In 1934, British-Australian author, P. L. Travers published a children’s fantasy book about an English nanny who possessed magical abilities. Her adventures bring her to the home of the Banks children where she dazzles, amazes, and teaches the youngsters. The name of this nanny is Mary Poppins.
And, like a “spoon full of sugar”, her escapades went down as an instant classic. It wasn’t long before Walt Disney got his hand on the film rights and turned Mary Poppins into a legend. She has been the subject of many books, and multiple films.
However, easily her most famous appearance was the 1964 original film from the Mouse House. In the movie, Mary Poppins is played by the great Julie Andrews. The movie has all the magic, song, animation, and dance we expect from a Disney film.
However, there may be some things you didn’t notice about this memorable movie. Stick with Facts Verse as we examine some of the huge details you missed in 1964’s Mary Poppins.
In the years since Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews has become a household name. She starred in films such as The Sound of Music and Victor Victoria. However, in 1963, she was relatively unknown.
She spent much of her early career working on Broadway. When scouting talent for the film, Walt Disney went to Andrew’s stage production of Camelot. After the show, Disney knew he had found the perfect actress for the role.
Andrews initially declined because she was pregnant. However, so convinced was Disney that she was perfect, he decided to halt production for several months.
Even P.L. Travers approved of Andrews for the role after speaking with her on the phone.
It seemed Walt Disney had the right idea. Julie Andrews ended up taking home the best actress Oscar for playing Mary Poppins.
Not many films give you fantastical escapism like Disney movies. This is particularly true with Mary Poppins as the film uniquely blends live-action with the iconic Disney animation. The result is a wonderful journey for the entire family.
However, this adventure in Mary Poppins is not as sprawling as you might imagine. In fact, the entire movie was filmed on location at Disney studios.
But how did they get Burbank, California to resemble London? The set designers created more than 100 glass and matte paintings to create a little London right in the studio.
Leave it to Disney to employ this bit of movie magic.
Before we take a look at some other unique details about Mary Poppins, take a moment to give this video a like. Also, for similar pop culture tales, think about subscribing to the Facts Verse page.
Walt Disney Tried for Decades to Secure the Rights
P.L. Travers was reluctant to sell the rights of Mary Poppins. She thought a film adaptation of the characters wouldn’t work based on her source material.
Walt Disney first approached Travers in 1938 probing about obtaining the film rights. Travers refused. Up to this point, Disney had only made animation and did not have a track record of live-action success.
However, Walt Disney’s daughters were huge films of the Mary Poppins books and Walt promised to make a film of it. As such, Disney spent the next 20 years trying to convince Travers to change her mind.
She finally agreed in 1961 under the exception that she have script approval rights. We will take a closer look at what she thought of the final product later.
This relationship between Walt Disney and P.L Travers was dramatized in the 2013 Disney film Saving Mr. Banks. Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson play Disney and Travers, respectively.
The Highest Grossing Film and a Critical Darling of 1964
After working for so long to secure the right to the film, it was a vindication for Walt Disney to see Mary Poppins become an extraordinary success.
On a roughly 5 million dollar budget, Mary Poppins hauled in more than 103 million at the box office. Not only was this number good enough to be the highest-grossing film of 1964, but it was also the most popular movie to ever be released by Walt Disney Studios.
The film wasn’t just a commercial success either, the critics also adored the whimsical film. At the Oscars, Mary Poppins secured a staggering 13 nominations including best director, best actress, and even Best Picture. This number was also a record for a Disney film.
On the night of the awards, Mary Poppins won five categories. Beyond Julie Andrews as best actress, best original song, and best visual effects, and more were secured.
The Profit Funded Walt Disney World
Speaking of the massive box office returns, these dollars did more than just line the studio’s pockets.
The profit helped pay for Walt Disney World. After the film, Walt Disney purchased a huge parcel of land in Central Florida with the theme park in mind.
The Park was finished in 1971 and has become the highest-grossing theme park in the world and a massive tourist destination.
Thank you, Mary Poppins.
Bert is an Amalgam of Many Travers Characters
One of the most memorable roles in the film is Dick Van Dyke’s character, Bert. Bert is a jack of all trades and one of Mary’s closest friends.
However, unlike Mary herself, Bert is not a direct lift from the pages of the Travers’ books. Instead, he is a combination of many of her supporting characters. Notably, Bert is recognized as a chimney sweep. His song “Chim Chim Cher-ee” was written with that job in mind.
Yet, throughout the film, Bert also has the jobs of street artist, musician, and a kite salesman.
Disney got away with inventing this character, but Travers insisted that the film wouldn’t allude to a romance between Bert and Mary. Instead, they are written as only friends.
Many Names were Shopped before Van Dyke
Speaking of Dick Van Dyke’s character Bert, the role was nearly filled by someone else. In fact, quite a few names were kicked around for Bert.
Lawrence Harvey and Cary Grant were a few of the names that Disney suggested. He was adamantly in favor of Grant playing the part.
Meanwhile, the most important aspect for Travers was that he was British. As such, she proposed Lawrence Olivier, Ron Moody, Peter O’ Toole, Alec Guinness, and Peter Sellers.
After much deliberation, the studio went with the pizzaz and energy of Dick Van Dyke.
It would be hard to imagine anyone else in this role.
P.L. Travers was Disappointed with Much of the Movie
As noted earlier, P.L. Travers was not thrilled with the on-screen representation of her characters. It seems it was nearly impossible for Disney to get her approval on all aspects.
Although Travers was involved with the movie development, Walt Disney had the final creative say. Travers had complaints about a number of things.
Foremost, Travers didn’t approve of the film version of Mary Poppins’ cheery disposition. Instead, she felt the character should have a sterner attitude as in the books. But c’mon how could you not like Julie Andrews’s performance?
Travers also hated the musical numbers in the film and the animation. To be fair, it seems Disney was in the right with these ideas. Most fans will agree that the Oscar-winning music and patented Disney animation are the most fun parts of the movie.
Even at the premiere of the movie in 1964, Travers still had notes and changes she wanted to discuss with the studio. Addressing these concerns at the after-party to Walt, Travers was met with stark realization. Walt Disney famously told her “Pamela, the ship has sailed”
One of the Longest Gaps Between Sequels
If you watched the Mary Poppins when it came out, you might not have realized that it had a sequel. This is because it has one of the longest time gaps between sequels of any franchise.
In 2018, Disney decided to follow up their smash hit from decades before with Mary Poppins Returns. This puts the gap between sequels at a whopping 54 years.
The plot follows the same Mary Poppins character, this time played by Emily Blunt, who has returned to help the Banks family through their troubles.
Lin Manuel Miranda plays the role of Bert. The film even had a surprise cameo by Dick Van Dyke, who, at 92 years old, performed a complicated dance routine.
It was cool to see Disney bring back Mary Poppins all these decades later to inspire a new generation of children. Like its predecessor, Mary Poppins was met with terrific critical reviews and had a nice run at the box office.
To this day, Mary Poppins is among the most iconic members of the Disney cast of characters. It took Walt several decades to secure the rights, but he finally got to make the film he wanted. The 1964 Mary Poppins was one of Walt Disney Studio’s greatest triumphs. However, it might call for a rewatch so you can pick up on some of the details you missed.
So, what did you think? Where does Mary Poppins rank in the list of Disney films? Were Walt Disney’s changes to the source material for the better? Sound off in the comments below.
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