Mary Poppins and Saving Mr. Banks

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Mary Poppins is a delightful live action film that is full of Disney magic. This isn’t something you want to mess with so I was a little worried Disney’s new film Saving Mr. Banks would alter that magic.

For someone who loves children’s literature, I feel amiss that I have never read any of the eight Mary Poppins books penned by P. L. Travers. I think knowing the Disney classic my family and I have come to love is born from an author’s heart versus Disney imagination actually makes the idea of the original that much more endearing to me.

But even knowing this detail, Disney’s Mary Poppins is full of imagination and magic and I didn’t want the story about the film’s origins to change that.

I loved seeing how elements of making Mary Poppins unfolded in the scenes from Saving Mr. Banks, understanding that the film isn’t a documentary with many parts are not completely factual. Anyone who has read a book, children’s literature or otherwise, knows that half the joy of reading is creating your interpretation of the story in your head: how the characters look, how they interact with one another, an unseen backstory, houses they live in are all recreated in our minds as we delve into a story. Saving Mr. Banks is Disney’s interpretation of that story, with pixie dust sprinkled about.

Saving Mr. Banks does a nice job illustrating the struggle of interpretation between Ms. Traverse’s books and characters and the Disney creative team’s Disneyfication process. But Saving Mr. Banks is more than just a story of how a popular children’s book became a popular family movie.

Like many books there is a story behind the words and characters. The characters in Ms Traver’s Mary Poppins are more than fantasy but are family in a true sense. Seeing her story interpreted differently causes Ms Travers to relive parts of her childhood that were difficult.  The Mary Poppins story I know, with singing and dancing and magical interactions, is a stark contrast to the hard life Ms Traverse lived. Disney’s version changed her characters and I can see how that would be frustrating and sad.

Saving Mr. Banks has changed the way I see Disney’s version of Mary Poppins but not in a negative way like I expected. I think the characters are more endearing to me now. Although the film is a Disney film and deals with the creation of Disney’s family classic Mary Poppins, Saving Mr. Banks is nothing like Mary Poppins. I was entertained and cried a few times when I saw it in theatres but I was glad I didn’t bring my kids. I think the perception of another fun Mary Poppins movie would have led to a major disappointment. That being said, Saving Mr. Banks is coming out on Blu-ray March 18 and I can see this making a great edition to our family viewing library.

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