Apr 8, 2013 1:36 PM by Faye DeHoff
NEW YORK - The Walt Disney Company says actress Annette Funicello has died.
Funicello rose to prominence as one of the most popular 'Mouseketeers' on the original 'Mickey Mouse Club'. In 1955 the 12-year-old was discovered by Walt Disney himself when she performed as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake at a dance recital in Burbank, California.
She moved on from Disney to become a teen idol, starring in a series of "Beach Party" movies with Frankie Avalon. These included 'Beach Party' (1963), 'Muscle Beach Party' (1964), 'Bikini Beach' (1964), 'Pajama Party' (1964), 'Beach Blanket Bingo' (1965) and 'How to Stuff a Wild Bikini' (1965). The wholesome image earned in these films gained her a reference in the Grease song 'Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee'.
When she was cast in her first beach movie, Walt Disney requested that she only wear modest bathing suits and keep her navel covered. However, she wore a pink two-piece in 'Beach Party', a white two-piece fishnet suit in the second film (Muscle Beach Party) and a blue and white bikini in the third (Bikini Beach). All three swimsuits bared her navel, particularly in 'Bikini Beach', where it is visible extensively during close up shots in a sequence early in the film when she meets Frankie Avalon's "Potato Bug" character outside his tent.
Annette Funicello died of complications of multiple sclerosis. She was 70 years old.