forces of geek, Writing

Mickey Mouse Club 1977

 

When a television show is popular, profitable, a star-maker and iconographic, the best thing to do is let it runs its course and subsequently fade into the public consciousness as a fond memory.

OR you could wait 20 years, then rehash it, make it hip, modern and in touch with today’s audiences and let the mountains of cash come rolling in!

In 1977, the Walt Disney studio think-tank decided to reach into the mildly dusty vault of Disney home runs and reboot the 1950’s pop culture phenom, The Mickey Mouse Club.

mickey-mouse-club-1977-the-mickey-mouse-club-265625_344_288

As with the original show, the new MMC would be geared toward kids. But, unlike the original, this newer incarnation would try to reflect the societal make-up of Jimmy Carter’s America. Two things would be important for this to work: diversity and flashy, bright clothes. This was not going to be your mother’s MMC–this was going to be the MMC your mom would watch if she magically switched bodies with her pre-teen daughter. Jodie Foster knows what I’m talking about.

On January 17, 1977, the new Mickey Mouse Club premiered in syndication on a handful of stations nationwide.

It ended on January 12, 1979.

Now, that wouldn’t be a bad run if the show had actually been in production those entire two years. In reality, new episodes were produced from the premiere to June of 1977. With extra footage, more cartoons and serials thrown in, the show’s episodes were repackaged to give the appearance of being new.

The opening theme was changed to reflect the pop influence of the 1970’s by adding a few wicka-wicka guitar licks that instantly made it as timeless as a lava lamp.

Meticulously dressed in polyester body suits whose colors (one can only assume) were inspired by its team of designers spending the week huffing paint out of a paper bag, the Mousketeers, introduced themselves through song, showcasing their “unique” personalities and interests.

Todd, the typical kid-next-door, comes out on a skateboard, a hobby that he’s obviously had for hours.

I’m Todd!

Don, the slightly chubby kid who is the clown of the group (hey, fat is funny), does a bit of popping and locking Rerun-style to showcase that he’s also got some talent underneath that Cap’n Crunch belly.

I’m Don!

Blonde and perky Carrie introduces herself through a series of gymnastic feats that forever reinforces the viewer’s assumption that perky blondes become cheerleaders. Women’s lib thanks you, Carrie.

I’m Carrie!

Curtis, the Asian Mousketeer, comes out and impresses upon the viewers at home that all Asians know Martial Arts. If only Curtis had done his Kung Fu moves while using a calculator, imagine how different Asian stereotypes would be.

I’m Curtis!

Julie (also blonde and also perky), shows that not all white, suburban girls want to be cheerleaders. Some want to be ballerinas. We can only hope that Julie never developed breasts and, indeed, became a ballerina that twirled around in polyester outfits. Shoot for the stars, Julie. Shoot for the stars.

I’m Julie!

When Pop (yes, Pop) introduces himself, the producers of the show made the very progressive decision to not pigeonhole him into the role of “black youth with street cred.” Otherwise, Pop would have introduced himself while dribbling a basketball. Oh, wait… he does do that.

I’m Pop!

Angel, the Hispanic Mousketeer, confuses viewers by gesticulating in what can only be described a combination of a mime pretending to be a robot, gang signals learned from television and an illiterate form of sign language used by cruel children mocking a deaf student.

I’m Angel!

So, are the Mousketeers to blame for the show becoming a flop? Of course not. They were kids who got a big break on a crappy show. Most returned to the obscurity from whence they came, but a few went on to other things.

Mousketeer Lisa Welchel went on to play the feather-haired Blair Warner on Facts Of Life.

I'm Lisa!
   I’m Lisa!

Lisa followed this up with a pop album that reached #17 on the Contemporary Christian charts (my heathen self was surprised there were 16 other albums on that chart, at all. Who knew?) and is now a homeschooling advocate who writes books on disciplining children in a Christian home.

Recently, she has been criticized by parenting groups who say her definition of discipline borders on abuse. Good for you, Lisa!

Mousketeer Kelly Parsons went on to be a runner-up for Miss USA, deciding to throw off the shackles of being objectified and stared at on television to doing it on a stage for prizes and a sash.

Of course, in the early 1990’s, the MMC was again brought out for a new generation, only, this time, it worked (and helped introduce the world to Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Ryan Gosling).

The original and the 90’s versions of the show were given the DVD treatment and sold to an adoring public.

However, the 1970’s Mousketeers are given no acknowledgement outside the occasional trivia question and exist today only as YouTube clips that were transferred from VHS.

The hopes are that someday Disney will stop treating this MMC as though it were some snuff film they want buried and actually transfer this forgotten treasure into a DVD or streaming option. I can honestly say that I would be one of upwards of a dozen people who would be interested in watching these.

Ball’s in your court, Disney.

And, yes, the ball was passed to you by Pop.

 

 

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