Of Books and Movies: Saving Mr. Banks

I went to see Saving Mr. Banks today.  So wonderful.

If you haven’t heard of it, Disney’s new movie is about the adaptation of the book Mary Poppins into the beloved movie.  Emma Thompson is stunning as P. L. Travers, the author, and Tom Hanks charms Walt Disney.  The movie follows Travers as she struggles with the idea of turning over film rights to her characters, all while reliving difficult childhood memories of her father, played by Colin Ferrell.

It was a lovely movie, and I bawled through the last half.

Throughout, Travers is reluctant to let Disney make the movie because she’s afraid that Mary Poppins will become nothing more than a vapid, bouncy, singing nanny.  It’s something any storyteller dreads: letting someone else define a character who, whether complete fiction or based on a real person, is basically that storyteller’s child.  Travers has at that point seen Disney take iconic literary characters and turn them into silly facsimiles of themselves.  The last thing she wants is to see on-screen characters called “Mary Poppins” or “Mr. Banks” that in no way resemble her Mary Poppins or Mr. Banks.

But, as we all know, Mary Poppins became a successful movie.  Travers and Disney have this wonderful moment where the gloss of fame is stripped away, and they develop a new understanding of each other that allows the movie to go forward.

And the credits roll alongside pictures from the LA première of Mary Poppins, and a few minutes of one of the recorded script writing sessions with Travers and Disney’s team, Don DaGradi, Robert Sherman, and Richard Sherman.

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