The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show


The Daily Format

Newsreel Segment

The first quarter-hour of the Mickey Mouse Club was devoted to a variety of material that this site collectively calls the Newsreel segment. It included the show's opening animations, Sooty the Puppet, Jiminy Cricket's Encyclopedia specials, as well as the eponymous "Mickey Mouse Newsreel".

Opening 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 and Hal Adelquist. 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 in any sequence 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 Newsreel segment broke down into these three categories. The numbers reflect minutes and seconds for each part of the quarter-hour total in the segment.

BreakdownDuration | Recycled
Footage
Original
Programming
Commercial
Time
Sponsor Message 00:20 |     00:20
Show Opening 02:40 | 02:40    
Sponsor Message 00:20 |     00:20
Mickey's Intro 00:25 | 00:25    
Newsreel Opening 00:35 | 00:35    
Newsreel Part 1* 05:00 |   05:00  
Commercial Block 03:10 |     03:10
Newsreel Part 2* 02:20 |   02:20  
Newsreel Closing 00:10 | 00:10    
  ----- | ----- ----- -----
T o t a l s 15:00 | 03:50 07:20 03:50
* "Newsreel" here refers to Sooty, Jiminy Cricket Presents, and other material as well.
The actual time allotted to each part of the newsreel varied slightly from show to show.

While every television show includes some repetitive material, the above illustrates how the first quarter-hour of the Mickey Mouse Club consisted of slightly less than half original programming each day. It's no wonder this segment, initially popular in the first few weeks, quickly became the weakest performer in the ratings as the novelty of the recycled animations wore off on the viewing audience.

Daily Differences

The Newsreel segment presented different material depending on the day of the week. The show's opening animation was always the same, but Mickey's introduction varied, being linked to each day's Mouseketeer Segment. Sooty the Puppet was seen on Tuesdays, Jiminy Cricket Presents and a grab bag of miscellaneous features were shown on Thursdays, while the other three days featured the newsreel.

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday



Newsreel Segment: Recycled Features

Show Opening (Mickey Mouse Club March)

The classic song, which started each day's show, was written and composed by Jimmie Dodd, with arrangements and orchestration by Buddy Baker. It lasted two minutes and forty seconds in it's full version. For half-hour shows (1957-59 on ABC, syndication, and cable) the opening was reduced to one minute.
Aware that such lengthy repetition might become boring, the animators tacked on a rotating seven-second ending that had some dozen variations on Donald Duck trying to hit a gong. Many years later a color version of the full opening was released on Disney video tapes and DVDS.

Mickey's Introduction

Following the show's opening song and sponsor messages, Mickey Mouse made an introduction to the day's events. His twenty-five second spiel differed with each day of the week, being tied to the entertainment offered in the Mouseketeer Segment, and a matching closing message at the end of each show.
Short as it was, this thematic introduction was important in giving the impression of continuity, and a sense of immediacy, to each day's show. When Circus Day shows were dropped after the second season, Mickey's Thursday introduction was modified to eliminate mention of them.

Newsreel Opening

Three days a week, immediately following Mickey's introduction, the opening clip for the newsreel would play. This thirty-five second combination of animation and live action started with Mickey at a camera, went to filmed scenes of children around the world, then ended with a group shot of the Mouseketeers.
The theme music was by Paul Smith, the opening narration was written by studio nurse Hazel George, and read by newsreel announcer Hal Gibney. For the second and subsequent seasons, the closing shot of the Mouseketeers was dropped. For newsreel specials, the entire opening was sometimes replaced by a quick shot of a title card.

Newsreel Closing

The ten-second close to each newsreel was a shot of two title cards, with voice-over narration re-affirming that "the Mickey Mouse Club Newsreel is dedicated to You, the leaders of the twenty-first century". Ten seconds may not seem worthy of a separate mention, but of such humble bricks is a pyramid built...



Newsreel Segment: Original Programming

Mickey Mouse Club Newsreel (Monday-Wednesday-Friday)

Newsreels appeared three times a week in the first two seasons, less often in the third. They averaged four to six short clips, filmed by both free-lancers and contract cameramen, with much footage coming from the same providers that created movie newsreels.
Roughly eighty regular newsreels were created each year in seasons one and two, and twenty in season three. Newsreel Specials were originally a regular newsreel devoted to a single subject. There were three in season one, and twenty-one in season two. In season three, the terms Newsreel Special and Encyclopedia were used for multi-part documentaries, that had formerly been called serials.
The subjects were wide-ranging, but carefully selected. There were no stories involving suffering or violence, nor were crime-related and social problems covered. Science, nature, sports, culture, and activities involving children were the predominant themes.
Naturally there were some clips about Disney-related stories, though to the producers' credit these were rare. Even more surprising for the fifties, of the very few clips on faith-related topics, one covered a traveling synagogue in rural North Carolina, and another a visit to a Shinto temple in Japan.

An interesting fact concerning newsreel usage on the show was that during reruns the original newsreels were often replaced by more topical clips. Some of these replacement clips were to promote newly-released Disney films, of course, but others were devoted to coverage of the nominating conventions for the 1956 presidential election.

The newsreel clips were narrated by Hal Gibney (1911-1973), a long-time radio announcer who also gave the voice-over narration for the original Dragnet television show. Few clips had original sound; when required, the studio would add sound effects. The storylines were presumably written by Disney staffers, though no individual credits are known.

Sooty the Puppet (Tuesday)

This British-made feature, starring Harry Corbett and his little bear puppet, had twenty episodes each during the first two seasons. It was dropped for season three, then rerun in season four, with each episode chopped in half and shown on different days. It doesn't appear to have been used for syndicated shows or cable.

Jiminy Cricket Presents (Alternating Thursdays)

This was a variety of educational features hosted by Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Cliff Edwards). Three of these were series, titled This Is You, I'm No Fool, and The Nature of Things. Like the newsreel, these animated series had a certain amount of recycled footage for their opening and theme songs.
Not all of these features were animated; some, like Animal Champions, Cansdale, and The Grain That Built a Hemisphere used live-action film footage. I'm No Fool and The Nature of Things had their own theme songs of the same name. The other series used You The Human Animal. All three songs were written and composed by Jimmie Dodd, who also wrote Encyclopedia, heard regularly on different episodes.
These features shared first-season Thursdays with other series (see below). During the second season, short serials replaced all other newsreel segment items as a regular Thursday feature. However, the Jiminy Cricket features continued, now labeled as Encyclopedia Specials, appearing in the Mousekartoon Segment.

Karen in Kartoonland (Alternating Thursdays)

This first season series illustrated how animation works, thru the use of Disney stock characters. It starred Karen Pendleton and animator Bill Justice.* Each episode opened with Karen telling two other Mouseketeers about visiting Mr. Justice.
Roy Williams had the original idea for this feature, but didn't appear in it. Four episodes were made: Pluto, Mickey, Things, and Jiminy Cricket. Rerun once in the fourth season (1958-59), this series was never released to syndication or cable.
* Thanks to Rick from Dallas for photos and Jim Korkis for information

Mickey Mouse Book Club (Alternating Thursdays)

The Mickey Mouse Book Club was a thinly-disguised promotion of Disney films adapted from well-known books. Three of these were made for the first season and shown on Thursdays. Books covered included Uncle Remus, The Lady and the Tramp, and The Littlest Outlaw. In the second season, this feature was moved to the Mousekartoon Segment

Newsreel Specials (Alternating Thursdays)

A Newsreel Special was when the entire newsreel was devoted to a single subject. Three of these were made for the first season: the Mickey Mouse Club Circus, Christmas across the USA, and a trans-polar flight were the subjects. In the second season, Newsreel Specials were shown in the regular M-W-F time slot.

Short Serials (Second Season Thursdays)

English Correspondent, Danish Correspondent, and Japanese Correspondent were the serials used to fill in this time slot during second season. They were cheaper and easier to make than animated features, and were initially thought to be more popular than Jiminy Cricket Presents. They are covered in detail under Short Serials 2.

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