Woman With Cerebral Palsy Pens Script For Disney
NAPERVILLE, Ill. — Erin Feeney, 28, wants to have a career in fairy tales.
And so far, she has already paved a path to one of the known entities of fairy tales — Disney.
Feeney just saw her first script for the Disney animated show, “Doc McStuffins” come to fruition in a cartoon entitled Ultimate Safari “Tail Spin.” The animated short premiered Monday on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior. (For those not familiar, “Doc McStuffins” is an animated children’s series about a girl who fixes toys with the aid of her toy friends.)
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Feeney’s two-minute interstitial shows Doc and her toy team helping a whirly bird named Topsy get back to her flock and perform the “Sunrise Spin.” The spot is also available in the DisneyNOW app and on the Disney Junior YouTube page.
“I can hardly believe it,” said Feeney who expressed her enthusiasm via her communication board attached to her wheelchair. Feeney was born with cerebral palsy and is unable to speak. She communicates by pointing to words and letters on her board. Her father, Kevin, is her translator and is quick to spell out her messages by watching where she points.
He remembers Erin’s path to writing for the small screen started a few years ago after her short stories turned into a short film with actors who were people with disabilities, he said. That film grew into a feature that played in the Naperville Independent Film Festival in 2016 where some people who worked with Disney on Ice noticed. Shea Fontana, the writer of the Disney on Ice script, also wrote for “Doc McStuffins.” Erin attended that ice show and met Fontana, who subsequently invited Erin to submit some script ideas for “Doc McStuffins.” Erin submitted 10 ideas and two made the cut. One of them is “Tail Spin,” which took a few hours to write initially, Erin said. Some back and forth with producers and about five edits, and the script was complete in two or three weeks, her father added.
“Since it’s animation, it takes a long time to do all that stuff,” Kevin Feeney said.
After the process, Disney invited the Feeneys to Los Angeles for four days in August 2017 where they met some of the voice artists in a recording session. The Feeneys also made a visit to Disneyland.
“They were really nice and when we were eating lunch, Henry Winkler (aka the Fonz) was recording in the building for another cartoon show, so we got to meet him — a real nice guy,” Feeney said.
After that, it was just a waiting game for the cartoon to be produced. And this week, the family was up extra early to see the premiere live.
“Erin has always had talent — a huge imagination,” Kevin Feeney said. “She loves the Disney stories, Grimms’ Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen, those types of things. We’re reading the biography of Andersen, and she’s listening to the audio book of the life of Helen Keller.”
“I was a lonely kid, so I started watching the Disney movies and fell in love with the princesses,” she said. Her favorites (Snow White, Thumbelina and Cinderella). But she laughs saying “Elsa and Anna are cool.” (Get it? Because they’re both princesses from “Frozen.”)
“Erin’s dream has been to write fairy tales for kids all her life and in particular Disney stories, so we’re hoping that one of these days, she can make a career of that. But Erin wants to finish college first. And then go from there,” her dad said.
Erin Feeney is an English major at College of DuPage. According to Kevin, she has three courses left before she hopes to transfer to Elmhurst College. In the meantime, Feeney keeps writing her stories — all fiction, many of them original fairy tales, she says. The next thing on the horizon: sending her work to publishers and moving to Los Angeles.
When asked if she’s tired of winters, Erin nods emphatically.
“She saw the ocean in Santa Monica and I think that did it,” her dad said. “But first she has to finish college.”
Her dad said she’s already received some emails about her “McStuffins” debut. And he says about additional Disney work for Erin, “We hope there’s some more in the not so distant future.”
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