How Mary Poppins was turned into a Disney movie

marypoppinsIf you love children’s books the way I do, especially classic children’s fantasy, you’ll be interested in this movie trailer:

Emma Thompson plays the fantastic P.L. Travers in this true (or mostly true) story about how the movie Mary Poppins was made.  So you know, Mary Poppins is very high on my list of favorite children’s books that bear no resemblance to their movie versions.  The movie gets a great big blech for singing, dancing, and cutesy animation.  If you’ve read the books, you know there’s nothing cutesy about Mary Poppins.

Watching this trailer, it seems Emma Thompson is made for this role (though I honestly know very little about Travers).

If you haven’t read any of the Mary Poppins books, and most people haven’t, they are gloriously sarcastic, witty, biting, and NOT sentimental.  Well, not really.  They are also as magical as Oz or Harry Potter or any of the other fantasy worlds we love so much.  Mary is an absolute enigma, and as a child she sort of scared the pants off me a little bit — and that’s what I love about her.

Saving Mr. Banks comes out this December.  What’s exciting about this movie is it really explores how a great children’s series was written, and the pitfalls of making great children’s books into movies.  On the flip side, however, I’m worried the message of this movie is “but wasn’t the movie version great and aren’t you glad after all it was so much more heartwarming than the books?”  PL_Travers

Unfortunately, this is a film made by Disney, with the world’s most loveable man, Tom Hanks, playing Disney.  So I hope, hope, hope this is a movie about how great these books are, and not about how great Disney was – but I doubt it.   I do trust Emma Thompson but I’m not sure that will be enough.  Travers hated the movie adaptation of her book and didn’t feel she was well treated by Disney.  Can we trust a Disney movie to tell the real story?

I love movies that are about how great books are written, like Finding Neverland and Shakespeare in Love (even if fictional).  What I don’t like are movies that simplify or romancify my favorite books.

If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to read and reread some of my favorite Mary Poppins books  (there are eight altogether).  I ordered the first three books this morning.  And, I learned two things about P.L. Travers: one, she was born in Australia, and two, she started out as an actress.  How awesome is this photo of Travers from the 20’s?

7 Responses to “How Mary Poppins was turned into a Disney movie”

  1. Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader

    I absolutely must read the book. I never have and that’s a shame. (Just added it to my wish list, thanks!)

    I’m very interested in how this film was handled. I’ll be curious to see if it’s a love letter to Walt or not 😉

    That picture is fantastic!

  2. Lark

    I found Mary Poppins a hard slog when I was a kid…I just couldn’t get into it, but maybe I should try it again as an adult. Who knows, I might really appreciate it now.

    • curlygeek04

      I’m sure these books are not for everyone! Mary Poppins is a tough character to like (she’s vain, irritable, etc.) but these books were really magical to me.

  3. Alley

    I feel embarrassed to admit this, but I didn’t realize there WAS a Mary Poppins book, let alone a series of books. Of course now that I think of it, it seems obvious. Something to check out…

  4. Lindsey

    I read Mary Poppins with my son a month or two ago. As written by Travers, she is a vain, sort of nasty woman. I can understand why you were frightened by her.

    With regards to the movie, I am getting the impression that both sides were less than civil. Disney felt liked Travers was being difficult for the sake of being difficult and Travers felt like they were ruining the story she worked so hard to write. I will be interested what the movie does with the conflict.

  5. DisneyNerd242

    I also love movies about how books are made, Finding Neverland being one of my favorites! I, as you know from my blog, am a Disney fanatic and am too excited for Emma Thompson, but strongly disagree with the choice of Tom Hanks for Disney. Hopefully the movie turns out well!


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