The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show


The Daily Format

   

Mousekartoon Segment


The last quarter-hour of the Mickey Mouse Club was devoted to a variety of material that this site collectively calls the Mousekartoon segment. It included Doddisms, Encyclopedia specials, Alma Mater, the show's closing animations, and credits, as well as the Mousekartoon.

Closing the Show

The hour-long shows of the first two seasons (1955-1957) were divided into quarter-hour blocks, called segments by production designers Bill Walsh, Hal Adelquist, and Perce Pearce. Each of the four segments featured a different form of entertainment, that would occur at the same time everyday. This was done both to comply with ABC's network marketing requirements, and to facilitate producing the show's first season. As each segment was independent of the others, they could be filmed willy-nilly, then assembled into completed shows later by the film editors.

NewsreelMouseketeersSerialsMousekartoon

Each segment was a combination of original programming, recycled footage, and advertising. The table below shows how the Mousekartoon segment broke down into these three categories for the opening shows of the first season. The numbers reflect minutes and seconds for each part of the quarter-hour total in the segment. Note that although the cartoons themselves were from the Disney library of animated shorts, they are regarded here as original programming.

BreakdownDuration | Recycled
Footage
Original
Programming
Commercial
Time
Sponsor Message 00:20 |     00:20
Mouseketeers Intro1 00:50 | 00:05 00:45  
Cartoon 1st Half 05:00 |   05:00  
Commercial Block 03:10 |     03:10
Cartoon 2nd Half 02:20 |   02:20  
Doddism 01:10 |   01:10  
Alma Mater 00:35 | 00:35    
Closing Animation 00:10 | 00:10    
Credit Crawl 00:25 | 00:15 00:10  
Disney Film Promo 00:35 | 00:35    
  ----- | ----- ----- -----
T o t a l s 15:00 | 01:40 09:50 03:30
(1) Actual time varied from 40 to 50 seconds, with excess time going to Doddism

This segment was very popular during the first season. The cartoons, with one exception, dated from 1929 to 1939. They were interesting to kids who'd never seen them before, and slightly edgy, in a way that contemporary Disney cartoons of the fifties had lost. For the rest of the segment, recycled moments were few, and coming at show's closing, were viewed more intently by those trying to hold on to the magic for one more minute. How many kids must have watched that credit crawl to the bitter end each day, listening to the music and finally sighing as it ended, knowing they'd have to wait until the next day to see more?

The popularity of the segment lessened during the second season. Cartoons were reduced to four days a week, with Mickey Mouse Book Club features and Encyclopedia Specials filling out the schedule. Two dozen cartoons and several of the Encyclopedia specials were recycled from the first season. Donald Duck cartoons from the 1940's were more prevalent, but despite their appeal to younger kids, the older ones that Walt was trying to attract didn't respond, and some disliked the new Doddism feature, where Jimmie delivered a moral homily every day. The segment fell behind the Mouseketeer segment for the first time in the ratings, and for the third season, cartoons were cut down to one day a week.



Mousekartoon Segment: Individual Features

Mouseketeers Introduce the Mousekartoon

The Mousekartoon song, the opening bars of which were heard during the five second splash at left, was written by Jimmie Dodd, with arrangements by Buddy Baker. The lyrical portion, with a few instrumental opening bars, lasted twenty-five seconds at most.
Besides the song, the first season introductions often featured elaborate gags involving multiple mice, or just one mouse and a visual gimmick. During the second season the splash and elaborate staging were dropped, and the time spent on this feature was reduced from fifty seconds down to thirty, with the cut time going to the new Doddism feature. For both seasons, introductions were centered on the Treasure Mine set, the doors of which would swing open after the song and magic words were delivered. All Mouseketeers had their chance to do this spot, though the popular Red Team folks were featured more often.
Even the song was dropped for the third season, with cartoons mostly confined to Tuesdays. They were given a recycled, ten-second, largely non-musical introduction by either Cubby or Karen as the "Mouseketeer-in-a-box".

The Mousekartoon

The first cartoon shown was 'Pueblo Pluto', the only 1940's feature broadcast during season one It's often been pointed out that for a show that bears his name, Mickey Mouse wasn't much in evidence, aside from the daily opening and closing. Mixing animation with live-action shots was expensive, and the studio limited it to a few episodes of Disneyland. The cartoon, however, was one part of the show where Mickey was very visible.
One hundred cartoons were broadcast during the first season, most for their television debut. Though the same number of animated (or semi-animated) shorts were shown the following year, nearly a a fifth were repeats from season one, while another twenty percent were educational and/or promotional features. During the third season only thirty-four cartoons were shown, no more than one or two a week, with five repeats. (Of course, all the cartoons were shown a second time when the shows for each season were rerun.) Its says a lot, that during the budget-conscious third season, when Mouseketeer skits from the first year were recycled to make up the shortage of new production material, cartoons were still cut so drastically in number.

The selection of cartoons for each season mimicked the general development of the animated short at the studio. For season one, Mickey Mouse and the Silly Symphony series predominated, with most features having been created from 1929 thru 1936. During the second season, cartoons swung heavily towards Donald Duck, with the majority shown dating from 1938 through 1948. For the final season, cartoons ranged from 1939 to 1952, with Pluto dominating.

The guy in charge of selecting and editing the cartoons for broadcasting was Bill Park. Editing generally consisted of removing the opening titles and credits, finding a suitable place to insert the commercial break, and a logical ending. Some cartoons consisted solely of an excerpt made from a longer animated feature, and some had parts excised for "appropriateness". Cartoons were a secondary responsibility for Park, his primary tasks being to supervise the creation of the newsreels, encyclopedia specials, and short serials.

As the cartoons weren't original to the show, and as my knowledge of animation is very slight, the lists of cartoons shown during the Mickey Mouse Club (below) have been augmented by links to a comprehensive external site.

  Season 1   (1955-56)  
  Season 2   (1956-57)  
  Season 3   (1957-58)  

Encyclopedia Specials (Second Season)

This was a variety of educational and safety features hosted by Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Cliff Edwards). Shown during the Thursday Newsreel segments in the first season, they replaced the Mousekartoon once a week (on different days) during the second. These specials had a certain amount of recycled animation for their opening theme songs.
They were, however, the only original animated features created for the Mickey Mouse Club, aside from the show's opening and closing clips. Made in color, these features were released independently on 16mm film to schools and educational institutions, and many of them remained in use in their original format well into the 1980's. They were later updated and augmented with live-action sequences, and continued to be exhibited to younger schoolchildren well into the nineties. The two main series were You and I'm No Fool, but there were also independent features on a variety of subjects.

Mickey Mouse Book Club (Second Season)

The Mickey Mouse Book Club was a thinly-disguised promotion of Disney films adapted from Disney edition books. Four of these were made for the second season and shown once a month in place of the weekly Encyclopedia Special. Books covered included Secrets of Life, Westward Ho!, The Oregon Trail, and Cinderella.

Doddism

At the end of each first season show, right after the cartoon finished, Jimmie Dodd would offer some closing thoughts on life, and what was coming up tomorrow and later in the week. For the second season, his soliloquies were detached from the Alma Mater they usually preceded, and placed before the Mousekartoon.
They also changed in character, dropping the promotional news, and concentrated solely on little moral homilies about being a good Mouseketeer, or making the most of your talent and opportunities. About fifteen to twenty seconds was shaved from the Mousekartoon introductions for this new feature. Though nowadays these talks are, like Jimmie himself, remembered a bit nostalgically, at the time they turned-off the very audience Walt Disney was trying to attract, the older kids. After all day in school listening to adults deliver much the same sort of spiel, teenagers were not inclined to spend their free time watching it again on television.
For season three Doddisms were returned to just before Alma Mater. Gil George and Paul Smith wrote songs (Beauty Is As Beauty Does, Everything Is Fun, Where Does It Come From?) for Mouseketeers to sing at Jimmie's prompting, to keep the teenagers watching. Jimmie still did solo talks for half the shows, often using a sketch by Roy as a starting point. The kids sing 'Where Does It Come From?'

Alma Mater

The full 'Alma Mater' was first performed during the latter half of the first season by the Red Team. Note Mary, Tommy, Dennis, and Judy are now on the first string Easily the most remembered part of the show was the sign-off song, formally called the Mickey Mouse Club Alma Mater. This originally started with only the sing-song chant "M-i-c, See you real soon, k-e-y, Why? Because we like you! M-o-u-s-e", delivered as a prompt-response duet between the Mouseketeer chorus and Jimmie Dodd.
Sometime during the first season this chant, done using twenty-two mice sitting in bleachers, had the complete song added to it, and was performed only by the Red Team. This would remain the format used for subsequent seasons. Alma Mater was shot in several takes with multiple cameras, and edited to create slightly different versions to avoid rigid repetition.
The Red Team choir performed the song standing up in formation during the first two years, though for the second season the background set changed to reflect that day's theme. For the third season, they sat, stood, or leaned casually by the "Clubouse" in a seemingly haphazard arrangment that mirrored the less formal internal scheduling of the show's features that year.

Closing Animation

Following the Alma Mater, Mickey Mouse returned to remind viewers to watch again tomorrow. His ten second spiel differed with each day of the week, being tied to a matching opening message at the start of each show, and the entertainment offered in the Mouseketeer Segment.

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
Closing animation Closing animation Mickey exchanged his sorceror's robe for a circus band uniform during Wednesday's closing animation Closing animation Closing animation

Credit Crawl

The original credit crawl format The original crawl started as moving text on a static background, while an instrumental version of the Mickey Mouse Club March would play. By the second season, this changed to curtains slowly closing over the club logo on a darkened stage. The moving credit crawl format

Disney Film Promo

Image from the 'The African Lion', one of many Disney features advertised at the end of the show. Primarily intended to help finance the theme park, the Mickey Mouse Club had a secondary goal of selling theater tickets. This thirty-five second promo spot wasn't part of the commercial time sold to sponsors; it was an actual part of the show. It was dropped for the third season and edited out for later syndication.

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