Season 3 on ABC (1957-1958)
The Mickey Mouse Club was reduced to a thirty minute show for this season, with a pronounced emphasis on serials and Annette at the expense of other features and performers. Both the daily and weekly formats changed as studio television resources were diverted to the new Disney western.
The Disney Studio Whale
For its first two seasons the Mickey Mouse Club was an immense logistical draw on studio resources. Upwards of two hundred people were involved in production of the daily show, including cast, crew, and support staff. Two sound stages were given over to filming and rehearsals, while secondary units did location work for serials, newsreels, and educational specials.
But the show's second year ratings hadn't kept up with its spectacular debut months. Throughout the 1956-57 broadcast season audience share declined significantly with each passing quarter while hourly production costs continued to rise. ABC was having trouble renewing sponsor agreements for the coming third year, while Walt Disney and Bill Walsh were focused on producing their new television show, Zorro.
Both the network and the studio agreed an hour-long Mickey Mouse Club
was no longer viable. ABC could however sign up enough sponsors for a half-hour show, which allowed Disney to free up technicians, equipment, and a entire sound stage for the new prime time western. For the Mickey Mouse Club
, this meant the writing staff for skits and songs was effectively reduced down to Tom Adair
, with director Sid Miller
and arranger Buddy Baker
lending a hand.
Six of the seven replacement Mouseketeers had been let go after the previous year's filming ended. For the new season only three kids were directly hired as Mouseketeers, while Bonnie Lynn Fields
was promoted from the ranks of talent winners.
Vanishing Acts and Scrambled Formats
The Newsreel and Mousekartoon segments were reduced from daily to weekly features and merged into the shortened Mouseketeer segment. Dropping completely off the list of third season features were circus acts, with the Thursday opening animation awkwardly modified to eliminate mention of Circus Day. Guest stars were limited to a handful of Disney Studio regulars and a few outsiders who might appear on any day, while Guest Star Day itself became the unofficial Cartoon Day.
Wednesdays retained the random nature of Anything Can Happen Day with Annette becoming its regular hostess. However, new Mouseketeer features were no longer produced for this day. Instead new Mouseketeer skits were limited to Fun with Music Day. Previous seasons would see such numbers in production from April through October, but for this year all non-serial work was wrapped up by the beginning of July. Perhaps the most telling part of the third season content was the inclusion of recycled first season numbers as filler for Anything Can Happen Day. The show's future lay in its past.
Budget and time constraints led to the abandonment of unique daily Roll Call and Alma Mater bits. The same fast-paced tap to We're the Mouseketeers
opened each day's Mouseketeer segment, with the kids wearing western outfits on Fridays as a weak nod to that day's material. As with the rest of the Mouseketeer segment this season, Talent Roundup Day
was compressed in duration, now featuring just one act. The Alma Mater was also done in generic fashion using the new "Clubouse" set, with some alternate takes giving a little variety.
This Clubouse set would become the most recognizable stage element of the show in later years, due to its constant use. It replaced the Mousekartoon Treasure Mine as a background for Doddisms. The cartoons themselves, instead of having unique Mouseketeer introductions, were now reduced to two brief alternating intros by Mousekateers-in-a-box Karen and Cubby.
The Serials Take Over
The Serial segment had always been the most popular part of the show with audience and sponsors alike. For this season there were four new major dramatic serials, including a mammoth thirty-part Spin and Marty. There were also nine educational specials, most of which were multi-part productions. To enhance interest in the latter the studio used Annette, Tommy Cole, Don Agrati, Doreen Tracey, and Dave Stollery as narrators and hosts.
The dramatic serials all had different directors, newcomers to the Disney Studio. Principal serial director Bill Beaudine
, who had handled most serials and Circus Day shows wasn't employed this season. Charles Barton
, Charles Lamont
, and R. G. Springsteen would also have the opportunity to direct episodes of Zorro
Production on the dramatic serials began in June 1957 with the mild plodding Hardy Boys
sequel called The Mystery of Ghost Farm
. The off-beat British-made The Adventures of Clint and Mac
was likely filmed at this time as well, though it would be broadcast much later. The New Adventures of Spin and Marty
was in production from mid-July through the end of September 1957, with two weeks in August lost to a craft strike. When it wrapped up, the final serial of the season Annette and Darlene
was supposed to immediately start filming. Instead a month went by, during which it appears the serial underwent recasting and a hasty rewrite, being retitled to just Annette
. Production began in late October and completed by early December 1957.