Written by Senora Bicho
It is hard to believe that Mary Poppins was released 45 years ago. I grew up with this movie in the late ’70s and maybe because it is set in 1910 it has never had a dated feeling to me. The successful Disney musical is based on a series of books published in 1934. Mary Poppins is brilliantly played by Julie Andrews in her first movie role after she was passed over for the title role in My Fair Lady even though she created the role of Eliza Doolittle on Broadway. Andrews got the last laugh though by winning the Academy Award for her performance.
The movie starts with the Banks family in desperate need of a nanny. Children Michael (Matthew Garber) and Jane (Karen Dotrice) have a habit of terrorizing their nannies and the latest one quits after they run off while playing in the park. Mr. Banks has strong ideas on the traits needed for the new hire but so do the children. Enter Mary Poppins, who floats down from the sky with the use of her umbrella. She wins over Mr. Banks with some confusion and goes right to work. Not only does she take the children on many adventures but she also fulfills her real purpose in working for the Banks family, bringing them closer together.
In the course of their adventures, Mary Poppins runs into old friend Bert (Dick Van Dyke) who is part-time chimney sweep along with a myriad of other jobs. One of his talents is chalk drawing, which Mary Poppins uses to transport them into adventures. This is where the film is transformed into a mix of live-action with animation. The restored and remastered picture looks amazing. Considering when it was made, the animation/live action combination is really impressive as are the rest of the special effects. The colors are vivid and the sound is also clear and crisp.
The extras seem never-ending in the two-disc DVD set. Disc 1 includes “Disney Song Selection” which allows the viewer to watch any song from the movie with ease and includes an option to have the lyrics on screen while watching the movie. There is an audio commentary with Andrews, Dotrice, Van Dyke, and songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman. “Poppins Pop-Up Fun Facts” allows fun facts to pop up on the screen while watching the movie.
The remaining features listed are on Disc 2. “Disney on Broadway” focuses on the recent Broadway musical. “Mary Poppins from Page to Stage” provides information about the creation of the play. “Step in Time” is the stage performance of the popular song and provides the opportunity to download an MP3 of the song. “Bob Crowley’s Design Gallery” offers stills from all aspects of the production from costume designs to set models.
“Backstage Disney” focuses on the film itself. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins” is featurette on all aspects of the movie. “Movie Magic” highlights the special effects. “The Gala World Premiere” provides clips recently discovered from opening night at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. It was quite an affair and it is really neat to see the celebrities in attendance along with the fashion of the times. “Dick Van Dyke Make Up Test” showcases Van Dyke’s transformation into Mr. Dawes. “Publicity” offers trailers and television spots. “Mary Poppins Still Art Galleries” is a thorough still art gallery from pre-production to behind the scenes and the recording sessions.
“Music & More” includes a musical reunion with Andrews, Van Dyke and Richard Sherman. “A Musical Journey with Richard Sherman” provides a window into the genius behind the songs. There is also a deleted song, “Chimpanzoo,” sung by (who else?) Richard Sherman.
Last but not least, there is “The Cat That Looked at a King” a bonus short based on the Mary Poppins books. Julie Andrews hosts this animated feature that includes the voices of Sarah Ferguson, David Ogden Stiers and Tracey Ullman.
I have seen this movie so many times but it never grows old or any less fun. There are so many great songs and some of my favorites are not even the most popular ones but who can resist “A Spoon Full of Sugar” or “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” The story is well written and engaging. The children are adorable and Andrews is charming and instantly likable in the title role. Dick Van Dyke is equally good along with a strong supporting cast. If you love the movie like I do, it is a must for your Disney collection.
For those that already own the 40th Anniversary DVD, there’s no reason to upgrade unless you are a fan of the Broadway musical because that section is the only one to offer new material. The features, Deconstruction Of A Scene – “Jolly Holiday” and “Step In Time” and the “I Love to Laugh” game, didn’t make the cut.