On This Day: Nov. 15, 1993
Memo to millennials: the early 2000s actually started ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in 1993. That's when the Holy Trinity of pop stars whose songs would come to define the turn of the 21st century joined that era's primary incubator for young talent. The stars? Britney, Christina and Justin... as in Spears, Aguilera and Timberlake The platform? MMC... as in The All New Mickey Mouse Club, the third iteration of a youth-powered Walt Disney variety show that dated back to 1955.
Originally premiering on The Disney Channel in 1989, the updated Micky Mouse Club had already seen emerging celebrities like Keri Russell and Rhona Bennett tread the boards of its vintage diner set. And if the new cast wasn't talent-packed Kenough, future Barbie star Ryan Gosling also earned his Mouse Ears in 1993. But few Mouseketeers equaled the Aguilera, Spears and Timberlake trio in terms of sheer pop culture impact.
All three took slightly different routes to the MMC clubhouse. At age three, Spears was already winning over audiences in her Louisiana hometown, while Timberlake soaked up country and gospel training from his extended Memphis family and Aguilera, became well-known in her self-described hometown of Pittsburgh. Britney, Justin and Christina's respective paths led them to separate appearances on Star Search followed by their combined year-long stint at MMC HQ in Orlando when they were all 12 years old.
The series was in its sixth season when the trio became official Mouseketeers and joined a well-oiled machine that produced up to four episodes a week and remade young novices into seasoned professionals. "Being in the show was boot camp for the entertainment industry: extensive dance rehearsals, singing lessons, acting classes, time in the recording studio and school in between," Spears wrote in her just-published bestselling memoir, The Woman in Me.
"The Mouseketeers quickly split into our own cliques, divided by the dressing rooms that we shared," Spears continued. "Christina Aguilera and I were the younger kids, and we shared a dressing room. We looked up to the older kids — Keri Russell, Ryan Gosling and Tony Lucca, who I thought was so handsome. And I quickly connected with a boy named Justin Timberlake."
What Happened Next
Behind the scenes, that connection between Britney and Justin took a romantic turn early on. In her memoir, Spears recalled that their first kiss happened during a round of Truth or Dare at an MMC sleepover. "Someone dared Justin to kiss me," she wrote. "A Janet Jackson song was playing in the background as he leaned in and kissed me." The duo wouldn't officially be an item until 1999, well after their Mickey Mouse days were behind them.
On camera, all three performers scored scene-stealing moments that hinted at big things to come, whether that was Britney and Justin dueting on The Staple Singers's immortal "I'll Take You There" or Aguilera belting out Whitney Houston's Bodyguard anthem "I Have Nothing." And singing wasn't the only skill they had to master — MMC's many and varied comedy skits gave the trio early acting experience ahead of the future forays into movie acting, be it Crossroads for Spears, The Social Network for Timberlake or Burlesque for Aguilera.
Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment in 2016, longtime MMC host Fred Newman remembered goofing around with Spears on set. "At the beginning of the show, we always had what we called 'The Gathering,' where everyone would come out dancing during the theme song. I would sidle over to Britney and lift her up in a fireman's carry around my back and start spinning around as fast as I could. Then I would put her down and push her onto the set when the door opened."
"She would be completely dizzy!" Newman continued with a laugh. "You could see it sometimes, she’d be stumbling around trying to dance. One time she fell over, and the director came running out to ask if she was OK. She looked right at me, and said, 'I got disoriented.' She didn't bust me, and I always had respect for her, because she could have easily done that."
MMC kept the trio in Orlando until 1994, when the final episodes were taped and the Mouseketeers officially disbanded. Timberlake and fellow cast member JC Chasez initially stayed local, forming the boy band that became NSync in 1995. Aguilera went abroad, with stops in Japan and Romania before scoring a solo recording contract in 1998. That same year, Spears — who had secured her own contract after performing Aguilera's MMC standard "I Have Nothing" for Jive Records executives — started work on what became ...Baby One More Time, the album that ushered in a whole new generation of pop... and pop culture.
Where We Are Now
Perhaps not surprisingly, Disney gave The Mickey Mouse Club a long time out after peaking with the Britney, Christina and Justin era. Nearly a quarter century later, the Mouse House sought to revive the brand with Club Mickey Mouse, but shut those doors after a brief year-long run. These days, young Disney viewers looking to hang at a Mickey Mouse-branded clubhouse have the animated Mickey Mouse Clubhouse series, which lives on in repeats.
By the time Club Mickey Mouse premiered, Aguilera, Spears and Timberlake had already been through boom and bust times as adult artists, as well as the personal travails that can accompany a life lived in the public spotlight. Spears's experience has been particularly dramatic, as she's publicly wrestled with mental health issues and a conservatorship that she characterized as abusive in her memoir.
But the singer remains nothing but positive when writing about her experience on The Mickey Mouse Club. "[The show] was honestly a kid's dream — unbelievably fun, particularly for a kid like me."