My blog intern Dizzie and I recently watched the film Saving Mr. Banks, starring Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, and Paul Giamatti.
It's a fictionalized account of Walt Disney's behind-the-scenes struggle to get author P.L. Travers to agree to let him make the film version of her book, Mary Poppins.
Disney pursued the film rights for twenty years, after promising his young daughters he would turn their favorite book into a movie. P.L. Travers was vehemently against the idea of a movie from the start.
Saving Mr. Banks focuses on a two-week trip to Hollywood, which Travers eventually agreed to make in order to work on the film project, intercut with flashbacks of the author's rather difficult childhood in Australia.
Dizzie: News flash! The creator of iconic British nanny Mary Poppins wasn't British!
Lilly Faye: That's right, Diz. To continue, it is in these flashbacks that we learn of the real-life inspiration for both the character of Mary Poppins, and Travers' many books about her.
Dizzie: P.L. Travers wrote several sequels to Mary Poppins!
Lilly Faye: That's correct. My long-time readers may remember that Diz and I watched Mary Poppins together on Christmas Day. Therefore, references to the original movie were easy for us to follow. Never fear, though. If you haven't viewed Mary Poppins recently, there are plenty of relevant clips from it interspersed throughout Saving Mr. Banks.
Notes of interest:
Walt Disney, who is depicted sneaking a smoke in Saving Mr. Banks, died of lung cancer in 1966, two years after his film version of Mary Poppins premiered.
P.L. Travers' real name was Helen Lyndon Goff. She used several stage and pen names throughout her career.
Legendary Disney music composers, brothers Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, suffered mightily from Travers' wrath, far beyond what is depicted in Saving Mr. Banks. If you would like to know more about their true experiences working with Travers, here is the link to an excellent New York Times article about it:
More about P.L. Travers' life (not necessarily suitable for young children) can be found in this New York Times review of the biography, Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P.L. Travers, by Valerie Lawson:
I really enjoyed Saving Mr. Banks, even though I was aware I was watching a happy Disney version of a much darker reality.
Lovable Tom Hanks, though several years younger than his character, was a perfect choice to play lovable Uncle Walt.
Emma Thompson, who is said to have studied hours of audio recordings made by P.L. Travers in preparation for her role, is convincingly difficult and prickly. She comes across onscreen as the very definition of uptight.
Dizzie: She scared me!
Lilly Faye: Colin Farrell was a great choice to play Travers' alcoholic father.
And Paul Giamatti, who brings humanity and pathos to every role he's ever played, does the same here as the chauffeur who manages to get closer to Travers than anyone else at Disney Studios.
All in all, Saving Mr. Banks is as bright and colorful as you'd expect from a Disney movie about...um, Disney.
Personally, I loved seeing the 1960s-style clothes and furnishings.
What did you think, Diz?
Dizzie: I think I would really enjoy a trip to Disneyland!
Lilly Faye: No doubt, Diz. Time to rate the movie.
Lilly Faye's Movie Rating: Two Paws Up!