Annette Funicello dies: One of Disney’s original Mouseketeers, Annette Funicello has died, aged 70. The popular actress, one of the early teen screen stars, lost the ability to speak back in 2009 and has been battling multiple sclerosis for over two decades. She had reportedly been in a coma for a number of years, according to New York Daily News. Funicello was selected by Disney to become one of the Mouseketeers in the 1950s after they spotted her doing ballet in a school production of Swan Lake. She was aged 12 at the time and had taken up the dance form to enable to her overcome her shyness.

Her friend Paul Anka, whom he briefly dated in the late 1950s, wrote his hit song ‘Puppy Love’ about her and said that she “had the thing… she the it.” On screen, she came across as perky and loveable and at the height of her popularity, she would receive up to 6,000 fan letters a month. Keen to capitalise on her crossover potential and transformed her into a teen pop star, with songs like ‘First Name Initial’ ‘O Dio Mio’ and ‘Pineapple Princess.’

The Disney CEO Roger Iger released a statement yesterday (April 8, 2013), saying “She will forever hold a place in our hearts as one of Walt Disney’s brightest stars… She delighted a generation of baby boomers with her jubilant personality and endless talent. Her friend Frankie Avalon told Associated Press “She was an amazing girl. She really had a tough existence. I’m devastated but I’m not surprised (by the news).” 

Annette Funicello
Annette Funicello: one of the original Mouseketeers