A chance insult directed at legendary Mouseketeer Annette Funicello has brought back memories of the old Mickey Mouse Club, a show that I remember as god-awful, the second big disillusionment of my young life, after the sudden demise of 3-D. I thought the whole show was going to be cartoons. Uncle Walt didn’t get rich by giving it away. If you wanted to see Mickey and Donald, you had to suffer through Jimmy and Bobby. But today, thanks to YouTube, you don’t have to.
Even on the (very) small YouTube screen (which you are getting for free, after all), the quality of the animation and the beautiful water-color backdrops comes through. For most of the thirties the Disney shorts were the only color films available (Technicolor features didn’t even start until 1935), which may have encouraged Walt to concentrate on the quality of the image rather than the stories. The success of the gag-driven Warner Brothers cartoons, with Bugs and Daffy, must have infuriated him, because, compared to Disney, the Warner Brothers’ animation was less than mediocre.
Timothy Noah, an editor at Slate, had happier memories than I of at least one Mouseketeer, Doreen Tracy, who was a councilor at his camp. Money quote (as we say in the blog biz) follows:
“Visions of Doreen (who in the decade since her TV stardom had filled out quite satisfactorily) haunted my prepubescent dreams. Even now, in my mind’s eye, I see Doreen emerging, like Botticelli’s Venus, from a clamshell perched on the shores of Lake George, a whistle nestled chastely in her cleavage.”
When he wrote that, little did Tim know that here, only a mouse-click (ha, ha) away, at a site maintained by a Mr. Rotten, there was another, not so chaste shot of Doreen, who obviously had some bills to pay.*
*Mr. Rotten, who does not seem to be a well-adjusted man, has many things to say on many subjects, some of them funny, and some not. Go here for a nice history of professional wrestling, and here for, among other things, Fred and Barney hawking Winstons.