Sunday, July 16, 2017

Getting Schooled (again): The New Mickey Mouse Club (1977)

By 1976, the original Mickey Mouse Club was back in syndication. I remember this well because while it aired on the same station that carried it when it aired on ABC (1955-9), it was also airing on cable, and the cable company blacked out the feed from WNEW in New York much of the time, subbing in a text-only news feed from Reuters, which was available at the time.

In January 1977, Disney decided to reopen the Mickey Mouse Club, with a brand-new, culturally diverse cast, a disco reworking of the classic theme song, and, instead of new serials, simply split up pre-existing movies into multi-part, week-long serials. They had already re-edited some movies into two-parters for NBC's Wonderful World of Disney on Sundays to create inventory.

Unfortunately, The New Mickey Mouse Club had just 26 weeks (130 daily episodes) of original material before Disney ended production, but reruns would continue for 2 more years. Why? It wasn't airing in as many markets as reruns of the original series. The format was essentially the same, with a different theme each day of the week, but this was a case where Disney had sabotaged itself. Viewers preferred the reruns and cherished the  memories of childhood favorites like Annette Funnicello, who by 1977 was now shilling for Skippy peanut butter.

The cast was largely forgotten except for two. Lisa Whelchel and Julie Piekarski would later resurface on The Facts of Life, only for Piekarski to leave early in the series' run.

Here's a sample clip:

The most successful incarnation of the Mickey Mouse Club was still to come, leaving its biggest impact on the world of pop music. We'll talk about that another day.

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