After living in her native home of Utica, New York, Annette and her family crossed country to southern California where she lived the rest of her life.
During a ballet recital, one Walt Disney was struck by her talent and arranged for Annette to audition for The Mickey Mouse Show, a role she eventually won.
Annette shot to stardom when she sang a song during a serial on The Mickey Mouse Club called "How Will I Know My Love?" The song garnered such a response that Annette was asked to record it as a single, which led to her being one of the first young female singers to appear on a Disney label as a solo artist. This led to her having a recording contract, where she recorded such hits as "Tall Paul," "O Dio Mio," "Pineapple Princess" and "Dream Boy."
Annette also appeared in many films for Disney, starting as the girl next door Allison in The Shaggy Dog to Mary Quite Contrary in Disney's Babes in Toyland and Jennifer in The Misadventures of Merlin Jones and The Monkey's Uncle. She ventured outside of Disney to star in the Beach Party films (Walt himself approved of her involvement in the first one).
As Annette grew up, she withdrew from show business, focusing on her family life. Unlike a number of other popular starlets, she divorced only once and remained married to her second husband until her death.
As a child growing up in the 1990s, one might not expect me to be so familiar with Annette. As our intake of media was highly restricted, we often turned to my father's collection of vinyl records and video tapes. Among the records was Annette's album The Story of My Teens and a single of the song "Merlin Jones." My father picked up copies of Babes in Toyland and VHS tapes of The Mickey Mouse Club, and later, I managed to get him VHS tapes of the "Merlin Jones" series. Finally, he managed to get her compilation album Annette: A Musical Reunion with America's Girl-Next-Door.
He also read to me her autobiography, A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes, and here is where Oz comes in. It was here for the first time that I heard of an abandoned Disney project titled The Rainbow Road to Oz, and how Annette was cast in the role of Ozma, a role she loved due to the hair extensions as part of her costume.
Probably most blog readers know that The Rainbow Road to Oz was shelved during pre-production, but a teaser featuring three songs was presented as the finale piece of the Disneyland Fourth Anniversary Show in 1957, a year before "How Will I Know My Love?" became a hit. Among the costumed Oz characters was Annette as Ozma, dancing and taking part in the song "The Oz-Kan Hop."
Ozma also appears during the finale of the show, dancing with Mousketeers and Oz characters as they sing the joyous song "The Rainbow Road to Oz."
|Back, left to right: Scarecrow, Dorothy, Zeb, Ozma|
Front, left to right: Polychrome, Button-Bright, Scraps