I’ve struggled to catch Saturday Night Live’s 40th season because I’m either out and about or asleep on the couch (usually the latter). But there’s a variety show that’s made for me—particularly due to its time slot and content—and it’s also celebrating an anniversary this year. The Mickey Mouse Club is turning 60.
Walt Disney intended his first foray into television, the Disneyland anthology series, to help fund and market his new theme park. Disneyland’s Davy Crockett miniseries (ABC, 1954–1955) enjoyed such popularity that millions of official coonskin caps sold in the first few months. On the heels of this success Disney developed The Mickey Mouse Club (ABC, 1955–1959), and those Mouse ears gave the coonskin caps a run for their money. Young audiences regarded the talented, magnetic, wholesome child stars as something between old friends and heroes. And as the Mouseketeers’ chipper performances alternated with newsreels, serials, and cartoons, the hour melted away.
The New Mickey Mouse Club (CBS, 1977) reincarnated the program for children of the original show’s viewers. The All-New Mickey Mouse Club (Disney Channel, 1989–1995) modernized the concept, incorporating SNL-style sketch comedy and performances of popular (read: less cheesy) songs. I memorized and dutifully recited the roll call from the opening credits. And when Mouseketeers Albert Fields, Tiffini Hale, Chase Hampton, Deedee Magno, and Damon Pampolina formed a band, I played The Party’s tape with my boombox speakers facing an open window so the whole neighborhood would learn about good music. (MMC also helped launch the careers of Annette Funicello, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Keri Russell, and Ryan Gosling.)