wasn't long before Annette became the darling of the show, receiving more than 6,000 fan letters a month. After two years playing a Mouseketeer, Annette was awarded her own series simply called "Annette." It was on this show in 1958 that she sang her first song, "How will I know my love?" a silly ditty that was meant to be corny and childish. After all, the "Annette" show was for kids!
Disney had not meant for Annette to carry on with her singing, but the amount of fans that responded to "How will I know my love?" made it impossible for Disney to resist. Could Annette act and sing? Disney hired Tutti Camarata, who would assist and oversee Annette's every recording. She was not at all confident in her singing, but her lack of vocal training gave her songs a certain natural and unpretentious touch. When "How will I know my love?" was released in 1959 on Disneyland Records, it sold over 200,000 copies!
A team was soon put together comprising of Tutti Camarata and songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman. 1959 saw the release of many Annette singles including Top 10 hits "Tall Paul," "Jo-Jo the dog faced Boy," "Train of Love," and her most successful hit, "Pineapple Princess." The majority of Annette's songs were very upbeat, humorous, and wacky! Themes ranged from straight ahead surf-pop ("The Monkey's Uncle" and "Muscle Beach Party") to Italian and Hawaiian-esque songs ("Mama mama, where's the Spumoni?" and "Hawaiiannette"). Albums such as Italianette, Dance ANNETTE, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and Annette on Campus coincided with the release of her singles. Annette's songs have never mean deep nor meaningful; they are all bubblegum pop which possess the youthful flavour of the fifties and sixties.
Pick up any teen magazine of that era, and Annette's glowing face will surely be gracing the cover. At the ripe ol' age of seventeen, Annette was becoming America's most popular teenager. While continuing to make personal appearances and host TV shows, Annette also began a career as a film actress in such films like The Shaggy Dog and Babes in Toyland. But it really wasn't until Annette hit the beach that her film career really began to take off!
When the entertainment executives first approached Walt Disney with new ideas for Annette, he became overly protective of his young star and always refused all film offers. But all that changed when the president of International American Pictures met with Walt Disney and showed him the Beach Party script. Disney enthusiastically responded to Annette that "the script was wonderful. It was good clean fun!" "But I have a request to make," Disney told Annette. "I know that all the girls in these movies will be wearing bikinis, but you have an image to uphold. I'd appreciate it if you wore something a little less revealing." Following the bosses order, Annette stuck to a one piece bathing suit, and always played the good girl on the beach. She was strictly Frankie's girl, and if he wasn't willing to commit then Annette was not interested in anything sexual.
Though the public assumed that Frankie (Avalon) and Dee (Funicello) were America's dream couple who led a life of surfing and sunsets, Annette had her heart on another boy. It's no wonder that Annette recorded so many Paul Anka tunes, and even recorded an entire album of his songs (Annette sings Anka) when her feelings for him were so strong. She says that if it wasn't for their careers keeping them apart, who knows what would have happened. Annette was a busy girl once she took on the Beach Party project, and she still had her recording career to think about.
The Beach Party films of the sixties became the John Hughes films of the eighties. Kids across the globe identified with the characters in these films, making the teen film genre quite popular among the masses. Annette spent most of '63 and '64 acting in such beach movies as How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, Muscle Beach Party, Beach Blanket Bingo, and Pajama Party. Americans followed Dee and Frankie's relationship throughout the films. Annette even teamed up with writers Gary Usher and Robert Christiansen for the Muscle Beach Party soundtrack, made up of surf ditties like "Muscle Bustle" and "Draggin' USA." When Annette made her last film in '65 called The Monkey's Uncle, she hooked up with the Beach Boys for the theme song (probably Annette's greatest record in my opinion).
By the end of '65 at the age of twenty three, Annette put the showbiz life behind her. She had married, and her first child was on the way. With her pregnant stomach, Annette could no longer play the young beach girl. Annette had always wanted a big family, and it seemed like no trouble at all leaving her successful career behind. She would later return to the beach in 1987's Back to the Beach, where Annette and Frankie no longer played beach kids, but parents!
Today Annette is nearing sixty, but our images of Annette still consist of the young and radiant brunette singing on the beach. As Annette says herself, "I think to this day, people kind of expect to see Frankie and me at the beach, wandering around in the sand. Some things just get frozen in time."
Visit with America's Girl Next Door
"Born in Utica, New York, Annette and her family relocated to Southern California when she was four years old. After settling down in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, the budding performer began taking music and dancing lessons.
Walt Disney discovered Annette while she was dancing the lead in "Swan Lake" at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank. She was called into the Disney Studios to audition for a new show called "The Mickey Mouse Club." The rest, of course, is history as Annette became the most popular Mouseketeer on the well-remembered series..."
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The Annette Funicello Photo Gallery
Annette Funicello, who began performing at the age of ten years old, posessed star quality. The photogenic child actress/singer became a regular on the Mickey Mouse Club. Annette was so popular on the program that the Disney people choreographed several musical numbers around her and created her own show-within-a-show miniseries, which was simply called "Annette." Funicello's post-Mickey Mouse career was extremely successful, due in no small part to her great appeal to American teenagers who had grown up with her through television. It is safe to say that Annette was one of America's most loved teen idols of the 60s. Feel free to peruse the many photographs here of Annette, from her years as a Disney Mouseketeer through her teen years as a beach movie star. There are also many photos of Annette as an adult available.
Annette: The Mouseketeer Years
Annette: The Teenage Years
Annette: Great Movie Stills
Annette: The Adult Years
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Guide to Annette Funicello recordings
"Annette Funicello was herded into the studio at the age of 16 to become the first female teen idol rock & roll star. Billed simply as "Annette" on most of her records, she hit the Top 20 five times in 1959 and 1960, and continued to record constantly in the early '60s as she moved into film stardom in a variety of California beach culture vehicles. >>>presented by All Music Guide
Annette Funicello Film Guide
Find out all the details on Annette's film and TV work.
1995 A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story , 1989 Troop Beverly Hills, 1988 Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special , 1987 Dick Clark's Best of Bandstand: The Superstars , 1987 Back to the Beach, 1986 Wonderful World of Disney , 1985 Lots of Luck , 1968 Head, 1967 Thunder Alley, 1966 Fireball 500, 1965 How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, 1965 The Monkey's Uncle, 1965 Beach Blanket Bingo, 1965 Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, 1965 Ski Party, 1964 Muscle Beach Party, 1964 Pajama Party (aka The Maid and the Martian) 1964 Pajama Party / Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, 1964 Bikini Beach, 1963 The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, 1963 Beach Party, 1962 Elfego Baca: Six-Gun Law , 1962 Escapade in Florence, 1961 The Parent Trap, 1961 The Horsemasters , 1961 Babes in Toyland, 195? Mickey Mouse Club, Vol. 6 , 195? Mickey Mouse Club, Vol. 10 , 195? Mickey Mouse Club, Vol. 1 , 195? Mickey Mouse Club, Vol. 7 , 195? Mickey Mouse Club, Vol. 9 , 195? Mickey Mouse Club, Vol. 2 , 195? Mickey Mouse Club, Vol. 4 , 195? Mickey Mouse Club, Vol. 3 , 195? Mickey Mouse Club, Vol. 8 , 195? Mickey Mouse Club, Vol. 5 , 1959 The Shaggy Dog, 1958 Zorro, Vol. 3: Zorro and Mystery of Don... , 1958 Zorro and the Mystery of Don Cabrillo, 1958 Zorro, Vol. 1 , 1957 Johnny Tremain & the Sons of Liberty >>>presented by All Movie Guide
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