Although Dick Van Dyke considers this the best film he has appeared in, he nevertheless maintains to this day that he was somewhat miscast as Bert. He has suggested that either Jim Dale or Ron Moody would have played the part better.
In Disneyland, in the lost and found at Main Street, there is a wooden leg with the word "Smith" on it. This is a reference to the joke about "a man with a wooden leg named Smith" told by Bert and Uncle Albert in the movie.
When founder and (now former) chief archivist at the Walt Disney Archives Dave Smith went on a search for the snowglobe from this movie, which featured birds flying around Saint Paul's Cathedral, he finally found it on a shelf in a janitor's office. The janitor explained that he saw the snowglobe sitting in a trash can, but found it too pretty to throw away and kept it himself.
The filmmakers didn't inform Karen Dotrice or Matthew Garber about some "surprises" that were going to show up in the movie. Karen's dumbfounded look when Mary Poppins takes out item after item from the carpet bag and her little scream when Mary Poppins gave them medicines of different colors were genuine. They also didn't tell the children who was acting as Mr. Dawes Sr. and were worried that the horrible old man was going to fall down and die at any moment.
Walt Disney cast Julie Andrews for the lead after seeing her in "Camelot" on Broadway. When she mentioned she was pregnant, he offered to wait until she had her baby to start filming and offered her then-husband, Tony Walton, the job of designing costumes and some sets for the film. Disney also gave the couple a personally escorted tour of Disneyland and the studio to help them make up their minds.
The song, "Let's Go Fly a Kite" was inspired by the Sherman brothers' (Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman) father, Al Sherman who made kites for neighborhood kids as a weekend hobby. In the film, the broken kite represents the broken family. When Mr. Banks mends the kite and the four pieces are taped back together, the four members of the family are also reunited. By transforming her "suffragette ribbon" into the kite's tail, Mrs. Banks also commits herself to being there more for her family.
With five wins out of 13 nominations in total, this film marked Walt Disney's single most successful night at the Academy Awards. Never before or since, as of 2016, has a single Disney film won as many Oscars in one evening.
There are 20 distinguishable names in "Jolly Holiday" when Bert and the penguins are discussing how no one is better than Mary Poppins. The names are as follows: Mavis and Sybil [have ways that are winning,] Prudence and Gwendolyn [set your heart spinning,] Phoebe [delightful,] Maude [is disarming,] Janis, Felicia, Lydia [charming,] Cynthia [dashing,] Vivian ['s sweet,] Stephanie [smashing,] Priscilla [a treat,] Veronica, Millicent, Agnes, Jane [convivial company time and again,] Doris, Phyllis, Glynis [of sorts, I'll agree are three jolly good sports. But, cream of the crop, tip of the top, it's Mary Poppins and there we stop.]
David Tomlinson (Mr. Banks) also voices several of the animated characters that Bert and Mary Poppins encounter in the chalk drawing, including a penguin waiter and the jockey who allows Mary Poppins to pass on her carousel horse. He also voices the Parrot Umbrella Handle at the end of the movie. Original choices for George Banks included Richard Harris, Terry-Thomas, George Sanders, James Mason and Donald Sutherland.
Lyricist Robert B. Sherman had searched for nearly two weeks for a catchy phrase that could be Mary Poppins' anthem. He came across the perfect title when his young son Jeff came home from school one day and announced that he had just received a polio vaccine. Thinking that the vaccine had been administered as a shot, Sherman asked, "Did it hurt?" He replied, "No. They just gave it to me on a cube of sugar and I swallowed it down." Sherman tried the idea on his brother the following morning, Richard M. Sherman put the phrase to music and "A Spoonful of Sugar" was born.
The author of the "Poppins" books, P.L. Travers, approved heartily of the casting of Julie Andrews after hearing her only on the telephone. Andrews granted the interview from her bed after the delivery of her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton.
This was the only film personally produced by Walt Disney to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. (Beauty and the Beast (1991) was also nominated for Best Picture, but that film was made in 1991, and Disney died in 1966).
Not only was "Feed the Birds" Walt Disney's favorite song in the film, but it is said that anytime he visited the Sherman brothers (Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman) during the rest of his life, all he would have to do was say, "Play it," and they knew he wanted to hear "Feed the Birds".
Walt Disney was so determined to cast Julie Andrews that he offered to delay filming until the summer of 1964 if Andrews was cast as Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady (1964). Since Audrey Hepburn was cast as Eliza, both movies began filming around August/September 1963.
The word "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" seems to pre-date the movie, but language experts have yet to pin down by how much, or what exactly, it originally meant. An urban myth is growing that it had something to do with Irish (or Scottish) prostitutes. Its use in the movie may have been inspired by a nonsense word the Sherman brothers (Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman) learned at summer camp. They remembered having a word that the adults didn't know, and thought the Banks children should have one, too.
Final film of Jane Darwell. NOTE: She was living at the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills, CA, when she was approached by Walt Disney Pictures to play the Bird Woman. She at first refused, but Walt Disney was so set on having her in the film that he personally visited her at the home and eventually persuaded her to take the part. He even sent a limo to fetch and return her during her one day of shooting.
"Feeding the birds" at Saint Paul's Cathedral, seen as a charitable act of kindness in the film, became forbidden by law in the 21st century, having resulted in excessive defecation from the expanding avian population.
P.L. Travers never forgave Walt Disney for what she saw as a vulgar and disrespectful adaptation of her "Mary Poppins" novels. Forty years after the release of the film, stage producer Cameron Mackintosh approached Travers about a musical theatre version of her work. She initially refused, citing the film as a reason why she would never again allow an adaptation of her "Mary Poppins" series. After several meetings, however, she relented, though when Mackintosh suggested using the songs from the Disney film in the production, Travers again balked. After much more pleading, Mackintosh convinced her to allow a stage production with the songs from the film on the strict proviso that no Americans participate in the development, and further that no one involved with the film version--including original film composers Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, both of whom were still alive and working at the time--could participate. Mackintosh proceeded with development of the stage adaptation for several years without any involvement from Disney, per Travers' wishes, though after the author's death in 1996 the Walt Disney Company was allowed some degree of creative involvement and went on to co-produce the musical with Mackintosh.
Selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in December 2013, just days before the release of Saving Mr. Banks (2013), a film about Walt Disney's efforts to acquire the film rights to P.L. Travers' novels.
The scene where Mr. Dawes Sr. (Dick Van Dyke) has trouble negotiating the step in the bank's meeting room was not originally in the script. While viewing a make-up test for Van Dyke in the projection room, Walt Disney saw him entertaining crew members on the test film between takes with some comic routines, among them the "stepping down" routine of an old man trying to step off a curb without hurting himself. The test film not only convinced Disney to cast Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes Sr. but he specifically requested that crew members "build a six-inch riser on the board room set so Dick can do that stepping-down routine".
When Dick Van Dyke read the script, he'd already been cast in the role of Bert but found the part of the Mr. Dawes, Sr. so hysterical he lobbied Walt Disney for the role, even offering to play it for free. Disney not only made Van Dyke audition for the part, but forced the actor to make a substantial donation to CalArts, Disney's own pet-project film school.
At the time, it was the most expensive film produced by the Disney Studios, with an estimated budget of $4.4 - $6M. It has since grossed over $102M, and is one of the most profitable movies of the 1960s.
Julie Andrews was left hanging in mid-air during one particularly long camera setup. The stagehands unwittingly lowered her wire harness rather rapidly. "Is she down yet?" called a grip. "You bloody well better believe she is!" fumed Andrews.
When she was filming The Princess Diaries (2001) in 2001, Julie Andrews discovered that her director, Garry Marshall, was living in the same house that she did when she was making this film. Some of "The Princess Diaries" was shot on exactly the same sound stage as "Mary Poppins". Andrews knew this because there is a plaque on the sound stage saying that the film was shot there.
On an episode of National Public Radio's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" (broadcast October 25, 2010) Dick Van Dyke was asked by host Peter Sagal about his notorious accent in this film. Van Dyke stated that his vocal coach was Irish-born J. Pat O'Malley, who had an even worse British accent.
This Disney film, as of 2006, holds the record of having the longest in-print status on video. The film was released on video in 1981, and has been re-released several times, managing to stay in video stores since then. Not once has the film been out of print on video.
Reportedly, P.L. Travers so detested this film adaptation of her novel (though she did approve of the casting of Julie Andrews) that she left the premiere in tears. Supposedly she most objected to the altering of Mary Poppins' character from cold and intimidating in the novel to warm and cheery in the film. She also took issue with the film's perceived anti-feminist ending, in which Mrs. Banks gives up her campaigning for women's rights to stay at home as a housewife.
Julie Andrews was determined to nail the lullaby "Stay Awake". She took nearly 50 takes (most reports suggest 47) in the Disney recording studio to create the perfect "soft" voice quality for the song. Dick Van Dyke, on the other hand, took only one take to record his verses as Mr. Dawes, Sr. on "Fidelity, Fiduciary Bank".
P.L. Travers was a stickler about details in the script, driving many of the Disney writers to distraction about Poppins minutiae. After seeing the final film, she devised a list of changes she wanted. Her requests went unheeded after Walt Disney himself pointed out that although she had script approval, she did NOT have final draft approval. Among the things that she disliked was the score of songwriters Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman. She wanted the only music in the movie to be period pieces, such as "Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay" or "Greensleeves".
Ed Wynn's character, Uncle Albert, was originally written as having a Viennese accent. Wynn, however, didn't attempt the accent--or even an English accent, for that matter. He was just himself, ad-libbing many of the lines he says while laughing on the ceiling in the "I Love to Laugh" scene.
Walt Disney first attempted to purchase the film rights from P.L. Travers as early as 1938. She rejected his offer, as she didn't believe a film version would do justice to her creation. Another reason for her initial rejection would have been that at that time the Disney studios had not yet produced a live-action film.
The old woman in the park Bert talks to in the beginning of the film (with the two tall daughters) is Mrs. Corry. In the book she ran the sweet shop in the park and in the Broadway show this is where they buy the letters to make the word "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". The shop is mentioned once by Mary Poppins in the film before she and the children make a detour to Uncle Albert's house.
The character of Bert is actually an amalgamation of several of Mary Poppins' friends from the books. Among them, the minor character of a chimney sweep. It was a drawing of that sweep by one of the animators that inspired the song "Chim Chim Cheree."
Julie Andrews became available for this film as a result of Jack L. Warner refusing to cast her in My Fair Lady (1964), opting instead for Audrey Hepburn. When Andrews won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Leading Role (beating Hepburn) she thanked Warner for "making a wonderful movie and making it possible in the first place" for her to win.
A sequence known as "The Magic Compass", consisting of four songs, was dropped from the film in preproduction. One of those songs, "The Beautiful Briny", later resurfaced in Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). The melody for another song from this sequence, "The Land of Sand", was used for "Trust in Me (The Python's Song)" in The Jungle Book (1967), using completely different lyrics.
Originally in the movie, there was a scene when all of the toys in the nursery come alive. Since it proved to be too scary for children, it was cut out. However, in the Broadway musical of Mary Poppins, the toys coming alive idea is used.
Songwrters Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman originally planned to use the song "Chim-Chim-Cheree" for all the music in the rooftop finale. However, when special effects supervisor Peter Ellenshaw brought the English pub song "Knees Up Mother Brown" to their attention, they decided to make their own variation, resulting in "Step In Time".
This film was in slow development at Walt Disney Studios because the studio still had not obtained the rights to film the property from author P.L. Travers. This did not happen until sometime in 1961 or 1962.
The Broadway version of "Mary Poppins" opened at the New Amsterdam Theater on November 16, 2006, has run for 2600 performances as of February 2013, and was nominated for the 2007 Tony Award (New York City) for Best Musical. This show is also the 22nd longest running show on Broadway as of February, 2013 and is planned to be closed in Spring, 2013.
In several interviews, Richard M. Sherman has stated that his nephew, Jeff, came home reporting he had had a polio vaccine administered to him on a lump of sugar, and that this was the inspiration for the song "A Spoonful of Sugar." The vaccine was probably not the Salk vaccine, as he has stated---which was injected---but the Sabin vaccine, which was indeed served to millions of schoolchildren in a spoon with a cube of sugar.
Originally Walt Disney had considered Mary Martin, Bette Davis and Angela Lansbury for the part of Mary Poppins, based on the cold characterization portrayed in the P.L. Travers books. Walt Disney Pictures (with songwriters Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman and co-writer Don DaGradi acting as the studio's sort-of "advance" team) first considered Julie Andrews after seeing her on Ed Sullivan's The Ed Sullivan Show (1948) in January 1961 do excerpts from "Camelot", the show she was appearing in on Broadway. About a month later Walt Disney himself went to New York, caught the show and sounded out Julie backstage after the show (the show was of double interest to Disney because his The Sword in the Stone (1963) animated feature was based on the first book of T.H. White's "The Once and Future King". "Camelot" was based on the fourth book of the same novel). It was at that February 1961 backstage meeting that Disney first sounded Andrews out, including inviting her husband at the time, designer Tony Walton, to check things out in California relative to doing "Mary Poppins". While there was an open offer to Andrews, she did not commit until the day after Warner Brothers announced that Audrey Hepburn would be doing My Fair Lady (1964) for them.
Filmed entirely indoors in all four sound stages on the Walt Disney Studio lot in Burbank, CA. Cherry Tree Lane, the park and the exterior of St. Paul's Cathedral, filled the entire Stage Four of the Disney Studio.
P.L. Travers in a rare 1977 interview actually stated that she thought the film was well made and had a lot of positive aspects to it. However, she felt it was so different from her books that she wasn't happy with the final product.
After playing in New York's prestigious Radio City Music Hall in its original 1964 release, this film was brought back for a repeat engagement nine years later as part of a 50th anniversary tribute to producer Walt Disney.
P.L. Travers refused to allow any of her books to be made into sequels, rebuking Walt Disney, who wanted to make more Mary Poppins movies due to the success of the film. A sequel was eventually made, but over 50 years after the release of this film and over 20 years after Travers' death.
The horse that Julie Andrews rides while on the carousel, and later in the horse race, remains on display in Orlando, FL. The carousel horse can be seen while waiting in line in the Chinese Theater for The Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios.
In her 2004 autobiography "'Tis Herself", Maureen O'Hara says she pitched the idea to Disney of making a film version of the book "Mary Poppins", which was rejected. Soon after, Walt Disney purchased the rights to the book.
Though P.L. Travers conceded on most of the demands set by Disney, she was so adamantly against the film being animated that she left the set immediately when she found out they were planning on adding animated scenes. It took a long phone call between her and Walt Disney where they came to the understanding that Mr. Banks was the main focus of the film that filming resumed.
Mary Poppins' line "Spit-spot" was later used by author Neil Gaiman for one of the characters in his novel "The Ocean at the End of the Lane". He's a big fan of the Mary Poppins books written by P.L. Travers.
The last feature in which Disney legend Ward Kimball worked as an animator. He designed and drew The Pearly Band for the "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" sequence, and the big, evil-eyed woman beating a tambourine against her little husband's head was typical of his humor. Walt Disney had promoted Kimball to director for his TV shows in 1954 but demoted him back to animator after the two had a falling out in 1961. With the huge success of "Mary Poppins" Disney had a change of heart and restored Kimball to a director's position, which he kept until his retirement in 1973.
Upon his death in 2000 British satirical magazine Private Eye published an uncharacteristically warm poem in tribute to him "So farewell David Tomlinson, noted British character actor...'Let's go fly a kite, up to the highest height.'. Yes, that was your catchphrase. And where you are going now" .
Ub Iwerks modified the Technicolor camera that was used to mix live action and animation, also known as the "Sodium Vapor Process." This camera had a prism installed to separate the sodium vapor lights from the rest of the color. Iwerks, Petro Vlahos and Wadsworth E. Pohl received an Academy Award in 1965 for its use in this film. Alfred Hitchcock went to Walt Disney asking to borrow Iwerks to help make his The Birds (1963). In 1964 Iwerks was nominated for an Academy Award for "Best Effects, Special Visual Effects", but lost lost Cleopatra (1963).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
One of Julie Andrews' favorite songs was "Stay Awake". When she heard that there were plans to delete it, she wrote a letter of concern to P.L. Travers, who instantly insisted that the song remain in the film.