The late Annette Funicello, one of Disney’s earliest stars, was honored Monday, posthumously, in a special ceremony on the Disney Studios lot.
In the 1950s, Stage 1 on the Walt Disney Studios Lot was the home of The Mickey Mouse Club and its Mouseketeers. On June 24, 2013, that stage was officially renamed the Annette Funicello Stage, after the Disney Legend and former Mouseketeer who passed away earlier this year. “From this day forward, her place in our hearts and our history will be marked forever right here on this stage where it all began, when she put on those famous ears and became a Mouseketeer,” said Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Bob Iger as he stood right outside of the Stage.
Annette’s family, friends, and fellow Mouseketeers gathered to pay homage to the icon. Among those who came to mark the occasion was fellow Disney Legend Richard Sherman. Richard and his brother Robert wrote Annette’s first Top 10 hit song, which caught the attention of Walt Disney. Of Annette, Richard said, “She was our lucky star.”
Those who knew Annette best said they were honored to have her name forever associated with the stage that started her career. “We couldn’t think of a better place to have something that’s just going to last forever,” said her son Jason Gilardi. “It’s just amazing. Everyone that walks down around Disney Studios is going to see it and be reminded of the wonderful woman that grew up here.”
After the dedication, film critic and historian Leonard Maltin played host at a special presentation entitled “Annette Funicello: A Life Celebration.” Some of Annette’s former cast mates reminisced about their friend, the only Mouseketeer hand-selected by Walt Disney himself. Fellow Mouseketeer Tommy Cole said, “Anne was like our sister. We were family. And we really miss her.”
On the side of Stage 1 now hangs a sign with Annette’s signature, the same one that former Spin and Marty costars recalled her signing over and over again. In an attempt to put words to his friend, David Stollery simply said, “She was effortlessly genuine.”
cover photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images
story photos: © Disney