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On the Town: The story of the real Fairy Godmother

October 10, 2012|By David Laurell
  • Joan Patricia "J.P." O'Connor, and her husband, Cotton Thompson, hosted a pre-release premiere of "The Real Fairy Godmother" feature that appears on Disneys new Diamond Edition release of "Cinderella."
Joan Patricia "J.P." O'Connor, and… (Courtesy photo )

At the stroke of midnight on October 2, Disney released the Blu-ray Diamond Edition of the studio’s 1950’s classic, “Cinderella.” The offering includes a bonus feature, “The Real Fairy Godmother,” that tells the tale of long-time Burbank residents Ken O’Connor, who served as the art director of the film, and his wife, Mary Alice O’Conner, who was the inspiration for the Fairy Godmother character. Just hours before the release, a very special gathering took place at the O’Connor family home as Ken and Mary Alice’s daughter, Joan Patricia “J.P.” O’Connor, and her husband, Cotton Thompson, hosted a pre-release premiere screening and dinner party.

Welcomed by J.P., the assemblage included long-time family friends and numerous Disney employees and artists who had studied under Ken, who died in May of 1998, and had worked on the feature honoring Mary Alice, who died in June of 2010.

“My mother celebrated every day of her life,” said J.P. “She truly loved having our home filled with interesting people, sharing stories and their passion. Whether you’d known my family several hours or a lifetime, people always felt comfortable here, which I believe reflected the mutual respect, grace and curiosity of my mom and dad. Because of that, there seemed no more appropriate way than to gather dear friends together to share in the re-release of ‘Cinderella’ and to celebrate the telling of the true fairy godmother’s story.”

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Very special guests were Jim Davy, a producer with the Walt Disney Studios, and production coordinator Jessica Arcelles, who worked together to make “The Real Fairy Godmother” feature a reality. Other notables who enjoyed the evening were Disney animation historian Paula Lowery, who appears in the feature, along with three-time Emmy Award-winner and director of “The Simpsons,” Mark Kirkland and Disney art director and layout artist Ed Ghertner, who were both mentored by Ken when they were students at the California Institute of the Arts.

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