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When Walt Disney's daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers' Mary Poppins (1964), he made them a promise - one that he didn't realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney's plans for the adaptation. For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn't budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp. It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers ... Written by
Walt Disney Pictures
When P L Travers is leaving LA, across the street is a bus with an RTD (Southern California Rapid Transit District) sign. In 1961 it was still the MTA (Metropolitan Transit district). See more »
Winds in the east / Mist coming in / Like something is brewing / About to begin / Can't put me finger / On what lies in store / But I feel what's to happen / All happened before.
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At the beginning, the Disney logo is replaced by a special "Walt Disney Presents" logo with the old-fashioned segmented castle. See more »
Once upon a time (seeing as though that's how all fairy tales seem to start), there lived a boy from Missouri, called Walt Disney. This boy had a piece of paper with a mere sketch of a mouse upon it. Who ever would have thought that this was to be the start of such a great legacy?
In 1961, Walt Disney invited P.L Travers, the author of "Mary Poppins", to his California studios to discuss the possibility of acquiring the rights to her book - a discussion that Mr. Disney had initially sparked twenty years prior. For those two decades, the proud author refused to depart with her precious work in fear of Hollywood's mutilation of it and repeatedly told Mr. Persistent to go 'fly a kite up to the highest heights'. However, when sales of her book begin to dwindle and with a rough economic climate ahead, Travers reluctantly agreed to travel across the Atlantic to hear what the impresario had to say. This untold backstory of how Travers' classic work of literature made it to the big screen provides the substance for John Lee Hancock's Saving Mr. Banks.
Here, we have an American icon that plays an American icon. Two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks delivers extraordinary sense of character as he renders Mr. Walt Disney with expert attention to detail. "There's a lot of voice work, the way he walks, the body positions, the way he holds his hands, the way he touches his moustache. How he phrases things and lets sentences roll off the end", Hancock remarks - and so Tom Hanks becomes the public face for Walt Disney and we learn of the man behind the mask (with two fluffy ears).
Our central protagonist is Mrs. P. L Travers, played by Emma Thompson (who similarly boasts two Academy Awards). "She was a wonderful case study, requiring so many different shades. She was just so complex. She's one of the most complicated people I've ever encountered", says the British actress. Her rendition of a tetchy and cantankerous author who's plagued by the memories of her past is brilliantly executed.
As narrative flashbacks delve into Mrs. Travers' childhood, we soon realise the true depth of her literary creation, Mary Poppins. Mr. Banks explores the bond between a young Travers (then Helen) and her drunkard father, Travers Goff (exceptionally played by Colin Farrell). Like a puzzle, the story is pieced together, bit by bit and we learn that her deep-seated adoration for her father is what lies at the heart of her magical masterpiece.
Demonstrating that her novel holds such personal significance, Travers continues to exercises a stubborn reluctance to hand the rights to her book over to what she considers to be a dollar-printing machine. The straight-talking novelist is repulsed by Disney's empire and this is only intensified when the entertainment wizard showers her in all kinds of ridiculous merchandise. As Walt Disney haplessly pursues Travers, unsettling the adamant writer with his vision of the film, it seems that he will never obtain the rights to make the movie of Mary Poppins. We are, of course, watching this in hindsight and the knowledge that the book was made into a successful film adds a magical quality to the experience and permits laughter as it plays on dramatic irony; and there are some real gems for the Disney die-hards.
Walt Disney made a promise to his daughter to make the movie of Mary Poppins. As the likelihood of fulfilling this promise fades into the distance, the entertainment-guru reaches into his own childhood and discovers a new, more personal connection to the emotionally troubled Travers. In order to break away from a life dictated by her past, Travers agrees to sign the waiver so that one the most lovable films in cinematic history can be made.
This biographical dramedy stands as a poetic tale of hope, which ultimately gives testament to the might of the mouse house and conveys the magical idea that everybody has a story to tell. Making memories is what Disney is all about and for its 125-minute runtime, we re-visit old memories and we also create new ones. With all the conventions of a family film (after all, this is Disney), Saving Mr. Banks is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! (Couldn't resist).
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