The story of Mary Poppins is told in a series of books by author P.L.Travers. However, most of the world recognizes Mary Poppins as a film created by none other than Walt Disney. The first book was the main basis for the Walt Disney film Mary Poppins, a musical that blended live-action and animation and premiered on August 27, 1964. This blend of live action and animation created a magical film that has entertained audiences through the years.
According to the 40th Anniversary DVD release of the film in 2004, Walt Disney first attempted to purchase the film rights to Mary Poppins from P. L. Travers as early as 1938 but was rebuffed because Travers did not believe a film version of her books would do justice to her creation.
This was complicated by the fact that Walt Disney was known at the time primarily as a creator of cartoons and had yet to produce any major live-action work.
For years, Disney periodically made efforts to convince Travers to allow him to make a Poppins film. He finally succeeded in 1961, although Travers demanded and got script approval rights.
Planning the film and composing the songs took about two years.
Travers objected to a number of elements that actually made it into the film. As the film was made her objections were listened to and at times changes were made. There were other times and other issues and demands where Disney overruled her, citing contract stipulations that he had final say on the finished print.
In the end, Travers was probably was not overly thrilled. Some biographers have made an emphasis of her displeasure. Later, she had some very strong quotes that expressed her dislike of the classic film.
While retaining much of the flavor of the first book, the film changed the story line in a number of places.
Much of the Travers – Disney correspondence is part of the Travers collection of papers in the Mitchell Library of New South Wales, Australia. The relationship between Travers and Disney is detailed in Mary Poppins She Wrote, a biography of Travers, by Valerie Lawson. The biography is the basis for two documentaries on Travers, The Real Mary Poppins and Lisa Matthews’ The Shadow of Mary Poppins. The upcoming Saving Mr. Banks ( a Disney movie about the creation of the film ) will also draw on those letters and historical accounts.
A number of other changes were necessary to condense the story into a feature length film.
This is the complicated part of adopting any classic book and condensing the story into a movie experience. In the movie, there are only two Banks children, Jane and Michael. The cheerful spin of the story was surely a Disney driven change.
Mary Poppins’ character is a bit softer than the Mary found in the books. Bert was a combination of several characters from Travers’ stories.
So the story of Mary Poppins is much more than just a book or a film. It is also a behind the scenes story of how a creative author and storyteller met a creative film maker and storyteller and how their creativity clashed to get the story in front of a larger audience. The end result is movie history, the books continue to be classics, and now the story of the behind the scenes conversations will be made into a movie.
Authors create stories and every element of the story is there for a reason. It is easy to understand why Travers wanted to have as much control as she did over the film.
It was her story and her labor of love. Motion pictures tend to tell a much shorter version of the story. In many ways it is a highlight reel of the book or simply settles on telling a portion of the story. That is why you always hear people say, “the movie wasn’t as good as the book.” If you like details and like to read… a film never measures up.
For others who do not like to read. They will never take the opportunity to get lost within the pages and details found in the written word. For them, a film becomes their window into a literary classic brought to life. I happen to be a fan of both since they become different ways of telling a great story. While each individual has a preference as to how they best like the story the real issue is this….if it is a great story then great stories need to be told.
I tend to like the fact that they are told well in whatever medium or format they are told in.
There is no doubt about it.. the Travers stories are classics. The Walt Disney film is a classic. The stories are the same and yet different…but in both cases told incredibly well.
Our lives and how we live them are an incredible story.
How well you tell the story, the ways you tell your story, and how others view your story…well that all depends on how you choose to tell it.
How well are you telling your story to the world around you?