The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show

The Show



Dec 25, 1950   First Disney Christmas special broadcast on NBC
Dec 25, 1951  Second Disney Christmas special broadcast on CBS
Sep 23, 1953  Bill Cottrell writes proposals for 4 Disney TV series
Apr 04, 1954  Disney and ABC sign three-year contract
Oct 27, 1954  Disneyland weekly anthology series debuts on ABC
Dec 08, 1954  Walt writes memo for Bill Walsh on new kid's show
Dec 16, 1954  ABC options Mickey Mouse Club for next season
Jan 25, 1955  Bill Walsh writes report on proposed format for MMC
Feb 22, 1955  ABC and Disney announce Mickey Mouse Club
Feb 28, 1955  Walsh, Adelquist complete first 100 MMC storylines
Mar 23, 1955  Audience dropped; "Mouseketeer" term adopted
Apr ??, 1955  Open auditions for original Mouseketeers
May ??, 1955  Production begins on Mickey Mouse Club
Jul 17, 1955  Mouseketeers TV debut for Disneyland opening
Oct 03, 1955  Mickey Mouse Club debuts on ABC at 5pm
Jan ??, 1956  ABC and Disney sign renewals for next season
Oct 10, 1956  Start of Mickey Mouse Club's second season on ABC
Jan 24, 1957  ABC and Disney sign three show deal for $9 million
Apr 03, 1957  MMC appears as half-hour on ABC's fall schedule
Sep 30, 1957  Start of Mickey Mouse Club's third season on ABC
May 19, 1958  Disney announces renewal of all three ABC shows
Sep 29, 1958  Start of Mickey Mouse Club's fourth ABC season
Apr 03, 1959  ABC drops MMC and Zorro off its Fall schedule
May ??, 1959  Start of three-week Mouseketeer tour to Australia
Jun 24, 1959  Final original broadcast of Mickey Mouse Club
Jul 01, 1959  Disney files federal lawsuit against ABC in NYC
Sep 25, 1959  Final rerun broadcast of Mickey Mouse Club
May ??, 1960  Second and final Mouseketeer tour to Australia

"Girls bored me - they still do. I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I've ever known. "
--- Walt Disney, as quoted in Walter Wagner's You Must Remember This  


The story of The Mickey Mouse Club is bound up with Disneyland and the growth of ABC. Without the need for capital to create the theme park, and the desire for market share at the third-place network, there would have been no television program. But with Disneyland's successful opening and quick ascent to profitability, the show's rationale vanished and it fell victim to economics, changing tastes, and a legal struggle between Disney and ABC.

The following describes the broadcast origin and demise of the original Mickey Mouse Club television show. As such, it covers more of ABC's story than is usual with Disney histories. It does not include the later syndicated marketing of the original show and its resurrection on the Disney Channel, subjects covered elsewhere on this website, nor does it deal with newer versions such as The New Mickey Mouse Club (1977-79) and MMC (1989-1996).

The Mickey Mouse Club

Produced by Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. One hour broadcast on ABC, at 5pm every weekday from 1955 to 1957, then thirty minutes each weekday for 1957-59. For the 1958-59 season on ABC, repackaged material from earlier seasons was broadcast each weekday, with Tuesday and Thursday shows retitled Adventure Time, when only serial episodes would be shown.

SeasonNew Shows
# (Hrs)
# (Hrs)
# (Hrs)
Prod CostOrig Prog
Quarterly Ratings
Oct-Dec Jan-Mar Apr-Jun
1955-56100 (100)0 (0)160 (160)$4,058,000$40,58048.7 - - 43.3 - - 42.1
1956-57100 (100)0 (0)160 (160)$5,043,000$50,43042.2 - - 38.5 - - 34.1
1957-58130 (65)0 (0)130 (65)$3,120,000$48,00032.8 - - 31.2 - - 33.0
1958-592 (1)128 (64)130 (65)$412,000$6,33825.2 - - 23.8 - - 22.1
    * Excludes reruns

Many shows were rerun more than once during the first two years, however five shows each from those seasons were never rerun nor later released to syndication. These were special holiday week shows from late December that featured episodes of the serial Christmas 'Round the World.

Though attempts were made to make this as accurate as possible, there are undoubtedly errors and mistakes in interpretation of events. The web being an elastic and transitory medium, it is likely incomplete or incorrect information presented here will be revised later, so serious researchers should be chary of citing specific remarks as a source.

Readers should be especially skeptical of paragraphs with a shaded background like this one, which signals material to be regarded as both controversial and, at best, mere conjecture.

A variety of sources were used, including the published works listed in the Media section of this website, other books, contemporary newspaper and magazine accounts, material produced by the Disney Studio for external organizations, and items relating to ABC and Disney found in the Library of American Broadcasting at College Park, Maryland.

ABC had a well-deserved reputation for not saving documents from its early television programming. Now that it and Disney are one corporation, the network has hopefully adopted the Disney predilection for archival preservation. That said, it should be emphasized that the Disney Archives were not accessed for this essay except for some of the rating information shown above.

For those seeking more information, the links on the sidebar give details about the show's structure, content, the changes that occurred with each broadcasting year, and it's revival in later decades. As with anyone who writes about the intersection of Disney with television, I owe an immense debt to the pioneering research of Bill Cotter.

"Well, Gentlemen, you have now invented the biggest time-waster of all time."
--- Isaac Schoenberg, head of the Marconi-EMI TV tube development team   (1934)

1. Disney and the New Medium

Television was first demonstrated outside the laboratory by Scottish engineer John Baird in 1926. His system, like others developed later in the 1920's, was mechanical in nature. Within a few years American inventor Philo Farnsworth was able to show the public a wholly electronic television system, while cathode ray tubes were adapted for displaying television images by 1934, essentially forming the television system familiar to viewers in the later 20th Century.

A point of difference between movies and television: while a film camera by nature is a recording mechanism, television simply turns images and sounds to electronic signals for transmission by radio waves and eventual re-display on a receiver. Neither television cameras nor the receiving sets possess an inherent mechanism for storing the signals that pass through them. Thus the development of broadcast television in the United States owes more to radio networks than the cinema.

Both mechanical and electronic television systems used analog radio waves for transmitting their signals. However, the wavelength used for broadcasting television signals through the air lacks the long-range capability of radio. It is limited to line-of-sight distance from the top of the transmission antenna. This limitation meant the growth of physical networks of wires linking individual stations would be far more important to television coverage across a large country like the United States than it had been for radio.

Heads of Hollywood movie studios regarded the onset of television with the same fear they had once shown for radio (until sound-recording for film was perfected). And as with radio, it was the manufacturers of the equipment, not the entertainment industry, that were driving the new medium. Radio Corporation of America (RCA), which owned NBC, the largest radio network, began experimental television broadcasts around 1935-36. These were brief demonstrations, intended for a select viewing audience, for the short range of television signals and lack of commercially-available sets meant only a few people could see them.

Walt Disney first encountered television during one of these demonstrations put on by NBC founder David Sarnoff in Camden, New Jersey in 1936. Impressed, he agreed to let Mickey Mouse cartoons be used for test transmissions. It was a fascinating toy, but he didn't then see an immediate use for it. Still, he recognized there would come a time when it would be valuable, for in 1936 he severed his studio's distribution agreement with United Artists, largely over control of future television rights to Disney films.

The Disney studio and RCA had a joint project in 1944 to produce a television program, but nothing came of it. Roy Disney, who managed the company's finances for his younger brother Walt, submitted an application for a television license to the FCC a year later, but soon withdrew it after realizing the small cash-strapped studio couldn't afford to operate its own station. Disney's megacorporate image today belies the scale of its operations back then. Though famous, it's boyish founder was considered a minor player among the Hollywood moguls, the three sound stages of his lot a child's play set compared to the dozens of stages operated by Paramount, Warner Brothers, and other film studios.

The unique qualities that set Walt Disney apart from other studio heads, his willingness to defer immediate profits in favor of future gain, and his understanding of synergy, largely grew out of necessity. The long time frame needed to produce animated features meant that every possible avenue for cash flow to keep the studio afloat had to be exploited. So while most postwar studio chiefs saw television as a threat, Walt Disney saw another opportunity for promoting his studio's films. He had long been aware of the power of movies and merchandise to boost each other's sales, and he saw no reason why television couldn't be part of this successful formula.

As industry returned to manufacturing consumer goods in the postwar years the economies of scale that followed increasing production of television sets resulted in them finally becoming affordable to middle-class households. Private ownership of television sets in the United States increased from 44,000 in 1946 to three million by 1950. Regularly scheduled commercial television broadcasting is held to have begun in the United States in 1948, with New York as the principal production center for programs as it was for radio.

Well aware of this trend Walt Disney commissioned a study by research firm C. J. LaRoche to explore the possibilities of the studio using television. The LaRoche report, delivered in September 1950, confirmed the number of homes owning television sets had increased to the point where it made sense to use television as a promotional medium.

"Everyone knows how strong the "gang" instinct is in children. The Mickey Mouse Club is unique in that it furnishes entertainment of the most popular nature (stage and screen) and at the same time, implants beneficial principles, the latter so completely shorn of any suggestions of "lessons" or lecturing, that children absorb them almost unconsciously."
---Walt Disney, Guide to Launching and Operating Mickey Mouse Clubs   (1930)

2. The Christmas Specials

With his unerring instinct for choosing the right person for a job, Walt Disney passed over any number of his studio's film producers to select a little-known publicist to head up the first Disney television program. Nothing shows Walt Disney's intent for television more clearly than his choice of a public relations specialist to guide the studio's initial efforts in the new medium. Bill Walsh both wrote and produced One Hour in Wonderland, an hour-long special broadcast on NBC Christmas Day 1950. Coca-Cola sponsored the show to the tune of $100,000.

The program featured Edgar Bergen and his alter ego Charlie MacCarthy as co-hosts with Walt Disney. Amid a small "audience" of professional children were two non-professionals, the Disney daughters Diane and Sharon. The juvenile leads were Kathryn Beaumont, the voice of Alice in the forthcoming Alice in Wonderland (1951), and Bobby Driscoll, star of Disney's British-made live action film Treasure Island (1950). This was the start of Walt Disney's new public persona as the avuncular host, a quiet but powerful image that would last until his death.

The success of the first show led to another the following Christmas, again written and produced by Bill Walsh. Walt Disney served as the sole lead for the The Walt Disney Christmas Show, broadcast on CBS with Johnson & Johnson as the sponsors for $250,000. There was more of a storyline this time, starting off in the children's ward of a hospital (apropos the sponsor's products), then moving to the Disney studio. Once more Kathryn Beaumont and Bobby Driscoll were featured with other professional kids.

Again, Walt Disney's purpose in doing this was not to make money directly from the show, but to promote the upcoming Peter Pan (1952) and reap his reward later at the box office. This willingness to forgo immediate profits in favor of future growth had been a trademark of Walt Disney's business strategy since his early animation days.

While promoting the films had been the intent of the two specials, along the way the producers found they could create extended advertisements that were quality entertainment in themselves. Though not a unique or even uncommon feature of early television, Walt Disney and Bill Walsh would take this style of promotional show to new heights, crafting two entire series that incorporated commercial synergy into their very structure.

"...the true homeland of every man which is his childhood"
---Rainier Maria Rilke   (1875-1926)

3. Walt's Vision

Walt Disney's vision for the amusement park that would bear his name aroused his creative ambition in a way that hadn't occurred since the late 1930's. It's planning and unceasing development would dominate his interest, time, and energy for the remainder of his life. The studio that once fully occupied his consciousness would take a secondary role, its animation work, film production, and the new television operations trusted to capable subordinates.

To accomplish this vision would take financial resources beyond what the perennially cash-poor studio could afford. Roy Disney decided the first step was to reorganize the corporation for maximum efficiency and profit. This would ensure Walt Disney himself could control the park separately from the rest of the publicly-held company, while also insulating the studio from any financial meltdown occasioned by the risky new venture. Despite a legal challenge from Disney shareholders, Walt and Roy Disney were able to carry out their plan by isolating and privatizing the corporation's most valuable asset: the Walt Disney name itself.

The Disney brothers created WED Enterprises in 1952, to protect the Disney name by leasing it to Walt Disney Productions. Walt Disney Productions, in turn directly held by Walt and Roy Disney, now took control of distributing Disney films from RKO, with the formation of Buena Vista in 1953. Walt Disney held all 2400 shares of WED, which became his planning unit for the amusement park, a small studio within the larger Burbank studio. It was also his bargaining chip; when he eventually took on corporate partners to build the park their capital investment would be secured with shares in WED.

The city of Burbank refused to allow the necessary re-zoning for the park's construction, and Walt Disney's conception of the project had outgrown the space available anyway, so Stanford Research Institute (SRI) was hired to select a new site, with an eye to future population growth and access to transportation. C. V. Wood and Harrison Price, the SRI researchers assigned to Disney's project, recommanded the park be located on 160 acres of orange groves in Anaheim.

With park planning in full swing and the land acquired by the first of many bank loans, the way to achieving Walt Disney's vision was becoming clearer. While Roy Disney worried about how to get the money to build the park, Walt Disney worried about how to get people to come to it. Television was the answer to both problems.

All of the television networks were anxious to sign an agreement with the Disney Studio, which would not only provide family-friendly programming with a well-known brand-name, but would signal the breaking of the major studios boycott on directly producing material for television. Bill Walsh drew up some mock teleplays of The Walt Disney Show in August 1953 for Roy Disney to pitch to the networks. This show would be only a half-hour, and would concentrate on animation. Bill Cottrell wrote general outlines a month later for this and three alternative shows, in case the networks didn't like the original proposal.

The three alternatives were The True Life TV Show, a weekly half-hour taken from the Disney nature films; The World of Tomorrow, again a weekly half-hour documentary; and The Mickey Mouse Club Show, a live daily fifteen-minute children's show to be based in Disneyland. Roy Disney then headed to New York on the first of several trips east to find a network partner. The networks would have no problem with on-air promotion of the park, but would balk at Walt Disney's insistence that any deal be a long-term commitment of at least three years, and include underwriting loans for the park's construction.

"I wanted the ABC stations in all five cities on the same frequency. I thought it would be a good thing for people traveling around the country. They could always tune in the same channel. The only channel available in all five ABC markets was Channel 7, so I grabbed it."
--- Frank Marx, ABC's first chief engineer

4. The Third Network

The network that became ABC had its origin in two anti-trust actions by the federal government. The first had RCA, parent corporation of NBC, ordered by the FCC in 1941 to divest itself of what was known as the NBC Blue radio network. David Sarnoff, head of RCA, stalled the sale until 1943, when Edward Noble purchased it. Noble, who owned Beech-Nut and Rexall Drugs, bought the network in part to serve as a platform for advertising the products of his other companies. He renamed the NBC Blue radio network to the American Broadcasting Company (ABC).

The DuMont television network, the nation's first, was formed in 1946. It was partly owned by Paramount Studios, with which it had a poisonous business relationship. The studio refused to supply the network with either funding or original programming, and indeed set up the short-lived Paramount Television Network to directly undercut its own partner. That same year ABC's chief engineer, Frank Marx, obtained licenses for five new television stations in large-market cities. Because the licenses were free, Marx hadn't asked permission before going ahead. Edward Noble found himself owning a television network he had never sought and didn't really want, but it was a prescient move, for the FCC placed a moratorium on new stations in 1948.

The second anti-trust action that helped form the ABC network was the 1948 government-mandated split of the movie exhibition business from the five major Hollywood studios that also controlled production and distribution. Paramount was forced to spin its United Paramount Theaters (UPT) division into a separate corporation, headed by Leonard Goldenson.

Goldenson, who held degrees in economics and law from Harvard, had been in the movie theater business for fifteen years, but was already aware that television was the coming exhibition medium. He managed to obtain Paramount's TV station in Chicago during the split-up of assets, though Paramount Studios retained its part ownership of the DuMont Network. Just prior to the split, studio chief Barney Balaban mortgaged UPT's theatres, transferring the resulting cash to the studio accounts and leaving Goldenson's UPT division with the debt obligations.

To run his existing radio and new television network, Edward Noble promoted a former journalist named Robert Kintner as ABC's president in 1949. Kintner, who had joined ABC in 1944 after serving with the US Army as a military intelligence officer in North Africa, was the youngest person to head a television network. Kintner quickly signed agreements with a dozen independent TV stations to become ABC affiliates, doubling the network's potential viewing audience. (In those times independently-owned television stations were free to sign affiliate deals with multiple networks, thus allowing the station to carry whichever programs it wanted). But Kintner never could get Noble to invest enough money to make either the radio or TV operations competitive with industry leaders NBC and CBS.

One way in which ABC could compete was by using newly-developed audio technology to pre-record radio programs, a popular move with big-name stars who enjoyed being freed from the pressure and time constraints of live broadcasting. This tactic would later be carried over to ABC's television operations through film, a virtual necessity since it's actual physical network covered a limited number of markets, and most ABC stations and affiliates lacked the extra equipment to support live programs.

ABC's preference for filmed product would have a major effect on how Disney television programs were designed and created. Most shows on NBC and CBS at that time were still performed live from New York, with low-quality kinescope prints made for re-broadcasting in other time zones and secondary markets outside the networks' range. Filmed programs, besides being easier on the cast and production crew, were far superior in viewing quality to kinescoping. Though film processing was expensive and broadcast films required adjusted playback speeds to match television's display requirements, film cameras were more readily available to independent production companies than television cameras.

From 1948 to 1953 the FCC froze issuing of new broadcasting licenses while it tried to figure out how to prevent NBC and CBS from dominating the nation's two hundred television stations as they had radio. The pioneering DuMont network, starved of cash and new programming by Paramount Studios, was slowly yielding third-place to upstart ABC. Edward Noble however was anxious to get rid of ABC, which was an unprofitable sideline to his other businesses.

Leonard Goldenson was willing to buy ABC, but was cash poor. He had to persuade Noble to accept part of the purchase price in stock of the new holding company, to be known as American Broadcasting-Paramount Theaters (AB-PT). Their deal, struck in 1951, was held up for eighteen months by FCC hearings into whether Paramount Studios and its DuMont Network were really separate entities from Paramount Theaters and ABC. The merger was finally approved in February 1953, the same year in which the moratorium on new TV station licenses was lifted.

As part of the deal with Noble, Robert Kintner was to be kept on as president of ABC for three years. Goldenson and Kintner knew they would have to exploit markets overlooked by the two big networks to gain ground on them. While Kintner concentrated on news and documentary features, Goldenson sought original dramatic programming. He asked his Hollywood contacts, including Walt Disney, to propose new television shows for ABC. Movie studio heads were still leery of television, which was eating away their film business. They rented space and equipment to television production companies, but wouldn't directly produce shows themselves or lease their film libraries to the networks. Walt and Roy Disney, however, were more than ready to use television as a draw for their films and the proposed theme park, though they too balked at leasing their films to the networks.

"We don't do anything in one line without giving thought to its likely use in our other lines."
--- Roy Disney

5. ABC and Disney

Roy Disney made a proposal to ABC in September 1953 about doing a weekly television series and investing in Disneyland. Despite the enthusiasm of Leonard Goldenson, Robert Kintner was lukewarm about it, and ABC's board of directors turned down the idea over concern about the commitment of so much money for such a long time.

Hearing NBC might be willing to do a deal, Roy Disney pitched the park and show to them in December 1953, but chairman David Sarnoff passed on it. CBS chief William S Paley snubbed Roy Disney in February 1954 by not showing up for a meeting, making him determined to do a deal with ABC no matter what. He telephoned Goldenson, who turned to private financing for $5 million that persuaded the board of ABC to commit to a long-term deal with Disney.

The agreement, co-signed April 4, 1954, by Robert Kintner and Roy Disney, was a three-year deal with an option for four additional years. Disney would provide twenty hour-long shows (26 in later seasons) along with the right to rerun them. ABC would pay production costs of $50,000 for each original broadcast the first year, $60,000 the second, and $70,000 the third. Each rerun broadcast would garner Disney $25,000 the first year, rising to $35,000 by the third.

In addition, Disney would receive a free minute of network time each week to advertise their films, and would be paid a set sum for every minute of sponsor advertising sold. For another $500,000 cash ABC received 800 shares of WED, representing one-third ownership of the theme park. The network also arranged for $4.5 million in loan guarantees for construction of the park. Disney would have full control over the show's content, which was understood by both parties to include promotion of Disneyland the park.

ABC retained rights to first refusal of any new Disney television project. Any new show that ABC did decide to option would fall under the terms of the original contract. This agreement would thus be a package deal. While any future programs would have separate options to renew annually, the potential for trouble between the studio and network in agreeing to a budget for one show impacting the renewal of other shows was high. This potential became manifest when Walt Disney decided to add a third television show to the studio's lineup in 1957-58.

Leonard Goldenson also secured ten year rights to food concessions at the theme park for ABC, which would later become a sore point with Roy Disney. With ABC's commitment, Western Printing, Disney's long-time publisher, also kicked in a half million dollars for a one-third share of WED, while Disney's bankers again increased his line of credit. On May 1, 1954, Walt Disney announced he was building a park.

"From its opening, then, Disneyland sought to situate its audience within an entertainment universe that was endlessly self-referential and that would build its audience on an understanding of and even eagerness for such self-referentiality."
--- J. P. Telotte, Disney TV   (2004)

6. Reviving the Mickey Mouse Club

Disneyland, which premiered October 1954, was the first ABC series to crack the top twenty-five rated shows, finishing sixth for the 1954-55 season. It provided over half of ABC's advertising revenue that year, with each episode (originals and reruns) generating $70,000 in sponsor fees for the network. But even before it reached the air, Kintner and Goldenson knew they would want another Disney-produced television show.

Network daytime programming in 1954-55 was dominated by NBC and CBS. ABC had no programs earlier than primetime. Looking over the alternate show suggestions provided by Bill Cottrell, Kintner didn't see anything that could challenge the other networks during the day, but he thought that with some tweaking the Mickey Mouse Club might capture the first hour of "swingtime", the two hour interval (5pm-7pm) between daytime and primetime. Leonard Goldenson, the father of three young daughters, also thought the Mickey Mouse Club offered the best chance of exploiting a niche market under-served by the competition.

Bill Cottrell's original outline for the show had been based on Walt Disney's handwritten notes from summer 1953. These in turn hearkened back to the local Mickey Mouse Club's of the 1930's, encompassing club-style activities. The show would be a live fifteen-minute daily, originating from a club house on an island in Disneyland, using an audience of kids made up of park visitors.

During the summer of 1954 with Disneyland in production for it's October 1954 debut, Walt Disney had revisited his notes of the previous year for The Mickey Mouse Club. He added the idea of a club show with child performers, the best of whom would appear on Disneyland and eventually go on national live tour. When Walt later prepared a memo for Bill Walsh on December 8, 1954, he reiterated many of his ideas of that summer for The Mickey Mouse Club, but didn't mention child performers.

So how did the The Mickey Mouse Club go from a live fifteen-minutes to a pre-recorded one hour show? The decision, like the choice of the show itself, seems to have come from ABC. Robert Kintner wrote Walt Disney on December 16, 1954 that the network was asking to exercise its option under their agreement to broadcast The Mickey Mouse Club for the coming season, and wanted to know if Disney could handle it. His letter spelled out the broadcasting parameters and sponsor requirements in detail. The show was to be one-hour in length, broadcast daily from 5-6 pm, with advertising sold to sponsors in fifteen-minute blocks. The target audience was identified primarily as children from three to fourteen, with mothers as a secondary audience.

Kintner's letter was undoubtedly the end result of many conversations between himself and Walt Disney. The two men got along well in business, with Disney trusting the ABC president's judgment about television. Kintner was interested in promoting television as a news reporting and educational tool, preferences that may have influenced the content selection for The Mickey Mouse Club. Kintner's relations with Goldenson and the ABC staff were less cordial. Innovative and hard-working, Kintner was also abrasive and divisive, verbally abusing senior employees at ABC headquarters, an unwise behavior since among them were some of Leonard Goldenson's relations.

Bill Walsh and the Disney staff, having strained for six months to meet the weekly commitment for one hour of programming for Disneyland, were stunned by Walt Disney's seemingly casual agreement to produce five more hours a week. Their chief, however, was concerned about running short of funds to complete the theme park, and about getting folks to come visit it once it did open. His acquiescence to ABC's proposal for a new television series was wholly driven by this concern, and was not motivated by any interest in the show itself.

"We have embraced television not only for itself and its possibilities, but also to exploit and sell our motion picture product."
--- Roy Disney   (Jan 11, 1955)

7. Cui Bono?

The option terms between ABC and Disney for the Mickey Mouse Club aren't as well known as those for Disneyland. Whether they agreed on a fixed dollar amount for producing each episode, whether there was a sliding scale of increasing amounts for subsequent seasons, and if Disney received compensations for reruns as it did for Disneyland isn't clear.

Though individual episodes of the Mickey Mouse Club cost less to make on average than those of Disneyland, there were four times as many of them to produce. There was also little variation in cost for individual episodes unlike the anthology series, which could range from as little as $6,000 to as much as $100,000 per weekly show.

The seed money to make the first season episodes came from the network, not Disney. According to author Lorraine Santoli, ABC established a million dollar revolving fund for Disney to draw upon for production expenses. The fund was replenished with revenue derived from network sales of advertising time to sponsors. Along with this came a $1.5 million dollar loan to help complete park construction. This loan was the only reason Walt Disney agreed to do the show, the deal being negotiated when it was by no means certain there would be enough money to finish the theme park.

Roy Disney later said the Disney brothers didn't know much about television financing when they first got into that business. Harvard Law School graduate Leonard Goldenson had signed them to a deal which, while it gave them what they sought in the short-term, later became increasingly distasteful as they realized what had been given away (which is how the Mouseketeers would come to feel about the contracts given them by those same two brothers).

From the benefit of many years distance though, this deal would prove to be of immense value to Disney, giving it the money to make over two hundred fifty hours of original programming that would reap profits for it over and over for decades to come.

On ABC's part, there would be an understandable resentment at Walt Disney's seeming lack of concern about containing production expenses for the Mickey Mouse Club. Though parsimonious by nature, Disney recognized that a quality product required a quality budget. However, his philosophy for television, which ignored the profit factor in favor of promoting the theme park and other projects, would soon become an irritant to ABC. Not until the start of third season production, and then only in order to divert studio resources to a new project, would Walt Disney really get serious about the show's cost.

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