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annette funicello

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Let me take you back to 2006. I was 9 years old and High School Musical had just premiered. It blew up at my school, my day care, everywhere. It was THE defining film of my age group at the time. If you didn’t know the songs, something was wrong. Then the sequel premiered the following year to even larger numbers, thus making the film even more loved by my fellow pupils. The third film was released into the theaters in 2008 solidifying its popularity. Don’t forget that the movies also spawned live stage productions, ice skating shows, theme park entertainment, a live tour, a reality TV show, and enough merchandise to make you puke.

After some not so successful DCOMs recently, Disney tried to bring back the HSM formula with “Teen Beach Movie,” which premiered this past Friday night. Two teens go surfing and end up being transported to a 1960’s “Frankie and Annette” -esque beach film. When they accidentally hook up with the two leads, they change the course of the movie and only have so much time to reverse the film.

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As you might expect for a Disney Legend and real sweetheart like Annette Funicello, there has been an outpouring of emotion for her online. Here are a few of the many comments made today:

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To Disney fans Annette Funicello represents a time when the company was at its most pure. As a 12-year old she was discovered by Walt Disney and cast as one of the original Mouseketeers. She earned her way into the collective hearts of America every day as part of the Mickey Mouse Club. As a teenager, she had a successful recording career and enjoyed many film and tv roles. She was one of America’s real sweethearts.

Annette has dealt with complications related to Multiple Sclerosis for decades. My only opportunity to meet her came during the Farewell Season of the Main Street Electrical Parade. She was already in a wheelchair by then and was bundled up against the cold, but she still positively glowed when she smiled.

I was in the section next to her and watched her throughout the parade. Cast members had obviously been told she was in the audience that night. As they each came by and paid tribute to her, she smiled or waved back at them all.