Mary Poppins: 'Saving Mr. Banks' Begins Production, Despite Rift (Video)

Monday, 09 Dec 2013 08:53 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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"Mary Poppins" writer P.L. Travers' experience with Walt Disney was a lot different than what is depicted in the upcoming feel-good Hollywood blockbuster "Saving Mr. Banks," according to one author who wrote about the dark side of the filmmaker's legacy.

Travers, who brought the magical, umbrella-flying nanny "Mary Poppins" to life in her 1933 book, was notoriously cranky and reluctant to turn over her beloved character to Disney for the 1964 film adaptation.

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"I don't think Disney had the faintest idea of what to expect when she turned up [on the 'Poppins' set]," Brian Sibley, a British writer who worked with Travers in the 1980s on a never-completed sequel to the film, told the New York Post. "She was an immensely complex person. Amazingly independent and strong, very determined, very strong-willed."

"Saving Mr. Banks," which stars Tom Hanks as Disney and Emma Thompson as Travers, remains somewhat true to the real story. For example, it shows Travers' displeasure with the studio's ideas for cartoon scenes and nonsensical songs like "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," and also delved into how much she insisted on being involved.

But the happy ending in "Mr. Banks," where Travers is finally on board with the film, is not exactly how things went down in reality, says Marc Eliot, author of "Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince."

"Disney brought her to Hollywood and decided he would charm her into making this film," he told the Post. "But she wasn't very charm-able. She was a tough woman — not quirky or cute. She didn’t like American movies, and she hated animation more than anything.

"Disney had no creative respect for this woman. He wanted a property, and once he got it he completely ignored her input and all the restrictions she had agreed to. And that’s how the film got made. That revisionist history — that’s part of the myth of Walt Disney."

Travers was never won over by Disney, Eliot said, and she reportedly wept through the entire premiere of "Mary Poppins." She died in 1996 at 96 years old, still ornery and irritable.

"Saving Mr. Banks" hits theaters Dec. 13.

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