Walt Disney Co. paid tribute yesterday to its paradigm of 1950s youth, Annette Funicello, as part of its Disney Legends Award program. Held on the Disney lot, the program honors individuals whose body of work has had a significant impact on the Disney legacy.

An original “Mickey Mouse Club” Mousketeer in 1955, Funicello said that 37 years later she is “still excited to be on the lot.”

As part of the ceremony, Funicello etched her trademark “Annette” signature into the cement in front of the Walt Disney Studios Theater and added her handprints.

The rainy-day event was both poignant and a media event, since Funicello recently disclosed that she has multiple sclerosis. She turns 50 today.

Hosted by Disney chairman Michael D. Eisner and vice chairman Roy Disney, the program also honored Disneyland landscape architect Morgan (Bill) Evans, character model designer Joe Grant, animator Jack Hannah and art director Ken O’Connor, as well as posthumous tributes to adult Mousketeers Jimmie Dodd and Roy Williams and “True Life Adventures” narrator/producer Winston Hibler.

With such past Disney Legends honorees as Fred MacMurray, Ub Iwerks,Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Bill Walsh and the Sherman Brothers songwriting team, the program stands as one of the few studio efforts to highlight its Hollywood heritage.

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