BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (WGGB/AP) — The Walt Disney Co. says Annette Funicello, who went from Mouseketeer to beach party movie icon, has died at age 70.
Funicello stunned fans and friends in 1992 with the announcement she was suffering from multiple sclerosis. Yet she was cheerful and upbeat, grappling with the disease with a courage that contrasted with her lightweight teen image of old.
According to Disney, Funicello passed away peacefully at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, Calif. from complications of the disease.
The pretty, dark-haired Funicello was just 13 when she gained fame on Walt Disney’s television kiddie “club,” an amalgam of stories, songs and dance routines that ran from 1955 to 1959.
Cast after Disney saw her at a dance recital, she soon began receiving 8,000 fan letters a month, 10 times more than any of the 23 other young performers.
Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, says in a statement, “Annette was and always will be a cherished member of the Disney family, synonymous with the word Mousketeer, and a true Disney Legend. She will forever hold a place in our hearts as one of Walt Disney’s brightest stars, delighting an entire generation of baby boomers with her jubilant personality and endless talent. Annette was well known for being as beautiful inside as she was on the outside, and she faced her physical challenges with dignity, bravery and grace. All of us at Disney join with family, friends and fans around the world in celebrating her extraordinary life.”
Information from Frazier Moore with the Associated Press was used in this report.