Mickey Mouse Club Serials: Adventure in Dairyland
This short dramatic serial was salvaged from the wreckage of the What I Want To Be project and used the same theme music. It featured a mix of Southern California and Midwest actors, including the studio's rising star, Annette Funicello, a popular second lead, Sammy Ogg, and a new discovery, Kevin Corcoran. Broadcast twice in the second and fourth seasons, it was released for syndication in 1964-65 and again in 1976, then was shown several times on the Disney Channel during 1983-88.
Walt Disney interrupts a class at the Disney Studio schoolroom, where Mouseketeers and serial actors are being taught by Miss Ross. He talks about the importance of dairy farming to the country, and asks who would be interested in learning more? Annette and Sammy volunteer, so they are sent off to Wisconsin as guests at a working farm.
Jim McCandless and his wife have two teenagers, Jimmy and Linda, and little Moochie. The five of them run their Wisconsin dairy farm with the help of handyman Paulie, who's a bit of a character (Hmm, sound familiar?). They're excited to meet their television star guests. In honor of the occasion, Moochie goes out to collect frogs, but nearly gets collared by an angry bull. Big brother Jimmy rescues him, setting the stage for the first of many Moochie moments to come.
Sammy and Annette take to their hosts right away, and soon settle into the routine of farm life. They meet Moochie's pet chicken, admire Mrs McCandless' flower garden, and are amazed to see how Paulie yodels to call the cows into the barn for the night. Jimmy shows Sammy the machinery used for automatic cow milking, and they watch the local veterinarian cure a calf made sick by eating paint from Moochie's forgotten brush.
The days pass quickly as Annette and Sammy learn how to do new chores around the farm. At a 4-H dance held in their honor, they admire the polka dances and European folk singing of the local farm folk. They also entertain them with their own dancing, and make the McCandless kids honorary Mouseketeers. When the parents go to Madison to shop, the kids take care of the farm, improvising a way to run the milking machinery when a storm knocks out the electricity, and helping a newborn calf.
After Annette and Sammy return to California, the McCandless family watches the Mouseketeers on television perform Edelweiss Polka, and are delighted to see Sammy show off the yodeling he learned from Paulie.
|Episode||       ||Orig Air Date|
| ||       || |
|Off to Wisconsin||       ||Nov 05, 1956|
|Moochie's Escape||       ||Nov 06, 1956|
|The Trouble with Pigs||       ||Nov 07, 1956|
|The Runaway Tractor||       ||Nov 08, 1956|
|The Case of the Deadly Paint Brush||       ||Nov 09, 1956|
|The Turning Point||       ||Nov 12, 1956|
|The Kids Take Over||       ||Nov 13, 1956|
|The Storm||       ||Nov 14, 1956|
In September 1955, one month before the Mickey Mouse Club debuted on television, the Disney Studio sent a magazine-like supplement to school districts around the country, touting the educational programming to be featured on the new show. One of these features was to be an on-going set of serials examining future careers for kids, called What I Want To Be. The first series was to be about airline careers, the second series would be about modern dairy farming. The idea for this project was the brainchild of Stirling Silliphant, who came up with it before being hired by the studio.
Silliphant's idea envisioned a sole major sponsor for each career in the series, who would not only underwrite the costs, but who would also provide logistical support and personnel (including cast members) for what would presumably be its area of expertise. Thus TWA was signed up to sponsor Airplane Pilot, Airplane Hostess, while the American Dairy Association agreed to handle The Dairy Farmer. The first serial was well-received in October 1955, and the ADA looked forward to its turn in the spotlight. But Walt Disney and Stirling Silliphant had a major falling out, which ended with the latter leaving the studio.
After Walt Disney fired Silliphant, the project was cancelled, possibly to avoid legal problems over ownership of the original concept. However, since the ADA was an important sponsor, both for the show and Disneyland, Disney didn't want to offend them by completely backing out of the arrangements they had made. There was also a matter of studio pride; schools and teachers had already been informed they would be seeing a series on dairy farming. So writer Lillie Hayward and director William Beaudine Sr put a new story together, working in the short time frame before they were to start on The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty. How much was used, if any, of Silliphant's original ten-episode storyline is unknown.
The new serial was given the working title of The Dairy Story, signaling a shift of emphasis away from the occupation. The advance crew, with four large trucks from the Burbank studio full of generators, cameras, kleig lights, costumes, and props, arrived at the Dr. Ira Sisk farm, overlooking the Sugar River in Verona, Wisconsin, on June 4th, 1956. A society page announcement for the upcoming wedding of Dr. Sisk's daughter spilled the beans in print on June 6th. The following evening, when the chartered airplane carrying Annette landed at Dane County airport, over a hundred local kids were on hand to greet her. It's unlikely the studio was either surprised or displeased; the Capital Times of Madison reported the next day that she deplaned wearing her Mouseketeer outfit.
Filming for the farm scenes commenced the second week of June, and wrapped up June 29th. (It's not known to me when the Burbank studio scenes were done.) At the behest of the ADA the serial was filmed in color, the only original production for the Mickey Mouse Club that was. While in Wisconsin, the cast and crew stayed at the Loraine Hotel in Madison, just a few blocks south of the state capitol, and went by chartered limos and buses to the farm each day. A small barn was converted to a makeup department, while a large shed housed the wardrobe. A larger barn was converted to a set; the square dance/polka party scenes were filmed first, to give time for the tenant farmer's hay crop to be mowed.
The Sisk family, who owned but did not operate the farm, continued living in their home, which doubled for the McCandless farmhouse, during filming. Filming shifted to the University of Wisconsin's Agricultural College on June 21 for the day, so the Sisk's daughter could have her wedding reception at the farmhouse. Annette, Sammy, and Kevin were given school lessons daily in a toolhouse at the farm until June 15th, when California's summer break occurred. (Glen and Mary Lu's school year was over). The kids worked six days a week, as permitted by SAG rules of the time for child actors on location. As filming wrapped up, Annette and Sammy attended an autograph party on June 27th at the Loraine Hotel's ballroom. No word of this appeared beforehand in the local press, yet 3,000 kids and parents turned out on that evening, alerted by word of mouth.
This was Annette's first real experience of acting. She had hosted and narrated the Italian Correspondent serial, but otherwise was only lightly used in the first season skits. Kevin Corcoran had been first hired by Disney for a short Anything Can Happen Day serial called Fun with a Camera. William Beaudine Sr was the director; he recognized Kevin's natural appeal and urged Walt Disney to cast him for the Dairyland serial as well. Sammy Ogg had enjoyed a small burst of popularity from his portrayal of Joe Simpson in The Adventures of Spin and Marty, and so won the co-star role for this serial.
Fern Persons (1910-2012), who played Mrs. McCandless, was a member and officer of the Chicago branch of the Screen Actors Guild. Originally a stage actress, she had done one film and one television series before being hired for this serial. She later had an extensive career as a character actress, appearing in films like Risky Business (1983), Hoosiers (1986), and Field of Dreams (1989), and on television in ER (1999).
Glen Graber, who played Jimmy McCandless, was a child model and part-time stage actor from Griffith, Indiana, who began at age seven in the national touring company of High Button Shoes. He later had a career in business while continuing to act in musicals, and is still doing roles in regional theater today. Mary Lu Delmonte, who played Linda McCandless, was a Catholic high school girl from McHenry County, Illinois. Primarily a singer, this appears to have been her one and only stint as an actress.
Ernst Zentner (Pauli) and Clayton Streiff (Nels) were the most prominent cast members actually from Wisconsin. Folk singers and musicians of Swiss heritage, they sang, yodeled, and performed on Alpine instruments for live audiences and recordings. Ernst was a member of a group from New Glarus, Wisconsin, called the "Edelweiss Stars", and was hired on the set for the part he played. One song heard in this series, Teach Me How to Yodel, was written by another well-known Wisconsin folk musician, Rudy Burkhalter. Many of the teenagers in the 4-H square dance scene were neighbors of the Sisk family in Verona, and belonged to a local dance group called the "Hoe Down Hut".
Lois Murray, who played the Disney Studio school teacher, Miss Ross, was a hairstylist in the studio's makeup department. She was given this small role since the serial started filming during California's school year. State regulations prohibited the real studio teachers from doing anything but teaching until the summer break. The "classroom" where she taught was a set, and bore little relation to the studio-built schoolhouse trailer the kids attended, nor was it usual for the serial actors and Mouseketeers to have classes together.
|Annette Funicello||       ||Herself|
|Sammy Ogg||       ||Himself|
|       || |
|Kevin Corcoran||       ||"Moochie" McCandless|
|Herb Newcomb||       ||Jim McCandless|
|Fern Persons||       ||Mrs. McCandless|
|Glen Graber||       ||Jimmy McCandless|
|Mary Lu Delmonte||       ||Linda McCandless|
|Ernst Zentner||       ||Paulie|
|Clayton E. Streiff||       ||Nels|
|John Craig||       ||Veterinarian|
|Paul Grossenbacher||       ||Leader of Singing Group|
|William McKee||       ||Square Dance Caller|
|Eric Borg||       ||Bit part|
|Lois Framberger||       ||4-H Performer|
|William Kahl||       ||Teenage 4-H Performer|
|Jerry Richardson||       ||4-H Performer|
|Rita Richardson||       ||4-H Performer|
|Jennifer Jordan||       ||Teenage 4-H Performer/Annette's Stand-in|
|William Reuf||       ||Alpenhorn player|
|Carl Luescher||       ||Alpenhorn player|
|Tom Mackesey||       ||4-H Performer|
|Donna Geiger||       ||Teenage 4-H Performer (uncredited)|
|Karen Hendricks||       ||4-H Performer (uncredited)|
|Mark Jordan||       ||Teenage 4-H Performer (uncredited)|
|Mary Beth Jordan||       ||Teenage 4-H Performer (uncredited)|
|Barbara Kahl||       ||Teenage 4-H Performer (uncredited)|
|Delores Mackesey||       ||4-H Performer (uncredited)|
|Jim Sharp||       ||Teenage 4-H Performer (uncredited)|
|Jim Winkleman||       ||Teenage 4-H Performer (uncredited)|
|       || |
|Walt Disney||       ||Himself (uncredited)|
|Lois Murray||       ||Miss Ross|
|Sid Miller||       ||Himself (uncredited)|
|Darlene Gillespie||       ||Herself (uncredited)|
|Cubby O'Brien||       ||Himself (uncredited)|
|Karen Pendleton||       ||Herself (uncredited)|
|Tommy Cole||       ||Himself (uncredited)|
|Doreen Tracey||       ||Herself (uncredited)|
|Tim Considine||       ||Himself (uncredited)|
|David Stollery||       ||Himself (uncredited)|
|Sharon Baird||       ||Herself (uncredited)|
|Lonnie Burr||       ||Himself (uncredited)|
|Bobby Burgess||       ||Himself (uncredited)|
|B. G. Norman||       ||Himself (uncredited)|
|Brand Stirling||       ||Himself (uncredited)|
|Cheryl Holdridge||       ||Herself (uncredited)|
|Margene Storey||       ||Herself (uncredited)|
|Jay-Jay Solari||       ||Himself (uncredited)|
|Bill Walsh||       ||Producer|
|Stirling Silliphant||       ||Original Concept (uncredited)|
|Lillie Hayward||       ||Writer|
|William Beaudine Sr||       ||Director|
|William Lava||       ||Theme Song|
|Rudy Burkhalter||       ||Song|
|Tom Adair||       ||Song (uncredited)|
|Marvin Aubrey Davis||       ||Art Director|
|Walter H. Castle, A.S.C.||       ||Director of Photography|
|Stanley Johnson||       ||Film Editor|
|Robert O. Cook||       ||Sound|
|Fred MacLean||       ||Set Decoration|
|Pat McNally||       ||Makeup|
|Chuck Keehne||       ||Costumes|
|Gertie Casey||       ||Ladies Wardrobe|
|Chuck Arrico||       ||Mens Wardrobe|
|Russ Haverick||       ||Unit Manager|
|William Beaudine Jr||       ||First Assistant Director|
|Ted Schilz||       ||Second Assistant Director|
|John Ormunde||       ||Publicity Director (uncredited)|