The Making of 'Mary Poppins
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“You cannot capture a man’s entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one”.
Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
“Unlike Walt Disney” insists PL Travers, “Mary Poppins is the very enemy of whimsy and sentiment”. Coupled with the author’s determination that Disney’s film contains no singing nor animation, the stage is set for a biopic that is practically perfect in every way.
Flashing back and forth between early 1900’s rural Australia and 1960’s Los Angeles, Saving Mr. Banks is never jarring in linking Travers’ memories of her childhood with her protectiveness over the adaptation of her books. Whether it is via the use of dreams, unwelcome recollections or juxtaposing the rehearsal for a song with her father’s doomed speech at a public fair, Travers’ attachment to her characters is heart-achingly realised. The viewer comes to understand and appreciate that for Travers, Mary Poppins is family.
Though her disposition is overtly set in stark contrast to her overly-cheerful chauffeur, Emma Thompson avoids turning the author into a caricature. Her cantankerous behaviour, moulded by a deep sense of loss, makes her eventual surrender to the delight of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” even more uplifting. In his portrayal of Disney, Hanks is more the businessman at the head of a studio rather than the Uncle Walt we fondly recall from his television show. Only when he is in astride a carousel in Disneyland do we see a glint of the mogul's inner child.
Nevertheless, like Walt himself, it is whimsy and sentiment that prevails.
as Walt Disney
as Julie Andrews
as Dick Van Dyke
as Don DaGradi
Walt Disney was barely present at the studio while Travers was visiting. He left shortly after her arrival to holiday in Palm Springs.
According to Richard Sherman, the only song P.L. Travers liked from the film Mary Poppins was "Feed the Birds", not “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”.
Walt Disney did not chase Travers home to London in one last-ditch effort to secure the film rights to her books.
Though Travers' mother did unsuccessfully attempt to drown herself, Travers did not save her.
The character of Ralph the limousine driver is fictional.