60 Years of Mouseketeers: Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Miley and More
Today marks an important anniversary for the most epic day in Disney history: Walt opened the gates of Disneyland to the world, and introduced the Mouseketeers to the world. The preteen performers might seem like a gimmick now, but the lengths at which the Disney company went to recruit talented youngsters has paid off over the years. Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake (and of course Miley Cyrus, Hilary Duff and other stars who would go on to fame with other Disney programs and outside careers) are among the biggest names, but some other big names have had their Mouseketeer career forgotten in light of their other achievements. Here are five of the other stars you may not have realized were in Mickey's minor league system.
Christina Aguilera is the most well-known among this list, in terms of their history with the Mouseketeers. It wasn't too hard to find her for the Disney corporation: The vocalist first demonstrated her vocal abilities to the world as part of Star Search, a talent contest hosted by Ed McMahon from 1983 until 1995. Aguilera was only ten when she took part during the 1990 season, and didn't have enough to win but certainly caught the eye of organizations looking for talented youth. She was booked for The Mickey Mouse Club from 1993-'94, the same period when Spears and Timberlake were included on the cast. The later and larger popularity of those two performers has led many to forget that Aguilera was in tow, but the stint on the show opened doors for her, allowing her to record "Reflection" for the Disney film Mulan. That led to her eventual debut album, millions in record sales and four Grammys across her music career. Now she's back where she started...in reality television. Now she's the judge however, ruling over The Voice on NBC.
The final years of The Mickey Mouse Club were so stacked with future talent that even Christina Aguilera could be forgotten as a member. Just imagine what that means for J.C. Chasez, who wasn't even the most popular future-member-of-NSYNC on the show at that time. Part of the problem might have been that the performer never tried to stand up for himself as a headliner-type guy: He created his now-famous moniker "J.C." because there was another Mouseketeer named Joshua during his time with the group. That attitude wouldn't serve him well either as he entered the most successful chapter in his life. Few realize that among the five members of NSYNC, two were listed as "lead vocalist": Chasez and Timberlake. And it's not like Timberlake was necessarily shooting down his dreams, Beyoncé-in-Destiny's-Child-style. Anyway, Chasez is still doing alright, also hosting a reality talent competition: America's Best Dance Crew.
Okay, so the final years of The Mickey Mouse Club just had talent coming out of its ears, including four musical performers who would go on to release platinum records. Yet immediately following the cancellation of the program, the former Mouseketeer who made the quickest jump to stardom was actress Keri Russell. She got out to a hot start with Disney, starring as a bit character on Boy Meets World, and would make guest stops on 7th Heaven and other programs before landing her first headlong role as the title character in Felicity. The show, which was distributed by Disney-ABC despite being broadcast on The WB, won her a Golden Globe for Best Actress (maybe The Emmys should show some love to her current program...The Americans). Granted, she doesn't sing too much compared to her former costars. However you can catch her singing "Baby Don't You Cry" during the film Waitress.
Granted, Russell may have had a few years on Ryan Gosling in terms of actual age, but he took far longer to rise to prominence after his Mouseketeer days were over. Granted...Spears, Aguilera, Timberlake and Chasez were all taking part in the pop music industry, where high-school age sexiness is given all-the-thumbs-up. Acting takes a few more years to develop a following, normally. The film you probably first caught Gosling in was Remember The Titans, where he played one of the team's linebackers. He really caught the eyes of teenagers everywhere four years later, when he starred in The Notebook. It's all been good from there however, as he's now dating Eva Mendes, and even airing out his vocal cords during Blue Valentine (and with his second job, indie rock outfit Dead Man's Bones).
So the final class of Mouseketeers has probably been the most successful in the long run. We want to go back a ways, way back, to throw some kudos to another former Disney star. All the way back to the original group of preteens, with Annette Funicello. She would transition from that awkward stage into full-on pop music as a teenager...mind you, teenagers performing pop music back then didn't mean "Baby One More Time." Funicello topped out on the Billboard charts at no. 7 with "Tall Paul," which was followed by our kitsch classic favorite "Jo Jo The Dog Faced Boy." Her acting career continued in a similar path, with cult classics such as Beach Party. That history left her a fan favorite for years however, and Disney later dedicated the 2013 film Teen Beach Movie to her, both because of her influence on the "beach party" genre and she had passed away earlier in the year.