Disney movies tend to have lasting value. Years later kids still enjoy the classics. However, certain infamous Disney properties stand ahead of the pack. Movies like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs are still popular and loved today. Their popularity has even lead to live-action remakes of the classics.
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Mary Poppins made its debut in 1964 and is still an amazing children's movie with lasting values that carry over into any generation. In fact, here we are 52 years later, and Disney has announced a sequel entitled Mary Poppins Returns. The film is set to star Emily Blunt in the titular role of the magical, kind, and wise London nanny, Mary Poppins. Other names surrounding the project include Lin Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame, and the amazing Meryl Streep of general all around fame.
Back in 2013, Disney released Saving Mr. Banks, a historical drama which chronicles both the making of the original Poppins film and the tumultuous childhood of P. L. Travers, the woman who created Mary Poppins.
We all seem to be in a Mary Poppins mood lately, which begs the question, why? Why has Mary Poppins stood the test of time?
Mary Poppins featured one of the greatest casts of all time. Each performer was perfect for their role. Mary was Julie Andrews' first big starring role in which we all learned that she is one of the greatest actresses of all time. Her portrayal brought out every deep complexity of the character. She was firm, but likable, and kind, while also being strict. This performance made Andrews a household name, and rightfully so.
Dick Van Dyke, the classic television comedian and one of the greatest physical comics of all time, co-starred as Bert. His character was one of the most lovable and memorable parts of the movie entirely due to his performance. Bert's wacky personality and antics perfectly compliment Mary's order and organization. Plus, no one can match Van Dyke's lanky and comedic dance style.
The film also included the amazing performance of David Tomlinson as George Banks, the misguided father of Jane and Michael. Tomlinson was no doubt the perfect choice for the role. Early on, he turns the audience against his character, portraying his as hardhearted and overly strict. As the film progresses Tomlinson slowly reveals that his character isn't mean or lacking love, he's over worked and stressed over taking care of his family. His shift in character towards the end of the film was seamless and natural, and really showed his talent as an actor.
I dare you to find one person who hasn't heard the song "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." The music of Mary Poppins is timeless. The movie had fun dance numbers like "Chim Chim Chir-ee," as well as slower meaningful ballads like "Feed The Birds." The film even included a politically charged march called "Sister Suffragette" all about women's rights. The music of Mary Poppins has no doubt played a huge role in its lasting effect on our society.
Saving Mr. Banks showed us quite a bit of the story behind the classic film. One point in particular being P. L. Travers' refusal to allow Walt Disney to turn her creation into an animated movie. She compared it to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and had no desire to see her characters receive the same, fully animated, treatment. Walt's decision at one point to combine live-action and animation was a pure stroke of genius.
The concept of the magical British nanny was whimsically expressed in the animation sequences. Every child that sees Mary Poppins instantaneously wants her for a nanny, purely so they can jump into a painting or cartoon. Though the combination of animation and live-action wasn't new at the time, Mary Poppins seemed to embody the concept in our minds, which is impressive, considering how a new form of animation, CGI, appears in almost every film we see today.
The Underlying Themes
While Mary Poppins had one clear moral to the story, which we'll address shortly, it also included other themes and lessons that were more subtle. The first example that comes to mind is Jane and Michael's mother Winifred. She spends her days fighting and campaigning for her cause, women's rights to vote. She even sings an entire song about the importance of her work and of gender equality. Considering the fact that gender equality is still an ongoing issue, I'd say Winifred Banks did her share in keeping Mary Poppins relevant.
Jane and Michael's outing with their father is another excellent example of this. The adults attempt to force the children to put their money in the bank which eventually causes a riot and the bank has to close for a day. All of the adults are shown to be obsessed with grossing more and more money while the children wish to spend what little money they have on a poor woman. This whole sequence of events shows children that there are more valuable things than money. That is definitely a lesson that resonates with people of any generation.
The lesson this movie teaches is one that will always be relevant. It's very hard in such a fast paced world to keep things properly prioritized. Mary Poppins comes sweeping in, and instead of teaching and taking care of the children like most nannies, she helps and teaches their parents. At the outset of the film we are introduced to two normal, kind, mostly well behaved children whose parents are too wrapped up in their work to spend time as a family.
In her special, Disney-fied, magical way, Mary teaches George Banks that his family is far more important than money or a job. This is one of the few children's movies with a lesson that really makes you think about your life and the choices you make as an adult. Mary Poppins is one of the few films with a time tested moral that effects kids and their parents in the same way.
The Main Character
Mary Poppins is an entirely unique character. She does so many outrageous and impossible things, and yet she's one of the most practical and orderly characters in the movie. Despite how strict and rule oriented Mary is, the children always seem to find themselves in the most far fetched and crazy situations. One example is the scene with Uncle Albert. Everyone is laughing and having fun while Mary stands in judgement.
Mary Poppins represents ultimate imaginative fun and decisive discipline and rules. She is a character who is extremely hard to emulate, which makes the movie itself hard to emulate. Mary Poppins is one of the most imaginative characters ever created, which makes her story endlessly entertaining.
Mary Poppins is practically perfect in every way. The cast, characters, themes, and music are all perfect, and together they make a timeless classic loved by children from many generations. I love Mary Poppins. It has played a huge role in my life and childhood. I absolutely can't wait to see her return.
Are you excited for Mary Poppins Returns? Let us know what you think in the comments below!