Former Disney star Funicello dies
US surf movie star and Mouseketeer Annette Funicello has died at the age of 70.
Annette became a child star as a Mouseketeer on The Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950s, then teamed up with Frankie Avalon on a string of 1960s fun-in-the-sun movies with names like Beach Blanket Bingo and Bikini Beach.
She died at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, California, of complications from multiple sclerosis, Walt Disney said.
"She will forever hold a place in our hearts as one of Walt Disney's brightest stars, delighting an entire generation of baby boomers with her jubilant personality and endless talent," said Bob Iger, Disney chairman and chief executive.
Avalon said Annette never realised how beloved she was. "She would say, 'Really?'," he said. "She was so bashful about it. She was an amazing girl.
"She really had a tough existence. It's like losing a family member. I'm devastated, but I'm not surprised."
Annette was just 13 when she gained fame on Walt Disney's television kiddie "club", an amalgam of stories, songs and dance routines that ran from 1955 to 1959.
Cast after Disney saw her at a dance recital, she appeared in mouse ears, a pleated skirt and a turtleneck sweater emblazoned with her first name. She soon became the most popular Mouseketeer in the cast, receiving 8,000 fan letters a month, 10 times more than any of the 23 other young performers.
When The Mickey Mouse Club ended, Annette appeared in such Disney movies as Johnny Tremain, The Shaggy Dog, The Horsemasters, Babes in Toyland, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones and The Monkey's Uncle. She also became a recording star, singing on 15 albums and hit singles such as Tall Paul and Pineapple Princess.
Outgrowing the child roles by the early 1960s, she teamed up with Avalon in a series of movies for American-International, the first film company to exploit the burgeoning teen market.