Apr 01, 2014
Although wildly popular and starring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, Disney's fictionalized version of the making of Mary Poppins and Walt Disney's relationship with the prickly author P. L. Travers is from all reports a bit sanitized. Check out Vulture's fascinating article: Saving Mr. Banks Left Out an Awful Lot About P.L. Travers.
There's no denying Julie Andrews's beloved portrayal of Mary Poppins differs greatly from the original novels as Caitlin Flanagan describes in the New Yorker's Becoming Mary Poppins: P. L. Travers, Walt Disney, and the Making of a Myth. "What people remember about the movie is that the family finds happiness and the nanny is magical. What they misremember is that it’s a film with a surprising moral: fire the nanny."
For more about P.L. Travers's fascinating life, check out Valerie Lawson's comprehensive biography: Mary Poppins, She Wrote (available through interlibrary loan) and of course, the original books are available in the library's collection. Start with the first book in the series: Mary Poppins or try it on audiobook (read by Sophie Thompson--Emma's sister!)
But wait there's more! How about the exceptional music in Mary Poppins and in so many of the Disney films? A recent documentary: The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story explores the lives of Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, the Academy Award-winning songwriting team that defined family musical entertainment. Interesting look at their work and lives, including the casting of Mary Poppins and the deep rift that has kept the brothers estranged throughout much of their professional partnership.
Waking Sleeping Beauty is another fascinating documentary about the world of Disney. By the mid-1980s, the fabled animation studios of Walt Disney had fallen on hard times. The artists were polarized between newcomers hungry to innovate and old timers not yet ready to relinquish control. The following is no fairy tale. It's the true story of how Disney regained its magic with a staggering output of hits such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and others.
Whatever liberties Disney may have taken with the text, there's no denying that the Sherman brothers' music was magical and remains so to this day. See the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and the soundtrack to Saving Mr. Banks for lots of extra songs and demos from the original recordings.
Happy reading, watching and listening!