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Stage 1 at Disney World Studios Dedicated to Annette Funicello

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25 June 2013 No Comment

Funicello and Frankie Avalon during their Beach Movie days

On Monday, amid friends, fans, and former Mouseketeers, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger officially renamed Stage 1 on the Disney World Studios lot as the Annette Funicello Stage. Funicello passed away on April 8, 2013 after fighting with multiple sclerosis for more than two and a half decades. But Funicello’s legacy lives on in her films, albums, and her place as an official Disney Legacy, an honor she received in 1992, in addition to the recent posthumous renaming of Stage 1.

The choice of Stage 1 was no mistake, as that was the soundstage on which the original Mickey Mouse Club featuring the original Mouseketeers – including Funicello – was filmed. The only other actor to have a namesake stage at the Walt Disney Studios is Julie Andrews, who is known for her iconic performances in Mary Poppins and The Princess Diaries; both were filmed on Stage 2, which was subsequently dedicated to Andrews on August 2, 2001.

Funicello, who was chosen by Walt Disney to be the final Mouseketeer in 1955, became an enduring icon of American – and Disney – sweetness, innocence, and talent. She is remembered for her many song recordings, including popular tunes by the Sherman Brothers such as “Pineapple Princess” (from the 1960 album Hawaiiannette) and “Tall Paul,” her first big hit. She was also featured in multiple movies in the 1960s that started the teen beach movie craze, a movement that Disney perhaps hopes to revitalize with the July 19 release of Teen Beach movie on the Disney Channel.

According to Funicello’s best friend, actor Shelley Fabares,

“She loved Mr. Disney, first of all, everybody says. And she did. She always called him Mr. Disney. She just loved him dearly, and to have this studio give that honour to her, I’m telling you, it would mean the world to her.”

Commenting on her passing, Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, said,

“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.”

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