It took 50 years for the truth to come out about the torturous process that Walt Disney and the Disney studios went through in order to make the fantasmagorical spectacular movie that we all know as “Mary Poppins” back in 1964. It was unlike any other movie which had ever been made before, combining real life actors with animated characters on the screen at the same time, seamlessly! Little did we know as we were watching this magnificent film on the big movie screen that the woman who had written the original stories starting back in 1934 had put them through hell in order to secure the rights to use her stories for the movie. P.L. Travers was born in Australia as Helen Lyndon Goff, the daughter of an unsuccessful bank manager who was later demoted to a bank clerk, named Travers Robert Goff. Due to his drinking and depression, he died at the young age of 46 from influenza when Helen was only 8 years old.
Interspersed with the story of the torturous process involved in the development of the screenplay and songs for Disney to procure the rights to make the movie, are flashbacks to her childhood memories that it becomes painfully obvious, were the basis for her stories of the nanny, Mary Poppins. “Saving Mr. Banks” will bring the baby-boomer generation back to their childhood hearing the wonderful songs that we grew up with as the Sherman Brothers, Richard & Robert brilliantly portrayed by Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak write such classics as“Just a Spoonful of Sugar” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, much to the dismay of Miss Travers. She was determined that her books were absolutely not going to become Disneyfied and become a part of what she described at his Hollywood cash machine.
Ms. Travers is wonderfully portrayed by Emma Thompson as a hard-nosed, bitter, elderly woman. Prior to the two weeks which are the primary focus of this film, Walt Disney had been courting and negotiating with Ms. Travers since 1938 to make a movie using her books because of a promise he had made to his young daughters to bring Mary Poppins to life after learning it was their favorite storybook.She only acquiesced due to financial hardships she was experiencing because of writer’s block in the 1960’s as she was in her 60’s, but she insisted on having final approval rights and was adamant that there was to be no animation used to tell her story. As the story unfolds in this movie, “Mary Poppins” was not a story about the nanny arriving to save the children, but it was the wishful story of a little girl who wished that someone had magically come along in time to save her daddy when she was young. When Mr. Disney finally realizes this fact, he begins to soften her just enough to get the rights, and successfully makes his movie, which has brought joy to many generations. My friend, who attended the movie with me, and I were both wiping tears at the end of the movie and several times throughout, as many people in the theater were. “Saving Mr. Banks” is a heartwarming story about one of my favorite movies and some of my favorite songs, brilliantly acted with an excellent screenplay. Now I need to go back and watch “Mary Poppins” all over again!
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