If, like P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, (HMH), you hate the sanitized Disney version of her heroine, then you may be looking forward to Emma Thompson’s portrayal of a prickly Travers, as she struggles against the charms of Tom Hanks’ Walt in the movie Saving Mr. Banks.

Mary Poppins She Wrote

The trailer claims the film is based on the “Untold True Story.” Perhaps this version has not been told, but others have. Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P. L. Travers, by Valerie Lawson (S&S, 2006), according to the Publishers Weekly review, details Travers’s “fussy movie negotiations with Walt Disney and the downplaying of her authorship in the 1964 hit film.” It is even being re-released with a note on the cover that it “Explores the events that inspired the major motion picture Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks.”

In “Becoming Mary Poppins,” published in The New Yorker in 2005prior to the opening of a theatrical version of Mary Poppins on Broadway (with a script by Downton Abbey‘s Julian Fellowes and judged to be a “faithful rendering of the books’ brisk and sophisticated comic sensibility”), Caitlin Flanagan writes that, far from trying to charm Travers, Disney didn’t even meet with her at first. Instead, he palmed her off on the two songwriters he had hired for an agonizing, week-long story meeting. He left town, going to a ranch in Palm Springs to “read scripts.”

When Travers confronted Disney after the movie’s premiere, to which she hadn’t even been invited, demanding some changes,

Disney looked at her coolly. “Pamela,” he replied, “the ship has sailed.” And then he strode past her, toward a throng of well-wishers, and left her alone, an aging woman in a satin gown and evening gloves, who had travelled more than five thousand miles to attend a party where she was not wanted.

For those who are only aware of the supercalifragilistic version of Mary Poppins, Saving Mr. Banks may shed new light on the original, but it is likely to be a rose-colored light. Saving Mr. Banks is, after all, a Disney movie.

The film premieres in limited release Dec. 13 and expands nationwide on Dec. 20.

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