Saving P.L. Travers

Saving Mr. Banks is a wonderful movie with a fantastic lesson weaved into the story.  Two-time Academy Award®–winner Emma Thompson and fellow double Oscar®-winner Tom Hanks are the stars of Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks, inspired by the extraordinary, untold backstory of how Disney’s classic Mary Poppins made it to the screen.  You don’t need to be a Disney fan to enjoy this movie.  However, if you are a Disney fan you will really like the movie and if you are a Mary Poppins fan you will love this movie.  On the surface this is a movie about Walt Disney’s struggle to get P.L. Travers to sign off on the elements of the Disney movie Mary Poppins, but when you dig down deeper it really is a story about letting go of the past so we can move forward.

Walt Disney’s daughters Sharon and Diane had fallen in love with the “Mary Poppins” stories  and they begged him to make a movie.  He agreed but it took 20 years for the promise to come true.  The process took so long because P.L. Travers was reluctant to give up any rights to her beloved family of characters in “Mary Poppins”.   In fact, she felt like they were her family and she didn’t want to see her books turned into a silly animated Disney movie.

The movie Saving Mr. Banks lets us have a sneak peek into two very important weeks for Walt Disney.  In 1961 P.L. Travers finally agreed to fly to Los Angeles to meet with Walt and his team working on Mary Poppins.  His team had been working for over two years on the story, the songs as well as costumes and sets.  Throughout the movie we see these concepts rolled out to P.L. Travers.  She wanted to give her final approval on everything before production started.  She ended up pushing back on just about every concept of the movie and this became very frustrating for everyone involved in the process; especially Walt Disney.

Within the movie are scenes woven in from P.L. Travers childhood and this is where we see why she fights so hard to hold on to Mary Poppins. I really don’t want to ruin any of this movie for you because it is beautiful how it unfolds so I will not elaborate any further on the flashbacks to her childhood.

My favorite scene of the movie is when we get to go to Disneyland with Walt Disney and P.L. Travers.  Tom Hanks does a fine job at playing Walt; who else could really play him?  I cried at this part because I am a crier and a Disney nerd.  Seeing Walt stand there at the gates of Disneyland welcoming P.L. Travers to Disneyland and walking down Main Street was awesome.  I loved the attention to detail as well; Walt (or Tom) is wearing a Smoke Tree Ranch tie.

P.L. Travers and Walt Disney visit Disneyland P.L. Travers and Walt Disney visit Disneyland in 1961

I really also enjoyed seeing the Sherman Brothers doing their finest job trying to make P.L. Travers happy; but the most endearing part is to see their interaction with Walt.  The brothers worked late into the night perfecting the songs.  Walt would come into the rehearsal space and sit at the piano with them.

The Sherman Brothers The Sherman Brothers played by B.J. Novak (Robert Sherman) and Jason Schwartzman (Richard M. Sherman)

I have soft spot in my heart for Richard M. Sherman because of the D23 Expo.  I attended his concert called The Disney Song Book during the D23 Expo where he played the piano, sang songs and told many stories about his Disney music experience, and many of his stories involved Mary Poppins.  The next day I meet him in Disneyland at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe while he was watching the Soundsational parade with “Step in Time” playing as the finale of the parade.

Richard M. Sherman Disneyland August 11 2013

Also while at the D23Expo there was a Mary Poppins exhibit at the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archive Collection.  I was able to see the costumes, props, the screenplay, the Grammy, story boards, concept art as well as opening night footage, and behind the scenes photographs.  Maybe that is the reason I cried so much in this movie, it felt like the bow on top of a wonderful present.

Mary Poppins Costume Mary Poppins exhibit at the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archive Collection.

My advice to you is to bring tissues when you see Saving Mr. Banks and to watch Mary Poppins soon after.  The new Mary Poppins DVD has many bonus features that include the making of Saving Mr. Banks, information about the Sherman Brothers as well as the 40th Anniversary documentary of the making of Mary Poppins that was released in 2004.

I also felt that after watching Mary Poppins that the character Mr. Banks is more like P. L. Travers and her father is more like Bert.  I feel that she created the stories of “Mary Poppins” because this is how she wanted her childhood to be.  She wanted her Dad to be more responsible like Mr. Banks, but also fun like Bert.  I feel that she had wished Mary Poppins could have arrived earlier and saved her Dad in many ways.  (I don’t want to give the story away, but after you see it you will know what I mean).


If you want to learn more about P.L. Travers you can read the book “Mary Poppins, She Wrote. The Life of P.L. Travers” written by Valerie Lawson.  Also available is a free book about the making of Saving Mr. Banks.  The book is available for free, exclusively on iBooks at www.iTunes.com/SavingMrBanks.

I hope you enjoy the movie as much as I did.

About Dawn

Dawn is a social influencer and has been writing about her nerdy side since 2004. She enjoys writing about Entertainment, Travel, Disney, Star Wars and life with two little girls. Her advice is to keep on dreaming, do what you love and life will lead you a path to your happiness. Dawn also writes for 5 Minutes for Mom.

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