- Written by Amber Topping
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Former Mouseketeer Jennifer McGill
Talks the 25th Anniversary of the ‘Mickey Mouse Club,’ Memories From the Set, Her New EP & More
By Amber Topping
The “most important chapter” of Jennifer McGill’s life began when she was only ten years old when she earned a spot on the all new Mickey Mouse Club (she was one of the only three cast members on all seven seasons), her future legacy forever intact. With over 50 trophies and more than 20 crowns from beauty pageants, she was discovered by a talent agent who was a judge (as fate would have it) at her last pageant. “On a handshake she began to represent me,” Jennifer reflects.
From there, she was soon after considered for the movie Why Because We Like You about the original ‘50s Mouseketeers. While the movie never happened because of a writer’s strike, her “tape was sent to the final audition of the series the new Mickey Mouse Club.” Jennifer says, “So I went to Orlando, Florida, I met some of the original pilot cast of Mouseketeers such as Lindsey Alley and Chase Hampton and Tiffany Hale” and got the job.
The rest is history as they say. This April 24, 2014 the all new Mickey Mouse Club celebrated its 25th anniversary. In a recent phone chat with the singer, she opened up about the anniversary as well as many of her memories from the set. According to Jennifer, the Mickey Mouse Club “was the most important chapter in my life because that set the standard and the dreams and emotion for the rest of my life. So, I will never have a more special time than that time and I’m really happy to still be standing today, entertaining the world as a grownup.”
Jennifer just released her new EP self titled Jennifer McGill and is ready to once again share her musical gifts with the world. Besides being a consummate performer, she’s now also a motivational speaker, a blogger, a vocal coach (which is only through word of mouth) for both recording artists and young kids and more.
BACKGROUND AS A YOUNG PERFORMER
When Jennifer was only two years old, her mother (who was a music teacher) recorded her singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and it “was on pitch.” Of course her mother “thought this was really cool.” But that was just the start. At seven years old she entered her first pageant, sang “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” and won first place.
After the pageants came the Mickey Mouse Club. At only 10 years old Jennifer had become a professional performer. “It was a very exciting and overwhelming moment, but I was very suited for this very professionally young life I was about to start leading,” she says. “I had been in music since I was two. I had been singing my whole little life. I didn't really have a lot of other interests besides like movies or playing outside on the trampoline. I was pretty engrossed in musical performance, vocal performance from the beginning.”
LIFE AS A MOUSEKETEER
But what’s it like to actually be a mouseketeer? Well, it turns out that question isn’t the easiest to answer. “It’s really hard to explain how most of your childhood was growing up on a set because from my perspective, that was my childhood,” Jennifer explains. “The bulk of my developmental years from 10 years old to 17 years old was when I was there. So, you know, America has footage of me play-by-play going through puberty,” Jennifer recalls with a laugh. “So it's just a lot of what I remember as normal.”
While Jennifer felt there was a lot of pressure in the beginning because “no one knew what to expect,” Jennifer describes her overall experience on the series positively. “I loved the structure of having an itinerary for the day, for the week. You usually arrived in the morning, went to school for three hours and then got it out of the way. And everything went quicker because it was a small group of people and you had a great tutor or tutors, you got your stuff done…you went to dance class, you sang something, you went to the recording studio, you learned some lines, you went to hair and makeup…I mean, all that stuff if that's what you're into—I was in heaven.”
For Jennifer, being one of the only three cast members who was in all seven seasons (the other two Lindsey Alley and Josh Ackerman), she was able to experience both the beginning and the end of the series as a Mouseketeer. “We were there for the final moment, the final thing that we taped, the final time we played the wrap song and said goodbye to everybody with the audience…I love remembering the first moments of taping and then the last moments of taping. She admits to these moments being “pretty special” to her. “Because it is my family, but it was all I knew.”
GOING BEHIND THE SCENES
Jennifer’s favorite place to be was in the recording studio which was in post production on the MGM Studio’s property. She describes the studio as being part of the backstage tour and that it was actually “kind of like a fishbowl” because it had a “big glass wall.” She remembers belting a song out, making “funny faces” only to turn to her left to see an entire audience looking back at her through the glass. “So we were always being watched, there was never a time of privacy unless I guess we were in our dressing rooms which we shared.”
Regardless of the lack of privacy, Jennifer had fun with it. “It was fun sometimes to mess with the audience, either put our backs to the window or like make funny faces or pretend that it was a mirror,” Jennifer laughs remembering. “But most of the time, as far as I was concerned, I loved waving to them. I was a ham.”
Having the opportunity to meet and work with famous musical guests you look up to was a nice bonus of being on the show for Jennifer. From sharing “an Egg McMuffin with Joey Mcintyre,” to having Milli Vanilli there before the fallout from “the whole kind of crazy music machine that they were a part of,” TLC showing up with band-aids all over their outfits instead of the condoms they were known for, or even musical guests she loved including Boyz II Men and Brian McKnight. One memorable experience included a time when Celine Dion encouraged her (after Jennifer revealed her nerves aloud to a fellow Mouseketeer which Dion overheard) by telling Jennifer “You are going to be wonderful.” One of her most surprising encounters, however, happened with Michael Jackson. Jennifer reminisces:
“The fun secret thing that happened was when we were first doing publicity for the beginning, we had some press who came into the audience area on the Mickey Mouse Club set and we sat at the barstools on stage and talked to them and answered questions. And when we left and thanked them for coming, we walked up those side doors and Michael Jackson was standing there to greet us and to say hello! And the press had no idea, they had no idea… But he was just off stage left and we ran right into him; he was waiting for us. And he shook each and every one of our hands and he just said, ‘Hi I'm Michael Jackson.’ You know I just kind of thought ‘Gosh, that's so interesting that he is introducing,’ he's not assuming that we know who he really is, which was really sweet. And he was just very sweet.” Michael took the time to talk to a few of the Mouseketeers further, but Jennifer felt too shy at the time. But in the end she felt it “was really awesome to meet him.”
She also loved the fact that Michael Jackson really believed in the show. “He believed in what the concept of that show was, you know, when you bring all of these multicultural differently gifted kids together to inspire others to follow their dreams…we performed, we made kids laugh, we did game shows. We wanted to inspire and entertain! That was the whole purpose of the show and we all looked different and we all had different talents because the show was designed to connect with our audience…people emulated the show because they felt that they could actually achieve what we were doing…we wanted to be a club that everyone could join. And I know that Michael appreciated that.”
In all, Jennifer feels like “a very lucky girl to be a part of a legacy” where she had the opportunity to have these moments. “I was chosen by Disney to represent them at such a young age when I had no true experience or training past my small town and my sweet vocal coach mother. And these greats got on board and encouraged us and came to our show and singled us out as you know we appreciate you.”
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN
There was never a dull moment on the set of the Mickey Mouse Club. Since it was filmed in a time before cell phones and beepers (or even Twitter and Instagram), according to Jennifer everything “was a lot more loosey goosey.” The Mouseketeers would hide, ride golf carts when they weren’t supposed to, they even had “a fire extinguisher fight.” Jennifer recalls that one of the original cast members “loved to just streak down the hallway in his little red undies.” The cast also had a huge pie fight (where Jennifer safely watched from above on the fire escape). “In a fight, I’m the sniper,” she says.
“For as much as we were demanded upon to be young professionals, we were also given a lot of great opportunities to be kids,” Jennifer explains.
One of the craziest memories and also one of her favorites was the time a Mouseketeer (who was into science at the time) played a very elaborate, albeit frightening prank on her and another Mouseketeer. “He sprayed one of the dressing room walls with hairspray and lit it on fire and walked right back out. And yeah, you know to someone who didn't know how that would turn out it was a pretty scary moment. And I on average do not like practical jokes. I am not that type of person. But it was brilliant now that I know what happened because the hairspray burned up and the fire burns itself out because it runs out of fuel…So it was a really quick practical joke that scared me to death.”
While there were some crazy antics behind the scenes, Jennifer’s actual favorite part of being a Mouseketeer was the production. She enjoyed the “creation moments” more than anything. One of her favorite moments was when she filmed a skit with a boa constrictor. She recalls that even though it was a short scene, it took hours to block ahead of time. “I sat backstage while we were blocking this and I had the trainer there with me. And he would just talk me through it. And so I really had a cool experience hanging out with this boa constrictor for hours. I actually don't like snakes in general especially the small, fast ones. But I made friends with the Boa. I'm okay with the Boa community!”
THE DISNEY STANDARD
While Jennifer’s story and experience on the MMC was a positive one, that wasn’t always necessarily the case for everyone else. Being a Mouseketeer meant you had to adhere to high standards. “I will say that not everybody was as content on the show,” Jennifer says. “Because I was so young when I began the show, I was wired to conform to the standards that Disney had for their cast members. But there were certain kids who would come in and try to rebel, like just little things.” Some of the boys would rebel by showing up to work wearing hoop earrings for instance and they would complain when they’d be asked to remove them. “But we're like 14 or 15, you know? So still it's all relative, it was just the worst thing ever in our world if we couldn't have cleavage or if they had to put me in a baggy shirt because I had hips.”
Still, Jennifer saw these maneuvers as unfortunate but necessary to keep them “in a certain Disney standard.” She recollects that when Christina Aguilera joined the cast in season 6 they decided to “put her hair in blond ringlets” when it was always Jennifer previously who had that hairdo. “So then the hairdressers had to figure out a different hairstyle for me,” Jennifer explains. And then there was the issue of what clothes they were allowed to wear. “I'd walk around in my baggy outfits and go, ‘Why does Britney Spears get to wear Daisy Dukes practically...Why does she get to wear the shortest shorts I'd ever seen on the Mickey Mouse Club?’ There answer was simple. It was because Britney was only 12. "Well you should tell everyone looking at her that," Jennifer remembers telling them with a laugh.
PERFORMANCES TO REMEMBER
Love You More
“You could mention any song and I would tell you a fun memory about it,” Jennifer reveals. When asked about “Love You More,” a fun song she did in season six, she had a lot to say. Jennifer admits that on the show Tony Lucca and Keri Russell were their “very small high school popular kids, popular couple.” And that Tony “was the Ken to Keri Russell’s Barbie.” Everyone looked up to them and everyone wanted to be like them. As a singer, Jennifer had spent most of her years belting songs and “being this loud, high singer.” She remembers that this was the only song she “recorded that was softer” and because of it felt unsure about it. But Tony had a different perspective and approached Jennifer with his thoughts after the performance. He said, “‘I think that's my favorite song that you've ever done.’ And that was like a big deal coming from the coolest kid!”
Jennifer took his comments to heart. “That was the first time I gave more thought to dynamics in a vocal performance which is something that I still teach today to recording artists and amateur students in my vocal coaching classes…That made a big impact on my life and my future life as a recording artist. So thank you Tony Lucca!” She also loved the song because of the presentation of it. The set, the costumes and even her hair was cool. “Now it's one of the most referred to footage as far as Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake and Keri Russell were backing me up in it as well as Matt Morris, the extremely gifted and interesting, never a dull moment, Matt Morris.” Matt and Justin, she reveals as being two of her better friends on the show. “They were like my two favorite boys that I would have genuinely impactful conversations with. For however young little Justin was at the time, they were both younger than me, but Justin was younger than Matt. However younger they were than myself we had really great impactful conversations, so I had a very special place in my heart for those two boys.”
Hanging on For Dear Life
One of Jennifer’s most talked about and popular performance is “Hanging on For Dear Life,” an original song from the show’s self-titled album MMC. Jennifer explains that it “still is the most impactful song I ever sang for the Mickey Mouse Club.” Not only did she go on tour with the song, but she was able to hear firsthand accounts from fans who said the “song got them through a hard time in their life whether it be a loss in the family or a struggle with depression.” It was her mother’s favorite song as well and her mother’s wish she re-record it one day. About 3 years ago, Jennifer did just that when she released a limited edition of a new re-recording of the song. She plans to do it one more time and let it stay forever on itunes.
She says that the song (and the album) “represented so much opportunity for the Mouseketeers to perform in an original capacity.” The song also presented an exciting moment of opportunity for Jennifer when the song was used in the movie My Boyfriend’s Back in the key prom scene. “That was so surreal to go to a movie theater and listen to myself as I'm watching a movie,” she recalls. But it wasn’t a perfect moment for the movie lover. “I love movies so much that that would have just been the most amazing thing to ever happen to me at that time to have my name, actual name, in the credits. But as it was, it was credited to MMC.” But she understood since she was “part of a family called MMC. And MMC is who made that song.”
Jennifer Sings the Blues and I’ll Wait
Jennifer has two personal favorite performances “because of the accomplishment of them.” The first is “Jennifer Sings the Blues” and the other “I’ll Wait.” With the first, “it was one of the only original numbers written for a Mouseketeer to sing on the show” which Jennifer thought was “so cool” that they trusted her to do a live recording. Her other favorite, “I’ll Wait,” was a song she performed in season 7. It was a song that required a lot of reworking and a lot of obstacles in making it right. Because Jennifer “loved to imitate the artists” of whatever song she was singing, she had planned to attack the song like its original singer Taylor Dane. But when she showed up to the studio, they had arranged it to be much faster. After working really hard on it, she felt that it “turned out so great.” She explains that it was also one of her first powerhouse songs of her next chapter. According to Jennifer, “this was like one of those last hurrah songs where I just really felt like through all these years this was the song that really showed my range and my coming of age.”
NOW IT’S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE
When the show ended after the seventh season, the reactions among the cast members were mixed. “Everyone had their own perspective. It was not black and white,” Jennifer enlightens. And it wasn’t just the actual cancellation that was hard after season seven, but every year between seasons. “I remember my parents telling me that I would go through about two weeks of quote on quote mourning where it's like you lost a part of your family, you lost all your cousins or you lost your job.” Some Mouseketeers had it easier than others, however. The transition wasn’t as hard on Jennifer because her family had moved to Orlando after season 2, but some of the other Mouseketeers went through hard times as they tried to reintegrate themselves into normal schools, some even dealing with bullying because they “used to be a Mouseketeer.” Jennifer says that “it was not easy for a lot of people. And they carry that with them.”
After season six there were rumors that the show might not come back and Jennifer recalls comforting Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling at the season six wrap party, which has become a well known picture of the three of them online. “In that shot, Justin and Ryan have both been crying. Now Ryan plays it off way better pointing to the camera, you know, ‘Hey!’ versus Justin who was just a little sweetheart and he really wanted to come back. All the new ones from season 6 wanted to have another shot. They had watched the show, they were fans on different levels and they'd just gotten there. And they didn't want the show to close…so they were a little sad.” She remembers reassuring Justin and Ryan telling them that they had a great year and that she was sure they’d be back again. “I was always sure we'd come back again because I'd been doing it for 6 years.”
In the end, the MMC did come back for one more season and by that point Jennifer was ready. “I had really lived this Mouseketeer life to its fullest in my view and I was happy to move on if they were asking us to do that. It made my choices easier knowing I wasn't gonna’ have to put off college. Because who knows if I would've been able to go? I might not have been able to leave that family. So it was very good for me because I should have gone to college at that time and I did.”
When the show actually did end, there was all kind of reactions. “There were kids who were so over that show, they had been over it for 3 years; there were kids who were still, the same ones, the young ones who felt like they had just gotten there.” Jennifer felt “wistful” because the show had been a part of her life for so long, but she “was at peace with it.” Others were like, “Well, you know, it's had a good run. I'm happy to move forward but you know, too bad.” In the end, she describes the varying perspectives as being “very grey areas.”
JUSTIN, JC, BRITNEY, CHRISTINA, KERI & RYAN
When asked if she was surprised at all by some of the success of the Mouseketeers, she had much to say. “Well, I was only surprised in the way that it's shocking to see someone that you used to hang out in the computer room with for hours and chat about life become a huge heartthrob. Or you see their face on TV in this context, or see the little girl that you used to say ‘why does she get to wear such short shorts on the show?’ And now she's maybe on a good day wearing short shorts!” Jennifer replies with a laugh.
Jennifer was always happy for their success though. “In the beginning, I used to clip articles or save magazines with them all over the cover because I was so impacted by their faces being all over the place…And every single person who quote on quote made it big were extremely hard workers on the set of the Mickey Mouse Club. Britney has an amazing work ethic and I could see in her production, her early production with all the live dancing…I can see how hard she worked starting out as a solo artist. You know, just right out as a solo artist. So that took a lot of personal work for her to do…she really did reap a lot of success not only through her team but through her own personal work.”
Besides Britney, Jennifer also found it funny that her high school friend and prom date Joey Fatone became a famous member of N’SYNC along with Justin (who she chatted with in the computer room all the time) and JC Chasez. “I looked up to Justin and JC a lot for their talent. JC was very special to me as well. And so I was really happy for everybody.”
As for Christina Aguilera, she always knew she would “get discovered in a big way at some point.” In fact, Jennifer points out that “she always sounded like that.” Jennifer explains that Christina’s “range got higher as she got older, but usually it works the other way around. The cool thing about her beginnings is that vocally she had such control over her riffs and her R&B nature vocally, and she had such dark, luxurious tones at such a young age. That is so special and unique. And then she got to grow in her range as she got older which was cool to see. So she always had that raw uniqueness about her talent.” So Jennifer was never surprised by her success.
And then there was Keri Russell. “Beautiful woman, very good actress,” Jennifer describes. “She just had this really cool balance, just drop dead gorgeousness, but really this interesting, introspective nature about her acting that obviously again, I'm not surprised that she made it big because we all looked up to her as this goddess…For better or for worse for our own self-esteem, that's how a lot of us saw her. So that's not a surprise that she became this famous actress, and known for her gorgeousness and why not?”
The one Jennifer was most surprised by was Ryan Gosling, but “not in the way you would think” Jennifer claims. In fact, he was very good at his job. “He actually took over certain acting roles on the Mickey Mouse Club because he was more on top of the work than someone else had been at the time. He was so good at what he did, and he was such a cutie. But you just don't know. You just don't know until you see it. Because you never know how people are gonna’ grow up.”
HEY GIRL…CAN I KISS YOU?
Before Ryan grew up into such a movie star and heartthrob, a young Ryan was still quite the little Casanova. Jennifer recalls, “My one cute Ryan Gosling story is that he had a different crush on a different one of us Mouseketeer girls every week. And on my week, I actually had a boyfriend from my high school and he came to me in Math class which wasn't a real class, it was like no one was in there but me. And I was sitting on the floor studying Geometry. And he came to me and knelt down in front of me and he said, ‘I was wondering, can I kiss you?’ And I looked at him—now he's itty bitty, he hasn't had his growth spurt yet…this was season 6 where I was about 16 and he was 13…So he was little and adorable and he knelt right in front of me and said, ‘Can I kiss you?’ And I said, ‘Well…’ I talked to him kind of like a little brother…I wasn't like rude or supportive,” Jennifer laughs.
“But I said ‘Well I have a boyfriend, so I can't kiss you. But you can give me just a little kiss. Maybe that would be okay.’ So he said, ‘Okay.’ So he leaned in and he just gave me like the cutest little peck on the lips, just the cutest little peck. But he meant it. Like he was just such a sweet, sensitive little guy that he was super respectful… so he just gave me a cute little kiss on the mouth, just an itty, bitty little lip kiss and I was like, ‘Thank you.’ And he's like, ‘No, thank you,’” she laughs remembering. “He was just such a little charmer, you know? So to this day I am not surprised that people like Ryan Gosling and Justin Timberlake like older women because we were all around them on the show!” Clarifying, Jennifer continues, “I'm pretty sure I'm not the one that turned him onto older women ‘cause we had Keri there as well. But I'm just saying! There were a lot of older women in their lives.”
NEW EP JENNIFER MCGILL
Recently this past April Jennifer released her new EP self-titled Jennifer McGill available on itunes. “It was a long time coming,” Jennifer reveals. “There's been a lot of time where I have felt I do not want to do anything halfway. Even if it's just one or two songs I want them to be excellent and representing where I am at the time. And there were many years before these songs came out, many, many, like more than a decade where I was still in a place that I was covering other people's songs in cover bands, party atmospheres. I was in a place of doing live performances, but with Top 40 songs very similar to my days on the Mickey Mouse Club. And I had not transitioned into a time of focusing on original material. I was honestly finding my sound as an artist because I had been in so many years of training to sound like other people that I didn't know what that sounded like when it was just coming from myself. So I had to take the time to find that. And in retrospect, I'm very happy to take the time. I know that it was difficult to wait for some fans but I knew that it was the right thing to do as far as all that goes.”
With an infectious beat, moving lyrics and strong vocals, for fans (and new listeners) it is definitely worth the wait. Her producer, Jeff Savage helped her take the necessary time to get it right. There are 3 original songs and the style Pop Gospel. “They are geared toward my life growing up with secular beats and pop music and R&B, which I love so much…but putting into that lyrics and the heartfelt singing geared towards inspiring and encouraging people of all belief systems, yet staying true to my belief system in Christ. So through my belief system I want to encourage and love on and uplift anybody and everybody who listens to that music. But I also wanted it to sound cool,” she points out with a laugh.
“So that was our goal to have that infusion of styles built up from about 25 years of my professional career.” She’s very proud of the final result and is ready to make more. She’ll soon be working again on the re-recording of about “Hanging on For Dear Life” which will be in the next mix of songs. She’s also started performing some of her songs live from the EP. “My current project for music is to make sure everything I do agrees with my belief system, but also isn't about me, it is about inspiring and encouraging others.”
However, Jennifer doesn’t just inspire and encourage through music. This month in Nashville she was the keynote speaker at the Christian Women and Media Conference. She also just transitioned her blog Plus Sized Thought about positive self-labeling into a Jennifer McGill blog which will also soon include an Instagram and foundation called God Goggles.
“The blog and the inspirational posts are generally geared towards inspiring and encouraging those who may be on a similar journey as myself on the road of self-esteem. Because when you grow up comparing yourself face to face with Keri Russell and Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, it is difficult to find that best part of you…” Jennifer laughs. “You know if you are taught that Keri is the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world and if you are taller and broader and blonder and wider and you know less flexible than she is, that can weigh on you…it's a similar feeling to calling someone fat or ugly or stupid. Bullying was bullying. And the effect of comparing yourself with people, regardless of how famous they are, comparing your weakest features to someone else's strongest features is always gonna’ end up bad for you. And that's where I encourage people to change their perspective.”
Recalling the past and how far she’s come, she wishes that she could go back in time to talk to her younger self. “These days I'm mostly always in high heels, I love to dress up,” she explains. “I'm pretty outspoken even in my hairdo,” Jennifer laughs. “I don't mind standing out of the crowd and I am not the skinniest or prettiest or youngest most vivacious person around. Or that I would ever meet or that you would ever meet. But I love who I am now. And that is because I went down the other road and saw what it was like to hate myself. I mean most of the time on the Mickey Mouse Club I did not like what I saw in the mirror and I tried to be quote on quote cool like these cool kids were. And it wasn't my nature. My nature is to be comedic and to laugh out loud and to be quirky and to sing loud and proud and to wear high heels. And anything other than that was me trying to be somebody else.”
In fact, Jennifer reveals that “she got lost in the pursuit of fame” for many years in her twenties. She wasn’t always strong at understanding the difference between her path and the celebrities’ success of “certain Mouseketeers.” But she had a different purpose and path. “There was a time where I didn't want to have that purpose. But he was patient. Now I'm older and wiser and I've taken up the torch.” Her purpose? To lift people up. “But I want to do it through the stuff that I feel I'm strongest in, which is arts and entertainment,” she clarifies.
With God Goggles (which has a Youtube page that will soon have vlogs on it), Jennifer hopes to inspire others to see themselves as God does. “Look at yourself the way that he sees you,” Jennifer remarks. “So the point is to encourage people, mostly women, in the self-esteem department that it doesn't matter how skinny you are or how pretty you are or whatever it is that's hanging you up about your looks, it doesn't matter to God. You're purpose matters.” She wants to “be there for people who feel that they cannot measure up.” Because if she “can grow up with celebrities who sing and dance and act,” three things Jennifer does well and she can overcome the feeling of needing to measure up to the success that they’ve achieved in the world, “then anybody can.”
THOUGHTS ON MMC’s 25th ANNIVERSARY
All these years later the MMC still has many loyal fans which Jennifer appreciates. A simple Happy Birthday from Jennifer can make a fan’s day, or even be “one of the best things that could ever happen” to them which she finds humbling. “I should never have a bad day if there are people out there who think that way about me…If I wish someone happy birthday and it was like the best thing ever I need to appreciate my life, you know? I need to appreciate how far I've come and what I've done for other people and just you know be grateful for those experiences and opportunity.”
(Make sure to read more about MMC's 25th anniversary in the companion article HERE.)
Jennifer closes with her thoughts on the 25th Anniversary: “I love that that people still want to know about the memories, it keeps it alive for me to talk about them. So I'm just appreciative that people care, that people remember and that they care because as much as it was an important time in my life and a formative time in my life, I know that it was so much for so many fans. And I never have to wonder if I've left a legacy.”
Check out and buy Jennifer’s new EP Jennifer McGill on itunes. Available now.
Jennifer vocally coordinates at her church and leads worship there which you can see at www.oasischurch.tv. You can sometimes catch her singing there online. You can also catch Jennifer on braveheartedboys.com where she’s a superhero trainer.
- Written by Amber Topping
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The ‘All New Mickey Mouse Club’
Celebrates 25 Years: Why It’s Important
By Amber Topping
The All New Mickey Mouse Club just celebrated its 25th Anniversary. For all the fans of the show, it’s hard to believe that that many years have actually gone by. It seems like yesterday my sister and friend giggled over a young Ryan Gosling singing “I Will Be Faithful,” as they watched it on repeat.
That said, when people hear the mention of said Mickey Mouse Club, different things come to mind for different people. Some think of the ‘50s Mouseketeers and Annette Funicello, others remember watching The All New Mickey Mouse Club but ‘hey that was a long time ago,’ while others automatically think of the former Mouseketeers who became superstars such as Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake.
And then there are those who hear the phrase “Mickey Mouse Club,” and it’s something much more powerful. Maybe your mind fills with nostalgic memories of watching song and dance numbers over and over again at a slumber party till you learned all the dance moves, or maybe it reminds you of your clothing style in the ‘90s trying to dress like whichever Mouseketeer you looked up to at the moment, perhaps it inspired you to pursue a career in the arts, or perhaps watching The Mickey Mouse Club helped you get through difficult times. Whatever the case may be, The Mickey Mouse Club (or MMC as many of the fans liked to call it) meant something.
The show premiered on April 24, 1989 only a week before Disney’s MGM studios (which also just commemorated 25 years) opened its doors to the world on May 1st. In a recent conversation with Mouseketeer Jennifer McGill, she revealed that “The Mickey Mouse Club and MGM Studios went hand and hand in the beginning making their debut on the world stage side by side.” Before the opening the Mouseketeers and family members were allowed to explore the studios. “Everything was still yet to be unwrapped. It was like the world had this gift coming to them and we were in it before it was unwrapped,” Jennifer explained.
But it wasn’t just MGM Studios that was a gift soon coming to the world, the MMC itself was also this amazing gift coming that many of us soon opened and loved with the adoration of a child opening presents on Christmas morning. What made the MMC special and even important was that it didn’t feel exclusive; you could easily imagine yourself on the show singing and dancing and putting on goofy skits. It just looked fun. And if you were into performing, or had a dream you wanted to pursue, this was the perfect show to watch. The All New Mickey Mouse Club created a platform that allowed kids to reach for their dreams. It wasn’t just the Mouseketeers who were members of the club, the fans were too.
From music videos, to big dance numbers, funny skits, and even an original album from the cast self-titled MMC, The All New Mickey Mouse Club had it all. In the earlier seasons each day of the week represented a different theme. Mondays were “Music Day,” Tuesdays “Guest Day,” Wednesdays “Anything Can Happen Day,” Thursdays “Party Day,” and Fridays “Hall of Fame Day.” The themes provided an opportunity for special guest stars like New Kids on the Block, Brian McKnight or Boyz II Men to make an appearance. But it also provided a way to celebrate normal kids doing good things out in the world. (Plus the MMC was a great show to watch if you needed to be uplifted when going through hard times.) Arguably one of the most fun parts of the MMC was that it had its own Saved by the Bell like soap, Emerald Cove that aired in short segments over the course of a few seasons.
When The Mickey Mouse Club ended, all of the Mouseketeers went in different directions. Some went on to pursue entertainment projects, while others went back to school or started college. Of course, a few even became superstars. Some notable MMC members include Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, JC Chasez, Tony Lucca and Keri Russell. But it wasn’t just the household names that left a legacy. They all did.
With a “heartfelt happy anniversary to 25 years,” Jennifer said it well:
“That was the most important chapter in my life because that set the standard and the dreams and emotion for the rest of my life. So, I will never have a more special time than that time and I'm really happy to still be standing today entertaining the world as a grownup. And using what I learned everyday in my life and my career and I love that that people still want to know about the memories, it keeps it alive for me to talk about them. So I'm just appreciative that people care, that people remember and that they care because as much as it was an important time in my life and a formative time in my life, I know that it was so much for so many fans. And I never have to wonder if I've left a legacy.” (Make sure to read my full, exclusive interview with Jennifer HERE.)
A couple years ago, former Mouseketeer Dale Godboldo launched the popular Facebook Page “Always in the Club,” a place for both former Mouseketeers and fans of the show to come together. Dale explains the purpose of the page in a statement:
“In looking for ways to better bridge fans of The "All New" Mickey Mouse Club with their favorite MMC-ers, we finally decided to design and launch a Facebook page and website for YOU to stay engaged with US. Once in the club, always in the club, and we look forward to continuing our truly unique and deeply appreciated connection. Enjoy!!”
With news about what various Mouseketeers are up to now with fond reminiscing from both Mouseketeers and fans, it’s a great place to keep the show alive and celebrate (thus far) 25 years of memories. Some current news include the recent April release of Jennifer’s new EP self-titled Jennifer McGill, the upcoming Tony Lucca tour dates in July and the recent live theatre event in L.A. with Lindsey Alley titled “BLOOD, SWEAT & MOUSEKETEARS” (to name a few). For other news and updates, make sure to check out Always in the Club on Facebook.
To close out, I thought it would be fun to end just like the MMC always did after each episode. Here’s “Now it’s Time to Say Goodbye” season 6 style:
What are some of your favorite memories from The All New Mickey Mouse Club? Share below in the comments!
To read the full, exclusive REAP interview with Mouseketeer Jennifer McGill (where she talks the 25th anniversary, recalls memories from the set, her new EP & More go here.
Head on over to like the Always in the Club on Facebook.
Make sure to check out and buy Jennifer’s new EP 'Jennifer McGill' on itunes available now.
To learn more about the author Amber Topping, check out her vintage inspired media blogzine: www.silverpetticoatreview.com
Photo Credits: The Walt Disney Company, Jennifer McGill
- Written by Amber Topping
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