After that, she had no interest in edgier, more ‘‘adult’’ roles.
‘‘People are more interested in changing my image than I am,’’ she said in an interview. Scripts were sent to her, and ‘‘I read the first 10 pages and I'm a prostitute or a doper, and I fold them up and send them back.’’
In the 1970s, she made commercials for Skippy peanut butter, appearing with her real-life children.
She and Avalon were reunited in the 1987 movie ‘‘Back to the Beach,’’ in which Lori Loughlin played their daughter.
Funicello was ‘‘kind and down-to-earth,’’ Loughlin told the AP. ‘‘She was truly the embodiment of the friendly, all-American girl that we all loved to watch in the beach movies.’’
It was during the filming of ‘‘Back to the Beach’’ that Funicello noticed she had trouble walking — the first insidious sign of MS. She gradually lost control of her legs. Fearing people might think she was drunk, she went public with her condition in 1992.
She wrote of her triumphs and struggles in her 1994 autobiography, ‘‘A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes’’ — the title taken from a Disney song. In 1995, she appeared briefly in a television docudrama based on her book. And she spoke openly about the degenerative effects of MS.
‘‘My equilibrium is no more; it’s just progressively getting worse,’’ she said. ‘‘But I thank God I just didn’t wake up one morning and not be able to walk. You learn to live with it. You learn to live with anything, you really do.’’
Kathy Lennon, who was one of the singing Lennon Sisters and became friends with Funicello after appearing on ‘‘The Mickey Mouse Club,’’ said she and Funicello stayed in touch until a few years ago, when Lennon made her usual call to wish the actress a happy birthday and learned that MS had robbed her of her ability to speak.
‘‘Annie’s just not talking now,’’ Lennon recalled Funicello’s husband saying.
Funicello was born Oct. 22, 1942, in Utica, N.Y., and her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 4. She began taking dance lessons, and she won a beauty contest at 9. Then came her discovery by Disney.
Funicello’s devotion to Walt Disney remained throughout her life.
‘‘He was the dearest, kindest person, and truly was like a second father to me,’’ she said. ‘‘He was a kid at heart.’’
Asked about revisionist biographies that have portrayed Disney in a negative light, she said: ‘‘I don’t know what went on in the conference rooms. I know what I saw. And he was wonderful.’’
In 1965, Funicello married her agent, Jack Gilardi, and they had three children, Gina, Jack and Jason. The couple divorced 18 years later, and in 1986 she married Glen Holt, a harness racehorse trainer.
After her film career ended, she devoted herself to her family.
‘‘We are so sorry to lose Mother,’’ her children said in a statement. ‘‘She is no longer suffering anymore and is now dancing in heaven.’’
Associated Press writers Bob Thomas, Greg Risling and John C. Rogers and AP Television Writer Lynn Elber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.