Mary Poppins is a classic for the ages! The Witty songs and the creative performances have caught so many hearts and minds until this day. It appears Mary Poppins was the ideal nanny to tidy up messes, care for the children and restore order to a household.
Mary Poppins, produced by Walt Disney and directed by Robert Stevenson, was Disney’s most significant success. Released in 1964, the movie was nominated for thirteen Oscars. It was credited with five, including Best Film Editing, Best Original Music Score, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Song, and Best Actress (Julie Andrews).
A Film Classic
Starring alongside the great Julie Andrews were David Tomlinson and Dick Van Dyke. Numerous clever facts were discovered after the film came out. There is no doubt the movie is for all age ranges. The movie highlights a troublesome, dysfunctional family in desperate need of some order.
Busy dad is working for a bank, and preoccupied mom is highly involved in the suffragette movement, pushing for women’s voting rights. The kids Jane and Michael, lacking needed time with their parents, were always getting caught in mischief.
Julie Andrews proved her talent over years of acting, singing, and dancing. Did you know, however, that Mary Poppins was her breakout role? This was after Disney saw Julie perform on Broadway’s “Camelot.” Julie had seen much success, but this was her first film.
Andrews had flown across the Atlantic, leaving her home in London and heading to Los Angeles to take on the significant lead role. “My first weeks at the Walt Disney Studios were consumed with meetings and wardrobe and wig fittings. I was struck by the differences between preparing for a film role and preparing for a stage performance.”
Pushing the Initial Release
Disney wanted to cast Julie Andrews for the role, and the writers were willing to wait to make it happen. When Andrews was offered the part, she was pregnant, so they postponed filming to ensure they had their star lead.
Once giving birth to her first child, Andrews, and her husband were off to Los Angeles. Transitioning into the new life caught Andrews off guard but, she eventually adjusted. Having to take on the movie industry, Julie was inspired by the early costume design instead of theater to formulate Mary’s classical representation in the early 1900s.
Disney’s Adaption to the Book
Mary Poppins was characterized as strict and pretentious in P.L Traver’s Book. However, alterations were made. Poppins was made sweet and amiable but having the needed grasp for discipline.
Only two children were part of the Banks family instead of the original four. The other two were twins named John and Barbara. In the movie, Mr. Banks interviews Mary for the nanny position, while in the book, Mrs. Banks does. Mrs. Banks’s name in the book was Cynthia, but, considering her role in the Women’s Suffrage movement, it was changed to Winifred to give it an English tone.
Taking on Two Characters
Dick Van Dyke took on two roles in Mary Poppins. The first was Bert, the chimney sweep, and the second was Mr. Dawes Senior.
Disney felt that Dick wasn’t right to play Mr. Dawes, but he was determined and convinced Disney to grant him the role after a screening test. “Mary Poppins Returns,” a follow-up to the original film, was released fifty years later. Dick took yet another role as Mr. Dawes Junior, played by Arthur Malet in the original movie.
Spurring an Empire
Mary Poppins had reeled in some serious cash as a result of its popularity. The original budget for the movie was somewhere between $4.4-6 million dollars bringing in a $28.5 million profit, an incredible sum of money for that time. Disney had decided to take a considerable chunk and invest it in purchasing land in Florida for the future Walt Disney World.
Parts of the profits were also used to construct the actual park itself. Fun fact, some of the money was utilized to create the Disney World Monorail System.
It’s incredible to think that due to the movie’s success, this long nonsensical word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Try saying that five times fast. It means extraordinarily good or outstanding. After Mary had won a horse race in the movie, she was at a loss for words and figured there must be something she could say to explain the feeling.
Richard and Robert Sherman, who wrote the music for the film, are credited for the word simply making it up.
Approving the Adaptation
The original author of the “Mary Poppins” series P.L Travers, was not quick to hand over the rights to the film. It took almost 20 years for the adaptation to be approved. Travers was not a fan of the movie and was never given editing rights.
Travers was devasted when she saw the movie and how it had torn the original apart. Among the various things she didn’t like was the period’s shift, the vision of the family’s home, and the animated sequences.
The Movie’s Influence
The Simpsons created a whole episode inspired by Mary Poppins. The title of the episode was called “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)curious.” The entire episode was essentially a parody featuring “Sharry Bobbins” a spin on the original movie’s character, who help the Simpson family after Marge loses her hair due to stress.
“The Simpsons” made sure to credit the episode appropriately. They added spoof songs such as “The Perfect Nanny,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Feed the Birds,” and “The Life I Lead.”
Dick Van Dyke didn’t hold up to the accent standards, apparently. He felt he needed to apologize for it. “I appreciate this opportunity to apologize to the members of Bafta for inflicting on them the most atrocious Cockney accent in the history of cinema,” said Dyke after being honored by Bafta and receiving the Britannia award for excellence in television.
It appears fans weren’t shy to critique. Setting aside the imperfect accent, it seems that Dick was still appreciated for his role as he was offered to play in the sequel.
Among all the musical hits in the film, it seems that Andrew’s favorite was “Stay Awake.” The song was a lullaby that Mary Poppins sung to the kids, Jane and Michael. Clever a name, it was sung to the children when they refused to go to bed. However, upon hearing the song, they fell asleep instantly.
There was a plan to cut the song out of the movie, but Andrews wouldn’t have it. When hearing that it would get cut, she wrote to P.L Travers, who immediately reenlisted the song.
Where Was the Movie Filmed?
The movie was set in London; however, the physical location for the film was created entirely at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. The design in the background was painted to make it look like the British capital. 100 matte and glass paintings were used to portray the 1910 London skyline.
The designs, however, were influenced by existing places in London. For example, the St. Paul’s Cathedral was located on Ludgate Hill in London, where the children sing “Feed the Birds” or Cherry Tree Lane that resembled various streets in Kensington Square.
David Tomlinson played several voiceovers in addition to his part. He did the voice for both Admiral Boom’s First Mate and Mary’s talking umbrella. One of the film’s creators, Richard Sherman, voiced one of the Pearly Kings and a penguin.
Julie Andrews also took part in voiceovers in addition to her leading character. She was one of the singers in “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and was the Whistling Robin in “A Spoonful of Sugar.” Her talent was used throughout the movie.
Mixing It Up
In the original book, Mary had a group of friends introduced throughout the storyline. However, in the movie, the friend group was combined to create Bert.
The famous “Chim Chim Cheree” song took much inspiration from a drawing of Bert by one of the animators. Additionally, the author spoke out against any romantic relationship between Mary and Bert. In the book, they were simply friends and didn’t want to change the movie.
Taking On a New Challenge
David Tomlinson was the actor who took the part of the children’s father, Mr. Banks. What was surprising was that he had not sung before taking on the role. He felt unsettled as he thought himself not good enough to play the part.
Everything worked out in the end, and David stood up to the challenge, considering how successful the movie was. Interestingly enough, Mr. Banks worked at a bank called Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubss Fidelity Fiduciary Bank. If I worked there, I would never remember the name.
Kristen Bell’s Take
Mary Poppins has inspired many shows, metaphors, and spoofs. Kristen dedicated her appreciation to the time-honored tale. This time she had new demands for the job. Let’s not forget that Kristen Bell has a beautiful singing voice.
The title of the spoof was Mary Poppins Quits. With gender pay gaps being a hot topic, the spinoff tackles how Mary needs a raise. The satire was part of Funny or Die productions. Kristen fine-tunes the “Spoonful of Sugar Song” to “The pay’s too low, I can’t live on this dough.” etc.
Dick Van Dyke was not First Pick
Considering that the book took place in England. It had a British feel to it, and P.L Travers logically thought it would be fitting to choose a British actor for the role of Bert, such as Richard Burton, Alec Guinness, Richard Harris, Rex Harrison, Rony Moody, etc.
Disney’s initial pick was Carrie Grant. In the end, Dick Van Dyke was chosen for the role. Stanley Holloway was also up to play Admiral Boom but took another incredible gig on My Fair Lady.
Sometimes It Must Be Done
Sometimes all we need is a little incentive to push us forward. Mathew Garber was allegedly afraid of heights, and to get over the fear and do the tea party scenes, a crew member offered him ten cents for every take.
Julie Andrews also had her share of high-rise scenes. Andrews was held with wires that seemed initially problematic for those scenes as they could be seen lifting her. It was decided that they be painted with shoe polish to blend in with the studio lights.
For any artist, inspiration can be the key to get things rolling. Sometimes it can be from a song we hear on the radio, a funny character on the street, or a family member. In Disney’s case, his daughter was a big fan of the Mary Poppins story growing up.
Diane, Disney’s daughter, supposedly inspired him to take the movie on as “The” project. She knew Walt could create something magical.
Calling the Shermans
One of Disney’s favorite songs ever was “Feed the Bird” from Mary Poppins. Walt Disney intuitively would call Richard Sherman on Fridays, requesting he play the song for him. Walt thanked him for the song, noting it was what he needed to hear.
You will probably find the “Partners Statue” of Walt and Mickey if you have visited Disneyland. Sherman sang “Feed the Birds” at a dedication ceremony in honor of Walt. It only makes sense that it would be the song chosen to commemorate him.
Glynis Johns was Disney’s chosen favorite to play Mrs. Banks. Be that as it may, Glynis believed they wanted her to play Mary Poppins. As she was not offered the lead role in the film, she would only agree to the project if she had the opportunity to sing. The decision was made, and the Sherman brothers quickly began working on “Sister Suffragette.”
She fell in love with the song and agreed to play the part as a result. All that was needed to convince her was the perfect musical number.
Adding to the Atmosphere
Remember the bird on Mary Poppins finger in “A Spoonful of Sugar”? The movie was recognized for its unique animation and original puppeteering. In addition, the technology used in the film was ahead of its time. The special effects in the film were recognized for their outstanding capabilities.
For example, “I Love to Laugh” made the characters appear as if they were floating. They used special wires to create the effect, and the filmmakers had to make slight adjustments in the shots to hide the cables from the audience.
The Meaning Behind the Kite
David Tomlinson sings “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” as George Banks, Bert, and an entire chorus later join. The song came with great symbolism for Mr. Banks. He realizes that his family means a lot more to him than his job.
He decided to fix his son’s kite and took the whole family out on an adventure to fly it. Inspiration for the song came from Al Sherman (the Sherman brother’s father), an amateur kite maker and a recognized songwriter.
Mark of a Movie
The movie has been available in many different formats, including VHS, since 1981 on top of various new updates and releases. It’s Not surprising that Mary Poppins holds the record for Disney’s most prolonged in-print status, meaning it has been able to withstand the test of time.
You may have noticed the scene where a long line of potential nannies was waiting outside the bank’s home to get hired. Another essential detail happens to be that the nannies up for position were male actors dressed up in drag outfits and makeup.
Artifacts for the Memories
Did you ever ride a carousel horse when you were a kid? In the movie, Mary Poppins rides a horse in the carousel “Jolly Holiday” sequence. The horse from the film is still on display in Orlando, Florida.
Dave Smith, the chief archivist of the Walt Disney Archives, went on a mission to find the snow globe from the film where birds are seen flying over St. Paul’s. He ended up finding it in a janitor’s closet who, rather than tossing it, liked the piece and decided to keep it.
The Reality of the Chimney Sweepers
As a reflection of the initial industrial days, chimney sweeps didn’t have a long life expectancy. The unfortunate reality was that they would suffer various health conditions because of the amount of coal inhaled. They could eventually fall into unemployment and suffer poverty.
The entire reality of such a job came with bad luck. They would shake hands, hoping to transfer over some good luck in case they wouldn’t make it through for the long run. The handshake was referenced in the movie.
Julie Andrew’s Memoir
In Julie Andrew’s memoir, she speaks about her experience playing the incredible Mary Poppins. She recalls some of her most vivid memories from working with the cast and crew, and in particular Dick Van Dyke: “We hit it off from day one. He was dazzlingly inventive, always in a sunny mood, and he often made me roar with laughter at his antics.”
She also noted the difference in working on film, “I was acutely aware of the camera’s presence and surprised by the number of shots required to make up one small scene.”
What is Andrews Up to These Days?
Maybe you remember Julie Andrew’s surprise appearance at the Oscars? On top of taking the incredible role as Mary Poppins, Julia Andrews also took the lead in the Sound of Music. To honor her performances, Lady Gaga sang a medley of songs that trended all over the world. Julie came on stage following the performance to congratulate Gaga on the beautiful rendition.
In 2015 Lyndon Terracina, an Australian operatic baritone proclaimed that Julia would become the director at Sydney Opera House for Opera Australia for my Fair Lady.
Despite being currently 86 years old, Andrews continues to work in the industry. She took part in the hit animated movies Despicable Me and Despicable Me 3, playing the voice of Marlena Gru. In 2017, Netflix premiered Julie’s Greenroom, a preschool TV series created with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, and Judy Rothman.
In Aquaman by James Wan, Julie voiced a leviathan by the name of Karathen. More recently, the Oscar-winning actress has become the narrator on Netflix’s hit drama Bridgerton as gossip queen Lady Whistledown.
The Best of the Best
After the success of Mary Poppins, Andrews became a household name. It is not surprising that Andrews took on yet another role as a nanny, this time on The Sound of Music. Like Mary Poppins, the actress plays a nanny who helps the family restore order and rekindle the father’s relationship with his children.
The Sound of Music came out in 1965, a year after Mary Poppins hit theaters. They couldn’t have picked a better actress for the part as the movie also became a classic.
Why Not Use It Again?
What a pleasant surprise it must have been for Andrews to return to set the same set from many years ago. It just so happens that the Princess Diaries was on the same stage as Mary Poppins – Stage 2 at Walt Disney Studios.
When Andrews arrived on set, she found a plaque inscribed’Mary Poppins was filmed here,’ making her nostalgic all of a sudden. Honoring the tradition of movie and Julie’s infamous acting montage, another plaque was added to the stage in 2001, with “Julie Andrews Stage 2” written on it.
Change in Size
Remember the blossoms from Cherry Tree Lane? The pieces were imported from Portugal and France. To make sure the parts were kept intact, each leaf and bloom were hand placed. To increase the visual effect, the homes on Cherry Tree Lane were slightly altered for perspective. The houses were created on a scale to become minimized through the landscape.
As the lane receded, the houses started to look smaller. This was one among many visual effects added for context.
The British Are Coming
We already know that P.L Travers was not happy with the outcome of the movie. She felt that her whole masterpiece was torn apart. Knowing this, when she was approached in the 1990s by Cameron Macintosh to do a stage musical of Mary Poppins, she agreed if English-born writers were involved in the project.
The original author was furious with Walt Disney and the time she had worked with him. She also specified that she didn’t want anyone from the movie production to work on the stage musical.
Narrowing the List Down
The Sherman brothers wrote thirty songs in total for the film. In the end, only about ten of them were used. However, the latter didn’t go to waste. Some of them were used in other productions. For example, “The Beautiful Briny” was used in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
The Jungle Book also used one of the Sherman Brothers’ original melodies from “Land of Sand.” The name was changed, however, to “Trust in Me.” It only makes sense that the efforts for the catchy songs would not be forgotten.
Final Acting Job
Jane Darwell, who played the St. Paul’s Cathedral Bird Lady, took on her last acting role in Mary Poppins. She was born in 1879, and having been in her mid-80’s at the time; she refused to take part as she had retired.
At the time, she lived at Motion Picture Country Home due to her old age and frailness. Disney, wanting her to play the part, drove to her home and pleaded with her to take it. She agreed and was driven to set by a limo.
Reliving the excitement of the movie, a Mary Poppins ride was planned to be added to the Magic Kingdom as opposed to the previously scheduled Peter Pan’s Flight. Roy O. Disney canceled the project.
He felt that fans on the East Coast would miss out on the opportunity to relive one of their favorite Disney Musicals by not riding the same ride. In any case, the Peter Pan’s Flight attraction turned out to be a hit.
Saving Mr. Banks
Ever wondered how the movie came together? Well, another movie told us all about the creation of the Oscar-winning piece. It’s called Saving Mr. Banks. Tom Hanks took on the role of Walt Disney, and Emma Thompson played P.L. Travers.
There are depictions from Traver’s challenging childhood in 1906, which went into the Mary Poppins character. When her father passed away due to tuberculosis, her aunt from her mother’s side came to live with them and inspired the main character’s development.
Travers adored her father and did want him to be portrayed as harsh and mean. Disney and his team were confused by her reaction. Considering how creative she was in the book, more imagination could be put in place.
Trying to Mend Things
The movie’s production brought painful memories for Travers, so she had a minor setback in helping formulate the film. Receiving some insight into her childhood memories, Disney decided to alter George Banks’s character to create more of a happy ending.
A new song was also added to satisfy some of the author’s criticisms. One day, Disney communicated to Travers the power that art had to heal old wounds, and that same night, she granted him the rights to the film.
Sequel to the Original
2018 was the year the sequel Mary Poppins Returns was released by Walt Disney Pictures. Twenty-five years had gone by since the first movie, and the plot is based on the seven remaining books P.L Taveras wrote about the character.
Emily Blunt stars as Mary Poppins, and Lin Manel Miranda plays Bert. Other notable names include Ben Whishaw and Meryl Streep. One of the original actors, Dick Van Dyke returns to play in the new movie as Mr. Dawes Jr.
The movie takes place during Great Depression, about 25 years after the original setting of the first movie. This time the movie was filmed at Shepperton Studios in England. The time gap between the first movie in the sequel was one of the longest in history.
The movie portrays Michael Banks living with his three children in his old childhood home. He now has three children, John, Annabel, and Georgie. References from the first Mary Poppins come back, such as him working as a banker and finding his old kite from when he was a kid.
Did It Stand Up to the Original?
The movie successfully brought 349 million dollars in revenues and received overall positive feedback from critiques. Among the features recognized, cast performance and musical numbers were included.
The movie took home four awards at the 76th Golden Globe awards. One of the major ones was Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Mary Poppins Returns also took home three British Academy Film Awards. It was also nominated for Oscars, including Best Original Score, Best Original Song, and Best Production Design.
Cameo in the Sequel
Julie Andrews was offered to participate in the sequel but declined, saying, “This is Emily’s show, and I want her to run with this. She should run with this. This is her. I don’t want to be on top of that.”
No doubt, it was not only tasteful but very elegant of her to refuse the offer. It is also understandable when you have had a tremendous career as Andrews has had; she does not need any more limelight. Instead, she focused on other projects.