Today in Disney history on October 3rd, 1955, the program The Mickey Mouse Club aired its first ever episode on ABC.
On October 3rd, 1955, ABC began airing what would become one of the most popular children’s TV series of all time: Mickey Mouse Club. When it first aired, the show was an hour long, with episodes Monday through Friday. The talented kids of the program, or “Mouseketeers,” performed musical numbers and various sketches. The original group of Mouseketeers featured a batch of talented kids that would become household names, including Annette Funicello, Doreen Tracey, and Cubby O’Brien.
Early Mickey Mouse Clubs
You may not have realized it, but the Mickey Mouse Club as you likely know it was not the first of its kind. The Mickey Mouse Club which debuted in October 1955, just a couple of months after the opening of Disneyland, was the first televised Mickey Mouse Club. Local, non-televised Mickey Mouse Clubs have been running as early as 1929.
That year, the Fox Dome Theater in Ocean Park, California, became the first Mickey Mouse Club offering children in the community a chance to join as members. As part of the club, they would attend weekly meetings that featured everything from Mickey Mouse cartoons to live music inspired by the then-new Disney character. These early Mickey Mouse Clubs caught on quickly, and by 1932 they had exceeded 1 million members.
The Mickey Mouse Club Moves to TV
In 1955, the Mickey Mouse Club moved to living rooms across America and began paving the way for children’s programming in an all-new format. The show became a televised one-hour-long event that took place every weekday afternoon filling in the after-school programming slot. The Mickey Mouse Club was also a part of the Disneyland story, as the show was part of the original contract between ABC and the Walt Disney Company that would help fund the new theme park.
Now officially called “Mouseketeers,” each episode featured a variety of skits and performances mixed in alongside appearances from celebrities at the time, recent cartoons, and family-friendly news segments. Known as the “Mickey Mouse Club Newsreels,” the show’s news segments focused on stories featuring children that Disney’s production team would seek out from around the world.
The original show ran for four seasons, and over this time the cast included a total of 39 kids as Mouseketeers. Perhaps the most well-known of the original cast of 24 Mousketeers today is Annette Funicello, who was named a Disney Legend in 1992), but she was joined by several notable performers like Bobby Burgess, Doreen Tracey, Cubby O’Brien, Jimmie Dodd, and Roy Williams. (Speaking of Annette, did you know there is an Easter egg for her at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?).
Each day of the week focused on a different theme: “Fun With Music Day” on Mondays, “Guest Star Day” on Tuesdays, “Anything Can Happen Day” on Wednesdays, “Circus Day” on Thursdays, and “Talent Roundup Day” on Fridays. The themes continued to evolve as the cast changed over the years, but they always allowed for entertaining skits and celebrity guests.
The New Mickey Mouse Club
After successful syndicates in the 60s and 70s, the “New” Mickey Mouse Club officially debuted in 1977 with updates to elements of the show that seemed outdated and a new cast of 12 Mouseketeers. Unfortunately, despite colorizing the program and changing up the show’s format and themed days, the New Mickey Mouse Club did not receive the ratings Disney had hoped for. As a result, this version of the show ended after just two years.
The next version of the Mickey Mouse Club was the product of Disney Channel in the 1980s. Disney Channel first launched in 1983, and by 1989 the network had begun producing its own version of the Mickey Mouse Club. This version of the show was the biggest departure from its predecessors. With its target audience skewing on the older side of pre-teens and teens, the Disney Channel version of the show lost the iconic Mickey ear hats and costumes in favor of contemporary clothing.
The Mickey Mouse Club (or MMC as it was known for some seasons) ended in 1994, but the careers of some of the show’s cast continued well beyond the 90s. This version of the show starred several cast members who went on to become incredibly popular performers, including Keri Russell, Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, and more.
In addition to simply being a staple of pop culture, the Mickey Mouse Club continued with its newest iteration in 2017, this time on social media. Club Mickey Mouse served as a totally reinvented version of the original show that allowed fans to be more interactive with the cast and their content through elements of Facebook and Instagram.