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She was singled out for special treatment: fans could buy Annette merchandise and she had her own TV serial.

She was earning $200 a week from Disney while keeping up with her school studies. She expected to be dismissed as she was growing too tall, but Disney had other plans and offered her a film contract.

She described herself as a “late bloomer.” Walt Disney, the impresario of the wholesome who was looking for young entertainers for “The Mickey Mouse Club,” was reported to have discovered Funicello in a school production of “Swan Lake.” She was the star.

The last of the children selected for the program, Funicello swiftly became the best loved.

“When I say this, I don’t mean to slight any of my fellow Mouseketeers,” she wrote in her memoir, “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” But she said she believed much of the group’s appeal stemmed from creating the impressions that audience members could “sing as well as Annette, or . To avoid disillusioning her fans, Funicello hid later-life setbacks, at least for a time. She told People that her “fantasy” was to go before Congress and ask anyone who had ever watched “The Mickey Mouse Club” to contribute a dollar to medical research.