The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show


Books About The Mickey Mouse Club

The Mickey Mouse Club Scrapbook
The Club's Official Scrapbook
compiled by Keith Keller

Grosset & Dunlap, New York 1975
143 Pages, B/W Photos

Keith Keller was a modest guy who confined his presence in this book to a brief recounting of watching the show as a child. He was seven when it debuted in 1955; it was the only program he and his siblings were in agreement on to watch. It's indicative of his self-effacing style that he provides no explanation of how he came to write this book (his only literary

effort), or of what involvement, if any, he had with the folks at Disney. Judging by his acknowledgements, and the wealth of production documents and candid photos, his contacts were very good indeed. (Editor's note: see below).

Keller leads off with a long interview of Bill Walsh, the show's producer. Bill died suddenly of a heart attack, at age 61, shortly before this book was published. It's not clear if Keith himself did the interview, or it came from other sources, but the word "compiled" in association with Keith's name on the book suggests the latter. The quotes from Bill are merged with ones from Jimmie and Roy to create a history of the show's conception. In Keller's view, Walt was closely involved with the design of the show and the initial cast selection. A real plus for this book are the photos of original memos and production documents. The most valuable of these is a humble Daily Production Report from October 24, 1955, from which the reader can see the Mouseketeers still with the show (except for Darlene, out on location shooting) and their team.

There are also many photos, candids and posed publicity stills, of the Mouseketeers. Some of the more interesting of these are original audition photos, showing how the kids looked before the studio hairstylists and makeup artists went to work. Keith lists the "original" twenty-four Mouseketeers, then immediately qualifies it by mentioning Paul, Mickey, and Tim. There's no mention of Dallas Johann. The January 1975 Tomorrow show interview of several Mouseketeers are used to describe their auditions.

The show's production staff is covered quickly, with Hal Adelquist and others getting some mention, but Walt is given the lion's share of credit for everything that happened. There's no mention of third adult leader Bob Amsberry, though he's in some photos. One of Walt's memos mistakenly refers to Roving Mooseketeer Alvy Moore as Tom Moore, and Keith repeats this mistake, then compounds the error by saying he was cut from the show's format before it began. The middle section of the book is dominated by large clear photos illustrating the show's daily formats and seasonal changes. Serials are given less attention, and the newsreels and cartoons are barely mentioned.

Keller says that the Mouseketeers were the source of the show's success, and that Walt regarded Annette as the measure of that success. She received 6,000 letters in her peak month of popularity; from 1955-58 the show's total fan mail reached 360,000 pieces of mail. He then makes a curious statement:

"When Annette grew too old for her ears (and her sweaters) the Mickey Mouse Club was finished."

No mention is made of declining ratings or trouble finding sponsors, nor even of the later Disney official explanation, that Walt felt there were too many commercials. No, in this book the show ended because Annette out grew it. Keith then lists the syndicated runs, and says the success of the 1975 run spawned this book.

The remainder of the book is split into a songbook section, twenty pages giving the words and music to the most popular melodies from the show, followed by another twenty pages with updates on the Mouseketeers, including some with small "then" and large "now" photos. Seven male mice were listed as missing, though most were living within a few miles of the studio.

Later editions of this book included a section on the Mouseketeers of the 1977 New Mickey Mouse Club. There were also some additions and changes to the photos of the original Mouseketeers in "The Mouseketeers Today" section.


Dave Thomson, former studio employee, reminisces about Keith Keller (1948-1976)

"At Linda Vista Elementary School in Pasadena, in the mid 1950's, the father of one of my classmates worked for Disney, and the Mouseketeers gave a live show for the school in the auditorium. For musical accompaniment they had, I suppose, a piano and perhaps some percussion. What a thrill it was to see the Mouseketeers in person! They were so energized, and to us young kids seemed totally professional in their performance. I had a crush on Karen Pendleton (she was only 4 months younger than me). In 1957, we students of Linda Vista were bused to the Disney Studio to watch a rough cut of Johnny Tremain in the studio theater. The sets for the Boston sequences in the movie were still standing on a sound stage, so we took our sack lunches with us and dined in old Boston town.

While attending Chouinard Art School from 1964-68, I majored in Film, and the Disney Studio allowed me to use their back lot Western street for a student film project. A special effects man at Disney advised me to apply for "Traffic" (the Disney mail room) after I graduated. I began working for the studio in 1968, and stayed with the company through the end of Beauty and the Beast, after which I hired on at Hyperion Studios in Glendale. I was a Scene Planner while at Disney, plotting camera mechanics for animated features, and preparing all the titles for features, TV and foreign releases.

While in Traffic, I worked with Keith Keller and we'd go to swap meets on the weekends. His father had been a Disney executive, who also passed on at a relatively young age. Keith's Mom, Eunice Samuels Keller, worked in Ink and Paint when she was a young lady, and later in the Publicity Department, where Keith was eventually hired. He also had an older sister Karen, and a younger brother Kerry, who predeceased Keith.

Keith was enthused about his assignment to write the Mickey Mouse Club book, and shared stories of his interviews with me. He mentioned that Roy Williams was at one time selling cartoons to national magazines. When Walt Disney found out, he told Roy that he was working exclusively for Disney, and to stop his free lancing. Roy said, "Walt was right", and made no protest to the ultimatum.

The MMC book was completed and published prior to Keith being diagnosed with cancer. I talked to Keith on the phone while he was in the hospital, not long before he passed on, but he discouraged me from visiting and that was the last time we spoke. He died at St Joseph's Hospital on August 25, 1976. He was just a few months shy of his twenty-eighth birthday. I was unable to go to Keith's funeral, but someone who attended said it was a very emotional service, with songs like When You Wish Upon a Star being played that made it impossible for anyone to keep their composure."

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