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HISTORY

Modern sources, including the 2004 behind-the-scenes documentary, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Making of ‘Mary Poppins,’ indicate that animation mogul Walt Disney was first introduced to P. L. Travers’s series of “Mary Poppins” children’s novels through his young daughter, and began a lengthy pursuit of the screen rights in the late 1930s. During the 1950s, rights were temporarily held by both Samuel Goldwyn and CBS, but neither company’s projects came to fruition. Despite his persistent attempts, Disney was unsuccessful until 1961, when the 5 Mar 1961 NYT included the project as one of several screen musicals on the Walt Disney Pictures production slate. Mary Martin and Hayley Mills were reportedly in consideration to star as “Mary Poppins” and “Jane Banks,” respectively. A 6 Jun 1962 Var item stated that National General Pictures, the production arm of theater chain holding company, National General Theatres (NGT), was also involved, but there is no further mention of NGT in contemporary sources.
       To bolster the property’s screen appeal, screenwriters Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi made several departures from Travers’s works. For example, the 11 Aug 1963 NYT stated that grimy, Depression-era London, England, was swapped for the more “photogenic” grandeur of the Edwardian era, while “Mr. and Mrs. Banks” were rewritten as neglectful parents whose absence instigates the arrival of the titular nanny—a lady much more sentimental than her literary counterpart. Disney entrusted musical elements to staff songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, who an 8 Dec 2013 NYT article claimed spent approximately two and a half years writing songs to develop the story’s narrative arc. During this process, the brothers met with Travers ... More Less

Modern sources, including the 2004 behind-the-scenes documentary, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Making of ‘Mary Poppins,’ indicate that animation mogul Walt Disney was first introduced to P. L. Travers’s series of “Mary Poppins” children’s novels through his young daughter, and began a lengthy pursuit of the screen rights in the late 1930s. During the 1950s, rights were temporarily held by both Samuel Goldwyn and CBS, but neither company’s projects came to fruition. Despite his persistent attempts, Disney was unsuccessful until 1961, when the 5 Mar 1961 NYT included the project as one of several screen musicals on the Walt Disney Pictures production slate. Mary Martin and Hayley Mills were reportedly in consideration to star as “Mary Poppins” and “Jane Banks,” respectively. A 6 Jun 1962 Var item stated that National General Pictures, the production arm of theater chain holding company, National General Theatres (NGT), was also involved, but there is no further mention of NGT in contemporary sources.
       To bolster the property’s screen appeal, screenwriters Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi made several departures from Travers’s works. For example, the 11 Aug 1963 NYT stated that grimy, Depression-era London, England, was swapped for the more “photogenic” grandeur of the Edwardian era, while “Mr. and Mrs. Banks” were rewritten as neglectful parents whose absence instigates the arrival of the titular nanny—a lady much more sentimental than her literary counterpart. Disney entrusted musical elements to staff songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, who an 8 Dec 2013 NYT article claimed spent approximately two and a half years writing songs to develop the story’s narrative arc. During this process, the brothers met with Travers as she visited Disney’s Burbank, CA, studio to approve the script. Travers reportedly derided their efforts, and insisted their meetings be recorded on audiotape.
       Meanwhile, Julie Andrews, who had gained recognition as “Eliza Doolittle” in the Broadway production of My Fair Lady, was set to make her feature film debut as Mary Poppins. Andrews followed My Fair Lady with another stage performance in 1960’s Camelot, but as suggested by the 2 Nov 1964 issue of Newsweek, struggled to break into Hollywood. Although a motion picture version of My Fair Lady was in development, the lead role was given to Audrey Hepburn, leaving Andrews available to accept Disney’s offer to star in Mary Poppins. The 25 Feb 1963 DV reported that Dick Van Dyke would film his role between seasons of his popular situational comedy, The Dick Van Dyke Show (CBS, 3 Oct 1961—1 Jun 1966). While Van Dyke’s character, “Bert,” had been expanded for the movie, filmmakers honored Travers’s insistence that his relationship with Mary Poppins remain platonic. Although not credited onscreen, the 7 May 1963 DV stated that Dick Van Dyke’s harmonica performance in the film was dubbed by Jerry Adler.
       A 19 Apr 1963 DV production chart indicated that principal photography was scheduled to begin 6 May 1963. According to the 11 Aug 1963 NYT, all sets were constructed on sound stages at the Disney studio lot in Burbank, including the entirety of the “Banks” family residence and exteriors of “Cherry Tree Lane.” Filming concluded in late Aug or early Sep 1963, as indicated by items in the 21 Aug 1963 Var and 4 Sep 1963 DV. Various contemporary sources listed a negative cost of $5.5—$6 million, the highest of any Disney production to date.
       Once the four-month schedule was completed, animators began an even lengthier post-production period to create the special effects and two-dimensional animals that interact with the characters in the “Jolly Holiday” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” musical numbers. A 24 Dec 1964 LAT news item claimed that Walt Disney developed the technique, which combined live-action photography and animated cartoons, for a failed short subject series in the 1920s titled Alice in Cartoonland. Its use in The Three Caballeros (1945, see entry) marked the first time the technique had been successfully rendered in extended sequences of a feature film. The 20 Jun 1963 DV stated that Disney also used “audio-animatronics” to achieve movement of various three-dimensional props and creatures, as seen during the sequence for “A Spoonful Of Sugar.” The 1 Jul 1964 Var stated that re-recording sessions took approximately one month, and were completed using a four-channel stereo mixing console that the studio built specially for the production, which was to be used for all future Disney pictures with multi-track sound.
       The world premiere took place 27 Aug 1964 at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA. According to a DV item published the following day, the widely-publicized event was the first major Disney premiere at the venue since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938, see entry), and served as a benefit for the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), which Walt Disney helped found in 1962. A camera crew was also on hand to record footage for a ten-minute short film to be included on the nationwide release of Mary Poppins. A 23 Sep 1964 Var item stated that the picture was scheduled to open the following day at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. Following the pre-release engagements, the 25 Nov 1964 Var stated that more dates would be added around Easter, with a national opening in late Jul and Aug 1965. After seventeen weeks at Grauman’s Chinese, the film relocated to the newly refurbished Carthay Circle Theatre, as stated in the 8 Dec 1964 LAT.
       A 9 Sep 1964 Var advertisement announced the picture had grossed $57,119 during its first week at the Chinese Theatre, breaking all previous house records. Lauded by critics and audiences, Mary Poppins surpassed box-office estimates across the country, and became the second biggest hit of 1964, behind the latest “James Bond” picture, Goldfinger (see entry). As of 30 Dec 1964, Var reported that the soundtrack album had reached $1 million in sales, even though playdates were running in just sixteen cities. According to a 12 Nov 1965 LAT news item, the success of Mary Poppins contributed to Walt Disney Productions’ fifty-five percent profit gain for the fiscal year, marking revenues exceeding $100 million.
       The film received five Academy Awards for Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Film Editing, Music (Music Score—substantially original), Music (Song)—“Chim Chim Cher-ee,” and Special Visual Effects, as well as nominations in the following categories: Art Direction (Color), Cinematography (Color), Costume Design (Color), Music (Scoring of Music—adaptation or treatment), Writing (Screenplay—based on material from another medium), Directing, and Best Picture.
       In 2006, AFI named Mary Poppins the sixth greatest American film musical, while the song, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” ranks #36 on AFI’s list of 100 Years…100 Songs. In anticipation of the film’s fiftieth anniversary in 2014, the Library of Congress selected Mary Poppins to be inducted to the National Film Registry.
       Among the few dissenters was P. L. Travers, who, a 25 Dec 1966 NYT article quoted only as saying that the picture was “good entertainment.” Her disapproval of Disney’s version was apparent in 1993, when she released the stage rights for a production in London’s West End under producer Cameron Mackintosh. According to the 8 Dec 2013 NYT, she signed the contract on condition that “no American would be allowed to participate in its making,” prohibiting Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman from any creative involvement despite their receiving credit for the music. However, following Travers’s death in 1996, the project was eventually retooled as a collaboration with Walt Disney Theatrical. Following a successful three-year run in London, the show opened 16 Nov 2006 at Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre, where it played until 3 Mar 2013. Several national tours and international productions have since enjoyed success around the world.
       On 31 May 2016, Var announced that Walt Disney Pictures planned to release a sequel titled Mary Poppins Returns, starring Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda. As of the writing of this Note, the release date is set for 25 Dec 2018.
       The making of Mary Poppins and Walt Disney’s struggle to appease P. L. Travers during production was dramatized in the 2013 film Saving Mr. Banks (see entry), starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.
       Although most cast members appear in both the opening credits and closing credits, the names of five actors—James Logan, Don Barclay, Alma Lawton, Marjorie Eaton and Marjorie Bennett—appear only in the opening credits. In addition to his above title opening credit, Dick Van Dyke, who plays two roles, is listed second in the end credits for his portrayal of "Bert," and as the final end credit for "Mr. Dawes, Senior." More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Sep 1964
p. 2858.
Daily Variety
11 Oct 1950.
---
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 Apr 1963
p. 8.
Daily Variety
7 May 1963
p. 11.
Daily Variety
20 Jun 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Sep 1963
p. 10.
Daily Variety
28 Aug 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
1 Sep 1964.
---
Filmfacts
1964
pp. 188-191.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 1964
p. 3.
Life
25 Sep 1964
p. 28.
Los Angeles Times
19 Oct 1957
Section B, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
16 Aug 1964
Section M, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
8 Dec 1964
Section D, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
24 Dec 1964
Section C, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
12 Nov 1965
Section B, p. 10.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
2 Sep 1964
p. 15.
New York Times
5 Mar 1961
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
11 Aug 1963
p. 95.
New York Times
25 Sep 1964
p. 34.
New York Times
25 Dec 1966
Section A, p. 12.
New York Times
8 Dec 2013
Arts, p. 16.
New Yorker
3 Oct 1964
p. 132.
Newsweek
2 Nov 1964.
---
Time
18 Sep 1964
p. 114.
Variety
6 Jun 1962
p. 16.
Variety
20 Jun 1963
p. 2.
Variety
21 Aug 1963
p. 3.
Variety
18 Dec 1963
p. 3.
Variety
1 Jul 1964
p. 20.
Variety
2 Sep 1964
p. 6.
Variety
9 Sep 1964
p. 21.
Variety
23 Sep 1964
p. 18.
Variety
25 Nov 1964
p. 16.
Variety
30 Dec 1964
p. 37.
Variety
31 May 2016.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Live action 2nd unit dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost & des cons
Cost executed by
MUSIC
Mus supv, arr & cond
Asst to the cond
SOUND
Sd supv
Sd mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
DANCE
Choreog
Choreog
Dance accompanist
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Consultant
ANIMATION
Anim art dir
Nursery seq des
Nursery seq des
Anim
Anim
Anim
Background
Background
Background
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the "Mary Poppins" novels by P. L. Travers: Mary Poppins (London, 1934)
Mary Poppins Comes Back (London, 1935)
Mary Poppins Opens the Door (London, 1944)
+
LITERARY
Based on the "Mary Poppins" novels by P. L. Travers: Mary Poppins (London, 1934)
Mary Poppins Comes Back (London, 1935)
Mary Poppins Opens the Door (London, 1944)
and Mary Poppins in the Park (London, 1952).
+
AUTHOR
SONGS
"The Perfect Nanny," "Sister Suffragette," "The Life I Lead," "A Spoonful of Sugar," "Pavement Artist," "Chim Chim Cheree," "Jolly Holiday," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "Stay Awake," "I Love to Laugh," "Feed the Birds," "Fidelity Fiduciary Bank," "Step in Time," "A Man Has Dreams" and "Let's Go Fly a Kite," music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
DETAILS
Release Date:
27 August 1964
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 27 August 1964
New York opening: 24 September 1964
Production Date:
6 May--late August or early September 1963
Copyright Claimant:
Walt Disney Productions
Copyright Date:
18 August 1964
Copyright Number:
LP28936
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
With animated sequences
Duration(in mins):
140
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
20653
SYNOPSIS

Stuffy London banker George Banks advertises for a nanny in the Times when his wife, a spirited suffragette, has difficulty finding a governess firm enough to handle their children, Jane and Michael. The children also write an advertisement, asking that a compassionate person apply, but Mr. Banks throws their note into the fireplace. The next morning, a number of severe-looking women apply for the job, but a strong wind blows them away; Mary Poppins glides down from the sky on her umbrella and, while being interviewed by Mr. Banks, informs him she will give the family a trial period. She gets the children to clean up the nursery, making the task enjoyable with her magic, and then takes them for a walk. They enter a picture of the countryside that her friend Bert has chalked on the sidewalk. After having tea served by dancing penguins, they ride on a merry-go-round, leave the carousel on their horses, and trot off to a fox hunt. When rain washes the sidewalk drawing away, Mary rushes the children home. The following day, Mary takes the children and Bert to visit her Uncle Albert, whose incessant laughter causes him to float in the air; soon they are all laughing and floating on the ceiling. Mr. Banks, meanwhile, refuses to believe his children's stories and wants to fire Mary, but adopts her suggestion that he bring his children to the bank and show them how he spends his day. Michael is to open an account, but instead he attempts to retrieve his money to buy birdseed from The Bird Woman, thus creating panic in the ... +


Stuffy London banker George Banks advertises for a nanny in the Times when his wife, a spirited suffragette, has difficulty finding a governess firm enough to handle their children, Jane and Michael. The children also write an advertisement, asking that a compassionate person apply, but Mr. Banks throws their note into the fireplace. The next morning, a number of severe-looking women apply for the job, but a strong wind blows them away; Mary Poppins glides down from the sky on her umbrella and, while being interviewed by Mr. Banks, informs him she will give the family a trial period. She gets the children to clean up the nursery, making the task enjoyable with her magic, and then takes them for a walk. They enter a picture of the countryside that her friend Bert has chalked on the sidewalk. After having tea served by dancing penguins, they ride on a merry-go-round, leave the carousel on their horses, and trot off to a fox hunt. When rain washes the sidewalk drawing away, Mary rushes the children home. The following day, Mary takes the children and Bert to visit her Uncle Albert, whose incessant laughter causes him to float in the air; soon they are all laughing and floating on the ceiling. Mr. Banks, meanwhile, refuses to believe his children's stories and wants to fire Mary, but adopts her suggestion that he bring his children to the bank and show them how he spends his day. Michael is to open an account, but instead he attempts to retrieve his money to buy birdseed from The Bird Woman, thus creating panic in the bank. The children escape, and Bert takes them home. Mary appears; and she, Bert and the children travel across the rooftops of London. When they return home, their gaiety spreads throughout the household, and Bert points out to Mr. Banks how damaging his severity can be. When Banks is fired from his job, he tells chairman of the board Dawes a joke he learned from Michael, then leaves to take his children to fly kites in the park. Dawes, who has not laughed in 90 years, dies happy, while laughing at the joke, and Banks is offered a position on the board. Feeling that her job is complete, Mary opens her umbrella and flies away. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.