Annette Funicello, Disney And Beach Movie Legend, Dies At 70

  • Annette Funicello
    Disney legend Annette Funicello died on Monday.
  • Annette Funicello
    Disney legend Annette Funicello died on Monday.
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Annette Funicello, the legendary Disney Mouseketeer, died at the age of 70 on Monday in California.

Funicello was handpicked by Walt Disney to be one of the originals in his Mickey Mouse Club and became known as “America’s Sweetheart." In her day, she was popular than future Mousketeers Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling put together, some of her fans would say.

The “Beach Party” star "died peacefully from complications due to multiple sclerosis, a disease she battled for over 25 years," the Disney statement said.

"We are so sorry to lose Mother," her three children said in a statement, according to CNN. "She is no longer suffering anymore and is now dancing in heaven. We love and will miss her terribly."

Funicello was only 13 years old when she was chosen to be a part of the “Mickey Mouse Club,” a 1950s variety show aimed at children. She quickly became a fan favorite Mouseketeer.

She "was and always will be a cherished member of the Disney family, synonymous with the word Mouseketeer, and a true Disney legend," Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger told CNN. 

After leaving the "Mickey Mouse Club," Funicello remained within the Disney family and appeared on TV shows like "Zorro" (1957) and "The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca" (1958). She also went on to star in such Disney films as "The Shaggy Dog" (1959), "Babes in Toyland" (1961), "The Misadventures of Merlin Jones" (1964) and "The Monkey's Uncle" (1965).

Though Funicello’s image is synonymous with mouse ears, she’s also known for making millions of boys swoon with her famous beach body. "Beach Party" (1963), "Muscle Beach Party" (1964), "Bikini Beach" (1964), "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965), and "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" (1965) were some of the beach party films she starred in with 1960s teen idol Frankie Avalon.

"We have lost one of America's sweethearts for generations upon generations," said Avalon, according to CNN. "I am fortunate enough to have been friends with Annette as well as appear in many films, TV and appearances with her. She will live on forever, I will miss her and the world will miss her."

Funicello was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1987. She publicly revealed her neurological disorder in 1992 after she was afraid tabloids would spread rumors she was drunk or on drugs. After her diagnosis, she started the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Disorders.

For her fans, her memory will live on, forever young. 

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