Extra reported the news on Monday:
Her family confirmed to “Extra” that Funicello died from complications of multiple sclerosis. They were by her side when she was taken off life support. Funicello had been in an MS coma for years.
Funicello, a Mickey Mouse Club veteran, kept her diagnosis secret until 1992. A year later, she launched the Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Disorders at the California Community Foundation.
Disney CEO Bob Iger released a statement about her death Monday morning:
“Annette was and always will be a cherished member of the Disney family, synonymous with the word ‘Mousketeer,’ and a true Disney legend. She will forever hold a place in our hearts as one of Walt Disney’s brightest stars, delighting an entire generation of baby boomers with her jubilant personality and endless talent. Annette was well known for being as beautiful inside as she was on the outside, and she faced her physical challenges with dignity, bravery and grace. All of us at Disney join with family, friends, and fans around the world in celebrating her extraordinary life.”
Walt Disney himself discovered Funicello at her dance school’s performance of Swan Lake at the 1955 Starlight Bowl. She was 12.
TMZ describes her as “bigger than Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling combined.”