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“Wind’s in the East, Mist coming in – like something is brewing, and ‘bout to begin…”

Words made famous throughout the world by the 1964 Walt Disney Company film Mary Poppins. We all know Mary Poppins – the classic, bright, and colorful musical starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. But what’s seldom known is that before everyone’s favorite magical Nanny was brought to life by Julie Andrews, she was a character in the books of P.L. Travers – born “Helen Goff” – who based her characters and stories upon her own life.

Now, seventeen years after her death, The Walt Disney Company is trying to make amends for the way they treated Travers during the development of Mary Poppins – with the new biographical drama starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks.

The film tells the story of the fight between Walt Disney (Hanks) and P.L. Travers (Thompson) over the film rights to her Mary Poppins books. Disney – saying that he is honoring a promise to his daughters – has, for twenty years, been wheedling at Travers to sign the rights to him. Refusing to prevent her “beloved” Mary Poppins from becoming a cheery and charming musical animated circus, Travers has held the line firmly against Disney from 1938 to 1961, when she is informed by her literary agent that she is – almost entirely – out of money, and must take Disney’s offer. Her agent notes that Disney seems very interested in making the adaptation – even having offered her control over the shooting script for the film, which is something – the agent says – Walt Disney has never done before.

Throughout the film, we are treated to flashbacks portraying Travers’ youth with her father – Travers Goff (Colin Farrell) – and her loving relationship with him. As the film progresses, it becomes obvious that the character of Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins is heavily based upon Travers’ own father; and she gets very defensive of the character – at one point exploding that Disney and his minions have made him “too cruel” and storming out of the studio. Travers wins out on that battle – approving an alternate ending to the film which features a new song by the Composer and Lyricist Sherman Brothers (Jason Schwatzman and B.J. Novak) entitled “Let’s go Fly a Kite,” centering around Mr. Banks’ redemption and fixing a damaged kite for his children.

On other battles, however, she loses – chiefly in her opposition to any and all animated sequences (at one point having believed that the famous dancing penguins from “Jolly Holiday” would be live penguins trained to dance).

One of the shining stars of the film, however, is Tom Hanks’ performance as Walt Disney. Charming and precocious, Hanks seems to leak the exuberance of Disney – having dedicated weeks of research into the man behind the mouse to perform the role with accuracy. Thompson also wows as Travers, packing an emotional punch in the final scene as she attends the Los Angeles premier of Mary Poppins – to which she was initially not invited – and is shown weeping as she watches the film.

In reality, they were tears of indignation and fury. In the film, they’re not described as such, but a scathing comment with regard to the dancing penguins betrays some hint of frustration.

Whether or not it was the Walt Disney Company’s intention, this biopic has shown that – while Disney himself may have possessed a charming and genial gentle side (which Hanks displays to great effectiveness in the film’s penultimate scenes) the film highlights Disney’s overt and complete disregard for Travers’ wishes, thus serving, mostly, as an illustratory film as to how the Walt Disney Company screwed over that one author – who hated the film so badly that she never forgave Disney – to make the film they wanted.

Saving Mr. Banks is now playing everywhere.

This article was written by a Hypable user! Learn more and write your own right here.

  • Connor

    Seroiously what is the point of this article? You basically listed the entire film an on your last sentence you got to the point of the article. What exactly are you saying about Walt Disney in your own humble opinion?

    • xiku

      I think the point is simply that the movie portrays a lie, and that there are records showing that things did not go like what is shown in the movie, and Travers hated the movie adaptation of Mary Poppins. However, I don’t really see why that matters – it’s the quality that matters.

      • Rosalie David

        I think just knowing that Disney made this film and not another movie company we should know they’re biased and not going to show a negative side to Disney.

        If anything I was surprised that they showed Travers wasn’t invited to the premiere and that the ending is ambiguous, they don’t state that she liked the finished product or not, just that she was overwhelmed by memories of her father.

        • Simone

          They probably just thought they’d be crossing the line with that. It’d be too insulting.

      • Maria Wang

        why wouldn’t the accuracy matter? This is based on a true story, about real people and isn’t at least part of what matters is the accuracy? If someone made a film about a historical event and real people, but filled it fantasies and half truths, I think that matters a lot.

        • xiku

          All I’m saying is that we should accept that liberties will always be taken when making a film. That’s why I don’t complain about book-to-film adaptations (like The Hobbit) because they will always show the director’s view on the story. Personally, when I watch a movie, I care more about its quality than its accuracy – but that’s just me; some people care more about the story and if it’s an accurate representation of events. That’s perfectly fine, too, but I don’t watch movies to get that (that I can get by reading a book and doing some research).
          I do understand what you’re saying about people not accepting some changes, like in Hobbit, and then accepting something like this when it comes out; however, not everyone is like that – we are all different and expect to get different things from a movie when we watch it.

          • Maria Wang

            Well sure. I mean this is a Disney film…and the ‘real ending’ would have been way too depressing. It just seems like a pretty important point they misrepresented. Traver’s whole reaction to Disney’s Mary Poppins, from beginning, to development, to the final product, was part of the whole point/plot of the story. But I do get that they have to have a good, sappy little ending.

          • Sarah

            That wasn’t even really apparent even, as it wasn’t until I actually read the synopsis somewhere where I found out what it suppose to convey that it meant.

        • Johncap523

          Because it’s entertainment, not a docudrama.

      • JanCinLV

        There are also records that show she initially praised both the movie and Disney’s involvement. Over time she changed her mind, and that is all anyone remembers now.

  • Connor

    You also spoiled the film for those who haven’t seen it yet with this article as well. Nice.

    • Andy

      I said the same thing to my friend on facebook, their is not really anything to spoil…its based an true events which and simplisticly easy to read about on Wikipedia..

  • Person

    You should have titled this “Recap” because that is all this article did.

  • InsertNameHere

    You should have titled this “Recap” because that is all this article did. There is hardly any argument as to why “Saving Mr. Banks” does not save Disney.

  • K@

    I always thought the book was somewhat common knowledge… Not so much “seldom known.”

    • Julia

      You’d be surprised – not a lot of kids these days even recognise Mary Poppins, not to mention knowing any further details about production itself.

      • K@

        Too sad… When I wrote that comment I was thinking about the Olympics last year where they did the PL Travers/Mary Poppins tribute during opening ceremonies.

        • Sarah

          Those are great great books though, the movie definitely did not do justice to those books.

    • Andy

      I will admit I had no idea Mary Poppins was a book before the movie

  • GeekGirl101

    That’s not exactly what happened though. She was overly demanding and nit picky. I get it, as an aspiring writer, but in reality she was a lot meaner and more horrible than the movie let on.

    Also…if you’re going to make a claim like this it might be good to give more analysis than summary.

    • xiku

      Yes, she was overly demanding and nit picky but, though I don’t agree with the way she acted, truth is she had every right to be. Now let us not condemn Travers and copletely ignore Disney’s actions when finishing the movie.

  • Elphaba Thropp

    …so it sounds like the film is just skating by what ACTUALLY happened with P.L. Travers…this should be interesting.

  • xiku

    Yes, we all know the film is a HUGE lie, but it’s a very good film, with a good script and directing, and with wonderful performances. It doesn’t really matter if it portrays reality or not, what matter is its quality – and, in that department, it succeeded.

  • Miniryu-Ninja

    I actually thought the film was quite honest…. i certainly didn’t expect them to keep the part about her not being invited to the premiere in it. Really the only part that they did not remain truthful to was the end…. they showed that she still hated the animation which was true but rather than portraying it completely factually (with her hating the entire film as a result and never trusting walt disney again) they decided to use a “spoonful of sugar” to make the ending slightly happier by making her tears about her father…they showed that she hated the animation but decided to show Travers in a better light by making her like the rest of the film (partly i’m sure to avoid some tarnishment to what i’m sure is many people’s favourite film but not showing that the author in fact hated the final product). Overall i found the film to be quite an honest depiction of the events regarding the events of the film’s creation with just a “spoonful of sugar” used to coat the rather sad parts of the true ending to the story.

  • Fae

    I think this film was a little bit of what the article writer says here; that Disney, in trying to make a happy movie, definitely skated over some things about how they treated Travers. But, here are a couple of facts that the movie changed and I do think make a difference:

    The biggest thing here is that Travers had already signed the rights to Disney. She refused to write another book and was running out of money. With the urging of her publicist, she signed the right away to Disney. In the movie, they make it look like she hasn’t and wont until things are to her satisfaction and then she is kind of convinced to sign the papers by Disney. This, I think, is why the articles author says he “screwed over that one author – who hated the film so badly that she never forgave Disney – to make the film they wanted.” This isn’t really the case.
    In the movie, they had the rights unsigned to add suspense. In real life, she had already signed the rights to Disney before the film pre-production had even begun. She was later offered script approval. This makes huge difference because Disney didn’t have to be nice to her at all at that point. He already owned it. So even if they didn’t do everything she wanted, it was nice of them even to give her the option of working on the script.
    I’m not saying that makes Disney a great guy or anything (he was a business man when it comes down to it) and I’m not saying that the movie didn’t change things to make a happy ending. I mean, come on, it IS a Disney movie. They aren’t going to make themselves look bad here. But I don’t think that the movie’s purpose was to somehow make-up for how Travers was treated either, so I don’t think it failed at that.
    I enjoyed the movie. Yep, it was “based on a true story”. I’m pretty sure everyone knows that that means some events were changed for dramatic effect. In fact, the whole movie could have been way more “let’s make Disney look great”. But I thought they kept it pretty middle-of-the-road, for what it was.

  • Stephen

    Completely pointless article that really serves no purpose.

  • Connor

    All of you people on here saying “oh they didnt show the real side of Disney” or”that he really in real life was terrible so theyre taking it easy” Let me ask you, were you there at the disney studios in the 60s when this took place?? The answer obviously is NO. Everyone is going off of rumors an such, but know one will ever know what happen.

    • Sarah

      I could turn it back around to you as well, anybody could be anybody online. Bare that in mind.

  • humanbeing

    I haven’t seen this film yet, but I have seen Mary Poppins, which in my opinion is an absolute classic and one of the best things Disney ever did. It’s unfortunate that Ms. Travers had so many issues with the film, but she wanted the films to be darker, with a very stern, older, less beautiful and less optimistic Mary Poppins, and Disney wanted to make the story a little lighter and less severe than it had been in the books. Nothing wrong with that at all, in my opinion. A lot of people say the story in the film is far more compelling than the very episodic stories that Travers wrote. And when it comes to authors hating adaptations of their works, it doesn’t always mean that those adaptations aren’t quality products, or that they don’t sometimes actually exceed the original source material in terms of quality. The list of authors who hated the film adaptations is quite long; Stephen King hated Kubrick’s The Shining, Winston Groom hated Forrest Gump, Anthony Burgess hated A Clockwork Orange, Ken Kesey hated One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Roald Dahl hated Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; and all of those films are considered amazing classics. Miss Travers had a bias against animation as an art form before she saw one frame of Mary Poppins, and had written off Disney as silly and childish, so she came into the whole endeavor with a HUGE chip on her shoulder, and Walt Disney actually went quite out of his way to listen to her complaints, share his concepts of the film with her and allow her to give notes, etc. They actually changed a number of things from their original plan based on Travers notes (including inserting lines which re-iterated the fact that Bert and Mary Poppins were not in the least romantically involved, re-fashioning the ending to focus on Mr. Banks redemption as a character, and so on, so to say that Disney somehow stole this project out from under Miss Travers feet and then blatantly disregarded her wishes isn’t true at all. It’s far more complicated than that.

  • Lynn Marie

    Good movie. I think Disney was balanced in this film. If you do some research on P.L. Travers, is seems that she was not an easy person to work with in any of her dealings. Purportedly agreed to adopt two twin babies – then only took one – on the advice of her astrologer!

  • Merina

    This article feels like a summary of the movie more than a critical analysis? Also, I feel like everyone – at least, everyone I’ve talked to – knows that Saving Mr. Banks isn’t 100% accurate. It’s common knowledge, amongst the people I’ve discussed it with. But we still enjoyed the movie, as a piece of fiction /inspired/ by true events. Just my two cents.

  • Andy

    I read this article before I saw the film (which I watched last night) and I don’t think this spoils anything at all really, The film was beautiful Emma Thompson was brilliant as P.L. Travers, But I think I agree with the rather long summary that the film really does sort of brush over the terrible treatment that she and her story was given.

  • Marima

    P.L. Travers knew exactly what was going to happen when she gave up her rights to her book. She needed the money and made the deal. For her to be angry afterward, when what she feared would happen happened, is ludicrous. She wanted his money and he wanted to make a movie about her beloved Mary Poppins. No swindle or travesty or steamrolling involved. Besides, both Disney movies – Mary Poppins and Saving Mr. Banks – were wonderful and heartfelt. No shame in them at all.

    • Sarah

      Yes yes, let’s all ignore all faults Disney possesses.

      • Marima

        Who said anything about ignoring all Disney’s faults? I’m saying she knew what would happen, made the deal anyway, and then was angry when it came to pass. She was neither tricked nor naive – she knew those faults but still took the money and made the deal.

  • Sarah

    And yet apparently, they consider this good advertisement to authors, who want us to take being screwed over with a spoon full of sugar.

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