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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyle star in Disney's "Marry Poppins."

Blu-ray release makes for a 'Jolly Holiday' with Mary

Just a little more than 50 years ago, Disney brought "Marry Poppins" to life with songs, animation and laughter that took the then movie-going world by storm. The film earned five academy awards, including a best actress award for Julie Andrews.

Now a days, the visual affects used to bring the story of the magical nanny to life seem simple. The movie tricks of the time were revolutionary then. However, these animations, use of wires and moving sets and more, have held up in terms of story telling and don't hinder the experience of the viewer. That, in and of itself, makes the film worth revisiting, and having in the family collection.

There's a couple of other reasons to pick up the special Blu-ray edition released out of the Disney vault.

One is the timing of the film "Saving Mr. Banks" in theaters now. Matt Mueller, in his review, called the big screen effort with Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, "Disney's two-hour cinematic high-five, congratulating itself not only for making 'Mary Poppins,' but for also warming the heart of a cold, frigid harpy in the process."

That's the best use of "harpy" that I've seen in a long time.

Thompson plays Poppins writer Pamela "P.L." Travers, who travels to Hollywood to visit with Walt Disney (Hanks) to sell the film rights for her books.

I'll let our OnMilwaukee film reviewer do the heavy lifting on filling the audience in on that they will see at the theater, but I wanted to point to a gem of an extra sitting on the 50th Anniversary Edition of "Marry Poppins."

Actor Jason Schwartzman interviews songwriter Richard Sherman about the process he and his brother Robert went through in creating the music that made the film come to life. Schwartzman plays Sherman in "Saving Mr. Banks."

What's fascinating isn't what comes to be the final product that most of us know already, but the give and take and hoops jumped through between Travers and Disney to get something that will work.

Also on the Blu-ray are the extras that were on the "Marry Poppins" DVD release. One of the more notable was the way in which the Broadway musical came together with use of the older songs and the writing of new ones to bridge the gap between cinema and the live stage. Sherman works with the Broadway show songwriters, that end up taking the audience from the first to the final act.

We also get to meet the first actors that brought Mary and Bert to life, fulfilling the dream of being Disney characters themselves.

One of the criticisms I've heard about "Saving Mr. Banks," is that it is often those who win the war that get to write the history. Disney is obviously keeping its trademarked magical formula in play in the story based on the real life story.

But, luckily for us, we have the film, in its re-mastered glory, that wowed audiences 50 years ago. With sing-a-longs, fun songs, and a care-free chimney sweep to lead the way, the original "Mary Poppins" continues to entertain and delight current and future generations.


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