Disney's latest live-action film is Saving Mr. Banks, supposedly based on the story of how Walt Disney convinced author P.L.Travers to let him turn "Mary Poppins" into a movie.
Travers, an Australian born failed actress, went on to later gain fame as a poet and novelist. Her own banker father died young of alcoholism and she was later raised by the stern and loving nanny who inspired "Mary Poppins." Rumored to be a lesbian and adopting a son (based on an Astrologer's advice) as a single woman in the 1940's, Travers was an early 20th Century pioneer with a rather mercurial personality, prone to moodiness and not particularly fond of children, who later wrote erotica. But it was the six Poppins novels that brought her the most acclaim.
Travers apparently hated Disney's version of her first novel, even after he convinced her to allow it to be made into a film.
Sometime in the early 70's, Mom surprised my sister and I by taking us to a matinee of revival screening of Mary Poppins. After it was over, my poor little sister (who was maybe 5 or 6 at the time) cried hysterically because Mary left the Banks' house. We tried to explain to her that other children needed her help, but she would have none of it.
Recently the BBC made an extraordinary short documentary about Travers and Disney, which exposes much of what the recent film washes over. If you have an hour, I highly recommend the documentary below:
Mary Poppins made an international star out of Julie Andrews (who won her first Oscar for the role) and eventually became one of Disney's most popular films. In fact, I was particularly thrilled by the fountain in the newest part of the Grand Floridian Hotel in Walt Disney World.
|The Grand Floridian Hotel Lobby|
While my sister may very well be a self-described "Disney Dork," and I truly enjoyed seeing how the various hotels at the Disney World resort were decorated for the holidays, I somehow completely understand how Travers objected to Disney's 'Disneyfication" of her stories.
I understand her objections, especially given my own proclivity for the darker side of life... But I have to admit that the Disney film had a major influence on my own movie experience. I was just 2 when the movie was first released and probably 6 before I saw it for the first time.
Despite what Travers intended and objected to, millions of children look to Mary Poppins as a peek into early 20th Century British life. Regardless of what Travers thought, both she and Disney made millions off the movie. As much as she may have objected to the movie itself, Travers' children's novels took off because of the film. Travers established a charity using the money she made, but never established a real relationship with her adopted son or his children.