Saturday 28 December 2013

Saving Mr. Banks

"A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, the medicine go down, the medicine go down..." 
(Mary Poppins)

Walt Disney and his young daughters courtesy

Walt made a promise to his daughters that he would make a movie of their favourite book Mary Poppins. But a certain curmudgeonly British author stood between him and his dream.  Little did he know that it would take him over 20 years to keep his promise.

Mr. Banks (Colin Farrell) and his family courtesy

P.L. Travers grew up in the Australian outback, one of three daughters of a banker father and homemaker mother.  Particularly close to her father, she cherished their moments together playing.  Her father, Mr. Travers Goff, held a stressful job as a bank manager and drowned his sorrows in booze.  Her mother felt like she was always competing with her daughter for her husband's affections.  

One day Mr. Goff collapsed in the middle of making an important speech to his fellow bankers.  It soon became apparent that he had tuberculosis.  Bedridden, his wife hired an eccentric woman with an umbrella to help her husband get well.

While the early 1900's Australian drama is playing itself out, another drama is taking place in 1960's California:  Mr. Walt Disney is trying to woo Mrs. Travers , the author of Mary Poppins.  After 20 years of trying, he finally convinces the author, now living in London, England, to visit him in California.  For two weeks, Walt and his team attempt to get Mrs. Travers to sign an agreement offering film rights to her story.  The team tries every trick in the book:  they dance and sing their way through Supercalifragiclisticexpealodocious.  Mrs. Travers, however, remains unamused.

Mr. Disney even treats Mrs. Travers to a trip to Disneyland where she rides the merry-go-round.  But the Magic Kingdom does not change her sour demeanor.  The British author doesn't perk up until one day, the Disney team presents her with a musical number called "Let's Go Fly a Kite".  She loves it so much she starts dancing with the director.  

Julie Andrews courtesy

However, her relationship with Walt goes south again when she discovers he plans to have animated penguins in his movie after promising her it would include no animation.  Mrs. Travers hops the first plane out of Hollywood.  But Walt follows close on her heels, accidentally discovering that Mary Poppins is autobiographical.  In her London apartment over tea, he tells her the tale of his childhood in Kansas City where he and his brother Roy would stumble through snow banks delivering newspapers before dawn and after dusk.  If they did not do it to Elias Disney's liking, they would get the strap.  For the first time, Mrs. Travers realizes that Mr. Disney was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth and that he suffered hardships just as she had in childhood.

Young Walt Disney as a paperboy courtesy

Walt promises Mrs. Travers that he will give her a magnificent movie while staying true to her vision -- and the author finally signs on the dotted line.

Julie Andrews, Walt Disney & Lillian Disney at the Mary Poppins premier circa 1964 courtesy

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