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December 31

December 31, 1940 – Actor and Disney Legend Tim Considine is Born

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“[Spin and Marty] was great for us because usually, when you’re a kid actor, you work on a dark soundstage, and here we were out in the sun playing with horses and friends…it was almost like not working other than the fact that every once in a while we had to stop playing to make a movie.”

On December 31, 1940, Timothy Daniel Considine was born in Los Angeles, California, to a family steeped in the performing arts. His first role was in the 1953 film The Clown playing Red Skelton’s son. In 1955, Considine was cast as Spin Evans in the Mickey Mouse Club serial “Spin and Marty,” playing alongside friend and fellow Disney Legend David Stollery’s Marty Markham. The serial went on to great popularity, which Considine attributed to being the only live-action series on television geared towards children. “Spin and Marty” would be followed with two further sequels, “The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty” and “The New Adventures of Spin and Marty.” After the first serial, Considine was cast as Frank Hardy in a serial based on the detective novels “The Hardy Boys” alongside Tommy Kirk’s Joe Hardy, and wasgiven a role in the “Annette” serial. In 1959, Considine starred in the Disney live-action film The Shaggy Dog. In the 1960s, he starred on the classic series My Three Sons with fellow Disney legend Fred MacMurray. After a few roles in the 1970s, Considine created a new career for himself by becoming an author and photographer, writing about sports and automotive history. He continues to work as a contributing editor for Road & Track magazine, with his photographs being used in several media pieces.

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February 11

February 11, 1958 – The First Episode of the “Annette” Serial Premieres on the Mickey Mouse Club

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“All I know is the necklace is gone and that McCleod girl was the only one left in this room when we went out to supper!”

On February 11, 1958, the first episode of the “Annette” serial premiered on the Mickey Mouse Club. The serial was based on the novel Margaret by Janette Sebring Lowrey (known for Pokey Little Puppy), and was adapted by Lillie Hayward. It was renamed “Annette” to capitalize on the popularity of Annette Funicello, who played the lead role. The serial was filmed on the Walt Disney Studio lot; the animation studio served as the front of the high school. The serial was directed by Charles Lamont, and stars Tim Considine as Steve, David Stollery as Mike, Roberta Shore as Laura, Richard Deacon as Dr. McCleod, Sylvia Field as Lila McCleod, Mary Wickes as Katie, and Judy Nugent as Jet.

The first episode, entitled “An Introduction,” has the McCleod housekeeper, Katie, introducing the story of Annette and how she came to stay with the McCleods. Dr. McCleod lives with his sister, Lila, and they both are surprised one morning when their niece, Annette, arrives from Ashford, Nebraska. Katie explains that the McCleods had no idea that they even had a niece, as they had lost touch with their brother years ago. Although Dr. McCleod wasn’t too sure about having Annette stay with them, as neither he nor Lila knew anything about raising children, he changed his mind and allowed her to stay instead of shipping her off to boarding school.

Annette makes a friend in Mike, who works at the malt shop

Annette makes a friend in Mike, who works at the malt shop

As she settles in, Annette begins to meet people and make friends in the town. She had met Stephen Abernathy, the most popular boy in town, as she was on her way to the McCleods and asked him for directions to the house. Annette makes a friend in neighbor girl Jet, who provides the McCleods’ food from her family’s farm. When Lila takes Annette shopping, they meet Mrs. Abernathy, Lila’s best friend, and Mrs. Abernathy’s daughter, Val. Mrs. Abernathy invites Annette to Val’s party so she can meet other kids her age. Although Mrs. Abernathy decides to send Stephen to pick Annette up for the party, Stephen already has a date with his girlfriend, Laura, so she sends another boy named Olmstead Ware, who is nowhere near as polite as Stephen, and cares more about food than anything else in life. He asks Annette to swing by the malt shop, where they meet Mike, who becomes one of her closest friends.

The party is a success, until Laura’s necklace goes missing, and she immediately blames Annette for its disappearance, but Annette had left the party before the necklace had disappeared. Even at school, Laura continued to spread the rumor that Annette stole the necklace, partly because she was jealous of Annette being the new girl in town. Annette, hurt by the continuing attacks, decides to run away back to Nebraska. Katie then stops the story there, saying that she can’t reveal any more, but hopes that everyone will tune in again to find out what happens.

December 10

December 10, 1941 – Actor and Disney Legend Tommy Kirk is Born

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“[Walt Disney] was with Hedda Hopper, the legendary columnist. He put his arm around me, and he said, ‘This is my good-luck piece here,’ to Hedda Hopper. I never forgot that. That’s the nicest compliment he ever gave me.”

On December 10, 1941, Thomas Lee “Tommy” Kirk was born in Louisville, Kentucky. While he was still very young, his family moved to Los Angeles, California. In 1954, he followed his older brother to an audition at the Pasadena Playhouse, and ended up being cast in the production of Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! He was soon signed to a talent agency, and began working on television, which brought him to the attention of Walt Disney. Walt cast Kirk as Joe Hardy in the Mickey Mouse Club’s Hardy Boys serial opposite Tim Considine, another well-known Disney player.

Although Kirk found popularity in the Hardy Boys, his star role was Travis Coates in the 1957 film Old Yeller. Thanks to the immense popularity of the film, Kirk was cast in roles of the all-American teenager, frequently teaming with Kevin Corcoran as his younger brother. Kirk had continued success with The Shaggy Dog, Swiss Family Robinson, The Absent-Minded Professor, Bon Voyage, and Son of Flubber. The last films Kirk did for Disney were the popular Merlin Jones films, opposite Annette Funicello. In 1963, Disney decided not to renew his contract, and his career stalled in adulthood. He left show business after battling several personal problems, and started his own carpet-cleaning business in the San Fernando Valley. He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2006.

June 10

June 10, 1949 – Birth of Disney Legend Kevin “Moochie” Corcoran

“…kids in the audience related more to Corcoran, who created a character who was part All-American boy and part hellion.” – Film Writer Donald Liebenson.

Born on June 10, 1949, in Santa Monica, California, Kevin Anthony Corcoran began his acting career at the tender age of two. In 1956, Corcoran auditioned for a serial on the Mickey Mouse Club called “Adventures in Dairyland,” and won the role of a character named Moochie, a nickname that would stick with him throughout his career at Disney. He was then cast specially by Walt in the sequel serial, “The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty,” as well as “The New Adventures of Spin and Marty.”

Corcoran also appeared in several popular Disney films, with his only starring role as Toby in Toby Tyler, a film about an orphan who runs away to join the circus. He played supporting roles in Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog, Pollyanna, Swiss Family Robinson, Babes in Toyland, Bon Voyage!, Savage Sam, and A Tiger Walks. Corcoran played the younger brother to actor Tommy Kirk in five Disney films, including Swiss Family Robinson and The Shaggy Dog. Corcoran also voiced Goliath II in the short film of the same name, and was featured in several Disney mini-series and serials, such as Daniel Boone, The Mooncussers, and Johnny Shiloh. After the 1964 film A Tiger Walks, Corcoran mostly retired from acting and attended California State University, getting a degree in theater arts.

Corcoran returned to Disney after college, using his skills behind the camera instead of as an actor, and working as an assistant director and producer on several projects, including Pete’s Dragon. He has also worked as a first assistant director for many television series outside of Disney, including Quantum Leap and Murder She Wrote, also acting as an assistant producer and director on the latter series. Corcoran was inducted as a Disney Legend on October 9, 2006, alongside Tim Considine, David Stollery, and Tommy Kirk.

March 9

March 9, 1955 – Man in Space Premieres on the Disneyland Television Show

“One of man’s oldest dreams has been the desire for space travel, to travel to other worlds.” – Walt Disney

On March 9, 1955, audiences watching the Disneyland Television Show saw a different kind of episode, called Man in Space. The first installment of the Tomorrowland segments of the show, Man in Space was directed and produced by Ward Kimball (see March 4th entry), who had written the episode with William Bosche, and features guests Werner von Braun, Willy Ley, and Heinz Haber, who were major scientists associated with space exploration. It was so well received that President Dwight D. Eisenhower asked for a copy to present to the Pentagon, and this helped push the space program into the forefront of the public imagination. In 1956, an edited version of Man in Space was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Documentary), after it was released to theaters on a double bill with Davy Crockett and the River Pirates.

Ward Kimball (C) looking at mock-ups and prototypes in the design room

As the Man in Space episode opens, the audience is taken to a design room, where men are hard at work designing prototypes of rockets and developing methods of space travel. Walt explains that the creative talents of the Disney Studios are working with engineers and scientists to make the dream of interplanetary travel a reality. “In working with engineers and scientists,” director and producer Ward Kimball explains, “we have found that there are many different opinions as to how we will eventually cross the space frontier.” The one common point between these opinions, though, is that it will be a rocket-powered ship heading into space. Kimball then leads the viewers into a history of rocketry, beginning with China in the 13th century.

The rocket was not a modern invention, Kimball points out; the Chinese invented it at the battle of Kai-fung-fu in 1232. A brief animation segment shows two Chinese men shooting rockets at each other from far distances, with each rocket increasing in size. Kimball then jumps forward 500 years to Sir Isaac Newton and his often paraphrased “for every action force, there is always an equal but opposite reaction force.” Kimball makes this clearer by using the example of the family dog when it sneezes. The segment also shows a few examples of rocket propulsion experiments, including a steam-powered rocket, and notes that designers ultimately stuck with gunpowder-powered designs.

A stylized photograph of one of the early German societies dedicated to the study of rocket science

In 1865, Jules Verne published From the Earth to the Moon, which again piqued people’s interest in flying into space. Verne’s story inspired the French filmmaker Georges Melies to create the first space-travel film in 1902. Kimball shows the audience this silent film, and continues with a history of the different kinds of fuels used to power small rockets that could one day be used to send men to space. Rocket frenzy was highly evident in the 1920s and ’30s, with rockets attached to any possible vehicle. Around this time, a new society in Germany was founded, with the mission of scientifically exploring the possibility of space travel. The German army took a keen interest, and used the society’s findings to create rocket missiles and one of the forerunners of a spaceship, known as the V-2. After WWII, 75 of these V-2 rockets were taken to the U.S. for study in its newly developed rocket program.

Kimball then introduces rocket historian Willy Ley to explain how rocket firing works. Ley begins by showing a model of a rocket motor and explaining to Disney artists how it works. An animated sequence explains how the motor continues to work in space where there is no oxygen. Ley asks the animators to create a sketch of a three-stage rocket to help him explain how it would work. The animators ask some very interesting questions as Ley uses the chalkboard to help his explanations, but the section is not overly technical, so the audience is still be able to understand well.

The "ordinary man" example, after going through rigorous (and humorous to the audience's perspective) training, passes the space medicine course

In the next segment of Man in Space, Kimball describes a new field of science known as space medicine, or how man will react physically and mentally in space, and introduces the expert in this field, Dr. Heinz Haber. Haber pulls down a screen to set the stage for another animated segment, this time of the “common man” who will be sent into space. As we follow this common man through his daily routine in space, Kimball’s special brand of humor keeps things light.

In the third segment of the episode, Kimball explains the two problems of space flight: building a rocket ship, and preparing and training the men to travel into outer space. Kimball then introduces Dr. Wernher von Braun, the chief of the Army’s guided missile division, who was the overall director of development for the original V-2 rocket. Von Braun is seen explaining to two other men the problems of space travel. Looking at some similar present-day situations can help come up with solutions, von Braun says. He gives a few examples of the current research, with testing performed on the ground in simulated atmospheres. The tests that von Braun describes are then presented in an animated sequence narrated by Dick Tufeld, best known as the voice of the robot in the television show, Lost in Space. The animated short ends with an accomplished mission into space, with the next goal of getting man to the moon, then the planets, and then to what lies beyond.

 

January 26

January 26, 1955 – Davy Crockett Goes to Congress Premieres on ABC.

“Now, again from Davy’s own journal, we’d like to present another story of Davy’s fabulous life. This one is called, ‘Davy Crockett Goes to Congress.’” – Walt Disney.

On the evening of January 26, 1955, the second installment of The Adventures of Davy Crockett premiered on the Disneyland television show on ABC. Shown a little over a month after the first installment, the series continued the Davy Crockett craze that had taken over the youth of America. This episode, entitled Davy Crockett Goes to Congress, was directed by Norman Foster, and written by Tom Blackburn. It stars Fess Parker as Davy Crockett, Buddy Ebsen as Georgie Russel, Basil Ruysdael as Andrew Jackson, William Bakewell as Tobias Norton, and former professional wrestler Mike Mazurki as Bigfoot Mason.

A page from Davy's own journal, as seen in the show, which introduces the story of Davy's political career

The show opens with Davy and his pal Georgie setting out to find a new piece of land to settle. Although they find the perfect spot, Georgie reminds Davy that they need to file a claim for the land. As they approach the settlement, looking for the judge to file their claim, they stumble upon a shooting match. Ever competitive, Davy challenges a man named Bigfoot Mason, wagering $15, the estimated price of the prize cow. They tie with the first round, but with their second shots, Bigfoot believes he won, as it appears that Davy completely missed the target. When it’s discovered that Davy hit the exact spot twice, he makes an unintentional enemy out of Bigfoot. The judge, discovering who Davy is, is thrilled that Davy is in town, as he may be the man that can stop Bigfoot’s schemes. The judge informs Davy and Georgie that Bigfoot and his gang have been running the Indians off of their land and selling it to newcomers who have no idea that the land has been stolen. Davy reminds the judge that there’s a treaty that guarantees the Indians their land, but the judge says that Bigfoot disregards any treaty of that nature. The few people who have tried to stop Bigfoot have disappeared, presumed dead. The judge, knowing Davy’s reputation, asks Davy to be the magistrate and serve a warrant on Bigfoot and his gang. Davy says he’d have to think about it. It doesn’t take long for Davy to decide, as he finds that the Cherokee Charlie Two Shirts has been beaten and run off his land. Davy confronts Bigfoot, and it turns into a no-holds-barred fistfight. Davy emerges victorious, and peace comes over the settlement again as the gang is brought to justice.

During one of the celebrations in town, the judge tells Davy that since the settlement is experiencing a lot of growth, they’ll be getting someone to represent them in Nashville, and the town has picked Davy as the man they want to run for the state legislature. Davy responds, “I’m plumb flutterated by the honor, but, well, I ain’t no politician.” When the judge informs him that his competition is Amos Thorpe – the lawyer who tried to get Bigfoot off, and made a lot of money from the illegal Indian land grabs – Davy considers running. The thing that sets him on his political path, however, is the sad news that his wife, Polly, came down with a fever and died. Consumed by grief and needing a distraction, he decides to run for the spot in the state legislature, proclaiming that he’ll represent the town as honestly as he can. Davy wins by a landslide.

Davy in formal clothes after he's been elected to the state legislature

Davy’s political career has been watched closely by his old Major, Tobias Norton, and General Andrew Jackson. Jackson is preparing to run for the presidency, and both he and Norton want Davy to have a seat in Congress. As Jackson puts it to Davy, “I want men I can trust, men I know are with me, men that can get the rest of the country behind me.” Davy responds, “Well, if I was to do what you asked, and I did get in, I wouldn’t be taking orders from you, General. I’d be taking them from them that elected me.” Thanks to a set of books Georgie has been publishing about their adventures together, Davy is able to win the seat in Congress, and surprises the members by showing up in buckskins. Georgie is there to greet him, and Davy tells him off about having to show up as the “king of the wild frontier, thanks to you.” He introduces himself with a strange speech, but promises that he won’t be one of those politicians who doesn’t do anything more than listen, and the next time he stands before them, he’ll “have something to say worth saying.”

Davy’s career hits a snag when Norton tells Davy he’s to go on a speaking tour, calling it a “great service for the country.” Norton adds that people want to make Davy the next president of the United States. Georgie, ever suspicious of Norton, finds out the truth: Norton sent Davy out of the way so he wouldn’t be able to vote against a bill meant to take away all lands from the Indians. Georgie and Davy race back to Washington, where Davy punches Norton out as the former major tries to stall him, and storms in to Congress, giving the last great speech of his political career.

Davy giving a speech in Congress, dressed in his buckskins

Compared to most of the shows on television at the time that featured cowboys and Indians, the Davy Crockett serial was very well made, especially when it came to the matte paintings of Nashville and Washington, D.C., painted by Peter Ellenshaw. Walt Disney sent crews to picturesque areas in North Carolina to do research of the landscape, and it made the serial stand out against all the other shows. There’s also no denying the charm of Fess Parker as Davy Crockett. The last impassioned speech he gives as Congressman Davy Crockett is one that will be remembered.

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January 18

January 18, 1941 – Birth of Disney Legend David Stollery.

David Stollery's title card from the serial Annette.

“I wonder how many Celica-driving ‘Mickey Mouse Club’ fans ever knew that ‘Marty’ designed their car?” – Tim Considine, Disney Legend and actor.

David John Stollery III was born January 18, 1941, in Los Angeles, into a show-business family, his father having been a radio announcer, and his mother a radio star while living in Portland, Oregon. At age seven, Stollery began his acting career by landing a role in a touring production of Medea, and was later voted Child Actor of the Year for his role in the production On Borrowed Time, starring actor Victor Moore. He appeared in several films, beginning with an uncredited role in the 1949 film A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and getting his big boost as a feature actor in the 1951 film, Darling, How Could You! His Disney roles, however, gave him the most prominence as an actor.

Walt Disney saw Stollery perform on an episode of The Ray Milland Show, playing a young genius, and was convinced that the boy would be perfect for the role of Marty Markham in the upcoming Mickey Mouse Club serial, “The Adventures of Spin and Marty,” co-starring Tim Considine as Spin. The serial was very popular, and Stollery was quickly signed for two more “Spin and Marty” serials: “The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty” in 1956, and “The New Adventures of Spin and Marty” in 1957. Stollery also appeared in a serial starring Annette Funicello, simply titled “Annette,” in which he played the character Mike Martin. He also acted in two feature films for Disney: Westward Ho the Wagons! in 1956, and Ten Who Dared in 1960.

Stollery as Marty Markham in The Adventures of Spin and Marty.

Unlike most child actors, Stollery did not pursue acting as a fulltime career, instead opting to study design at the Art Center College of Design, and becoming an auto designer for General Motors. In 1973, he was hired by Toyota to manage the automotive design group, Calty Design Research, designing the second generation of the A40 Series Toyota Celica in 1978.

Stollery has mostly stayed out of the spotlight since his Disney days. His most recent on-screen appearance was a documentary in 2005 on the Walt Disney Treasures set, The Adventures of Spin and Marty, in which Stollery and co-star Tim Considine explore the property that was used as the set for the Triple R Ranch and share their memories of performing on the show. He was inducted into the Disney Legends at the October 9, 2006 ceremony.