That's the smile I remember. She has to be one of the sweetest women to ever work on the Walt Disney studio lot. I remember the smile and I guess I always will.
Naturally, we all watched Annette on the Mickey Mouse Club each weekday only my life took a different path. Almost before I knew it, I found myself working on the Mickey Mouse Club television show. It was my first job as a young animation assistant sketching Jiminy Cricket. Now, I finally had access to the Walt Disney Studio and that included the famous performers on the show. My first encounter with the very young Annette Funicello was when my pal and colleague, Bob Reese approached the young actress to ask her out on a date. Of course, Annette couldn't accept, but I've never seen a young woman turn down a date so sweetly. That's the kind of young woman she was.
America seemed to agree and all of a sudden, Annette was no longer a little Mouseketeer. She now had a recording career and the Old Maestro began casting her in a number of other roles at the studio that included everything from roles in the television series, “Zorro” to feature movie musicals such as “Babes in Toyland.” Naturally, I was always on set to see a very beautiful Annette Funicello play opposite singer, actor, Tommy Sands. Once again, her beautiful smile was dazzling and she lit up the screen.
The years move swiftly past when you're having fun and before I knew it, more than a decade had passed and I found myself in the hallway of Walt Disney's Animation Building with a now grown up Annette. No longer the little kid, Annette had brought along her own children for a tour of the Disney Studio. It was not unusual to see Annette shopping at the studio store and she was always gracious to the many fans who wanted her autograph. Over time, her illness began to take it's toll and her later visits were in a wheelchair. However, one thing remained the same. Annette was always smiling.
It's sometimes difficult to believe how quickly time has passed. Now in our seventies, it seems only yesterday both Annette and I were kids. Each of us delighted to be working for a man we truly respected and admired. And, to do so at a magical workplace located in of all places, Burbank California. With each passing year more of the magic seems to fade and the glow of pixie dust appears to dim. However, Annette Funicello's smile will light our hearts forever.