Is it supercalifragilisticexpialidocious or will it take more than a spoonful of sugar to make this medicine go down? Saving Mr. Banks tells the impossibly boring sounding story of Walt Disney's attempts to get author P.L. Travers to relinquish the rights to her beloved Mary Poppins so that he can make an all singing, all dancing Disney adaptation of the book. Travers is a miserable, jaded and stuck up Emma Thompson and Disney is nice guy Tom Hanks. What a surprise; Saving Mr. Banks is produced by none other than Disney.
Saving Mr. Banks is not a bad film. Thompson peels away the layers until we start to see the sympathetic soul beneath the icy exterior of Travers while the supporting cast of Paul Giamatti and Colin Farrel are superb. When Travers gets lured to Hollywood due to financial problems, Disney attempts to woo her with Sherman brothers songs, delicious sugary treats, a tour of Disneyland and even her own personal driver. Travers hates all the confectionery, the rooms full of Disney merchandise and the sugar coated songs but most of all she hates animation.
With flashbacks to her childhood in Australia humanising this hard to like figure and a developing relationship between (most poignantly) her and her driver played by Giamatti, Disney's film wins you over in the end, much like Disney himself ends up winning Travers over. That is all well and good; a nice little yarn about a woman learning to loosen up and forgive her self and at the same time a sweet, if slightly dubious, message about the power of movies to bring joy to people's lives.
I went home wondering if all this was true or how much the writers made up. So I did some exhaustive and extensive research (well I looked on Wikipedia) and found out that Travers was indeed an adviser to the production for two weeks and one of the real Sherman brothers who got the pleasure of working with her insists she was even worse than how she is portrayed in the film. 'She disapproved of the dilution of the harsher aspects of Mary Poppins'
character, felt ambivalent about the music, and so hated the use of
animation that she ruled out any further adaptations of the later Mary Poppins novels.'
In Saving Mr. Banks she does not get invited to the premiere but requests a ticket from Disney herself. This is true but instead of crying and tapping her feet and Disney and her parting ways on fond terms, this is what apparently really happened: 'she reportedly approached Disney and told him that the animated
sequence had to go. Disney responded by walking away, saying as he did,
"Pamela, the ship has sailed."' Whatever happened, she never agreed to let Disney adapt any more of her novels again.
I get the feeling that Travers would have hated Saving Mr. Banks for its sugar coating of her story and I doubt much that Disney would have approved much of the way it softens her. It's a sweet movie with solid performances but forget a spoonful of sugar, take it with a pinch of salt.
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