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24 Facts about “Mary Poppins” and “Saving Mr. Banks”

Mary Poppins and Saving Mr Banks

Between the opening of  Saving Mr. Banks coming up on the 20th, and the release of the 50th Anniversary edition of  Mary Poppins on DVD / Blu-Ray, December is a big month for the legendary nanny. Mary Poppins will be on both the big screen and small screen in 2 very different ways.  Here are 24 facts about the movies that you may not know.

1.  It took Walt Disney 20 years to secure the rights to P.L. Travers’ book Mary Poppins.

2.  Mary Poppins earned 13 Academy Award nominations and they won five: Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Best Effects, Best Film Editing, Original Score, and Original Song.

3.  Ub Iwerks, one of Walt’s first animators who helped bring Mickey Mouse to life, won a technical Oscar for his work on Mary Poppins.

4.  Mr. Banks character was based on a real person.  P.L. Travers was born Helen Lyndon Goff, but went by the pen name instead of her given name. Her father, Travers Goff, was a banker the basis of the patriarch of Mary Poppins.

5.  Tom Hanks role in Saving Mr. Banks is the very first “feature-length, theatrical drama to depict Walt Disney.

6.  Walt loved the song “Feed the Birds” so much that he would often just tell the Sherman Brothers to play it, and they would start to play the song.  He never even told them which song.

7.  Mary Martin, Bette Davis and Angela Lansbury were all considered for Mary Poppins, but when the casting directors saw Julie Andrews on the Ed Sullivan Show singing Camelot‘s “What do the Simple Folk Do,” they decided that SHE was their Mary. Walt Disney flew to New York City to see Julie on Broadway and he was sold, too. Thankfully P.L. Travers loved her as well, so it was a unanimous decision to cast Julie Andrews in the role.

8.  Karen Dotrice, (who played Jane Banks in Mary Poppins) was brought to tears when she saw Saving Mr. Banks.  She was 8 years old when she did the film and knew nothing of P.L. Travers story until she saw the film.  She said, “I think P.L. Travers was trying to fix families by writing about ‘Mary Poppins.’ I think Walt Disney was a bit of a Mary Poppins himself and wanted to heal people through his movies”.

9.  Julie Andrews almost said no to playing Mary Poppins as she was waiting to see if she would win the role of Eliza Dootlittle in the film version of My Fair Lady.  Audrey Hepburn won that role and the 2 actresses were both up for the Best Actress Award at the Golden Globes, where Andrews won.

10.  Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber, who play Jane and Michael Banks did 3 movies together.

11.  Matthew Garber (who played Michael Banks) was afraid of heights, so the crew would bribe him to do the stunt work for the scenes where it looked like they were flying. They would give him a dime every time he would have to fly.

12.  In Mary Poppins, some of the nannies in the scene where they are lining up to interview with the Banks are actually men.

13.  The director did a clever thing during the scene when Mary Poppins starts to pull large items out of her carpet bag, he didn’t tell the kids what was about to happen. The children in the film have a completely shocked look on their faces which is totally authentic. The bag was set on a table while items were fed through from below so it appeared to be real magic.

14.  Dick Van Dyke can sure sing and dance, but his Cockney accent was not very accurate.  It was ranked #2 worst accent in 2003 by Empire Magazine.

15.  Do you love the songs from Mary Poppins? If so, you should listen to the other Sherman Brothers magic that didn’t make the cut such as  “The Chimpanzoo,” and “Admiral Boom.” One song, “The Beautiful Briny,” actually ended up in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

16.  The nanny who leaves the Banks family in the beginning of the film is none other than Elsa Lanchester, who also played the Bride of Frankenstein!

17.  Jane Darwell, who played the Bird Woman, had been known for her Oscar-winning role in The Grapes of Wrath. Walt Disney went out to the Motion Picture Country Home where she was living in retirement and asked her personally to be in the film.

18.  The ridiculously long word that we all know and love, the Mary Poppins refrain of “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”  There have been rumors that the word means other things and that it was taken from a 1949 song called “supercalafajalistickexpialadojus” (a lawsuit was filed back in the day). But the Sherman Brothers said it was a word they made up.

19.  Julie Andrews loved the song “Stay Awake,” and when she heard that there was a chance the lullaby would be cut from the film Andrews reportedly wrote to P.L. Travers who then insisted that this particular number stay in the movie.

20.  Robert B. Sherman, the Mary Poppins lyricist, had been working for weeks trying to figure out a good “anthem” for Mary Poppins. According to lore, his seven-year-old daughter came home from school saying she had just gotten a polio vaccine. He assumed she had gotten a shot and asked, “Did it hurt?” Her reply was, “No. They just gave it to me on a cube of sugar and I swallowed it down.” Next thing you know, “A Spoonful of Sugar” was created.

21.  Director Robert Wise and screenwriter Ernest Lehman saw early rushes of Julie Andrews’ performance in Mary Poppins and were so impressed that they cast her as the star of their project, a little thing called The Sound of Music.

22.  “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” is one of the most iconic songs from the film, but it’s previous title was the far less-catchy, “Sticks, Paper and Strings.”

23.  There have only been a few films that got the okay to film in Disneyland, and Saving Mr. Banks is the third feature film to have that honor. The last movie to shoot a scene at the Magic Kingdom was  Tom Hanks’ directorial debut, That Thing You Do. The only other one to shoot there was Norman Jewison’s 1962 directorial debut, 40 Pounds of Trouble.

24.  As luck would have it, the actors who played the Sherman brothers were the same age as their real life counterparts at the time of story. Walt Disney Studios says that, ” Jason Schwartzman, at 32, is the same age as his character, songwriter Richard Sherman, was when this story takes place in 1961; and, actor B.J. Novak, at 34, is the same age as his character, sibling songwriter Robert Sherman, was at the time.”

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