Top of my ‘to see’ list for films is the new movie Saving Mr Banks, which just premiered at the close of the British Film Institute London Film Festival and is released in cinemas in late November. The film tells the story of the making of Disney’s seminal film Mary Poppins; specifically, the battle of wills between the author of the Mary Poppins novels, PL Travers (played by Emma Thompson), and Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks).
Having read the news coverage of the premiere, I’m fascinated by the story. I had no idea that Travers held out to Disney for 20 years for the rights to make a film of the first in her Mary Poppins series, and then so hated the film that was eventually made that she refused right up until her death to sell the rights to her other Mary Poppins books. Emma Thomson told the BBC: ‘What was fun was inhabiting someone who refused to let the fairy dust work. I loved her belligerence, I loved playing her rudeness, and her honesty.’
I have to say, I feel rather inspired by so resolute and principled an author! In today’s world, I’m sure most writers would jump at the chance to see a film made of their book – and all the associated merchandise. What integrity for her creative work Travers showed with her reluctance to sell.
I remember reading the original Poppins books, and I quite see how Disney’s children so fell in love with them that he was determined to bring them to life on the big screen. But a look at Travers’ bibliography shows again what a different kind of writer she was to the modern, prolific generation. Her writing career with Poppins was greatly spread out: Mary Poppins (1934); Mary Poppins Comes Back (1935); Mary Poppins Opens the Door (1943); Mary Poppins in the Park (1952); Mary Poppins From A to Z (1962); Mary Poppins in the Kitchen (1975); Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane (1982); and finally Mary Poppins and the House Next Door (1988). Travers was born in 1899, and died in 1996, which means she wrote her final book in her late eighties. Inspirational indeed!
What do you think? Are you keen to see the film too? Here’s the trailer; I would love to hear your thoughts.