The Walt Disney Company released a statement on April 8th, 2013 announcing “Actress Annette Funicello, long-time Disney and Beach Party star, passed away on Monday, April 8, at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, California, at the age of 70. She died peacefully from complications due to Multiple Sclerosis, a disease she battled for over 25 years. Beloved by television viewers in the ’50s for her stint on Disney’s original Mickey Mouse Club, and by film buffs for her numerous roles in a series of popular teen-oriented movies in the ’60s, Funicello became a pop culture icon.”
Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger added the following 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.”1
Annette’s incredible achievements include being selected by Walt Disney himself to be a part of the original “The Mickey Mouse Club.” She made appearances in popular television shows such as “Zorro” and “The Horsemasters” in addition to several Disney Movies including “The Shaggy Dog” and “Babes in Toyland.” Annette gained even more popularity as a teen idol after starring in the “Beach Party” movie series. In addition to acting, Annette pursued a successful singing career with multiple singles topping the pop charts.
Annette was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1987. In 1992, she made her diagnosis public, saying “I think you only have two choices in this kind of situation. Either you give in to it or you fight it. I intend to fight.”2 Later that year, she established The Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases, an organization dedicated to funding research for multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases.
Funicello includes details of her personal experiences with MS — as well as many backstage showbiz stories — in her autobiography, A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.2