Tom Hanks portrays Walt Disney in “Saving Mr. Banks,” (watch trailer) a biographical account of Walt Disney’s 20-year struggle to acquire the script for “Mary Poppins” from Australian author P.L. Travers. The classic film, “Mary Poppins,” was released in 1964 and was a great success for Disney. The highly acclaimed movie starred Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. In the film, Mr. Banks was played by David Tomlinson.
“M Poppins” was the name of a character from stories Travers created for her sisters when they were young. Travers wrote the first novel of the “Mary Poppins” children’s book series in 1933, and it was published in 1934. She continued to write the “Mary Poppins” series until 1988. For Travers, “Mary Poppins” was a very personal reflection of her relationship with her father, who died when she was seven years old.
Walt Disney eventually persuaded Travers to allow him to make the film of her first novel, and Travers served as an adviser on the production. Disney’s film also included parts of the second book in the “Mary Poppins” series, but Travers disliked how her character was portrayed by Disney. She especially disapproved of the animation in the film, as “Mary Poppins” depicted the hardships in Travers’ life. She, therefore, refused to allow Disney to use any of her other works.
The script for “Saving Mr. Banks” was put on the Black List in 2011. The screenplay is written by Kelly Marcel, who created the Terra Nova series, and the story is written by Sue Smith. The film is being produced by Alison Owen at Ruby Films with John Lee Hancock directing. Filming began in September of 2012, and the movie will be released in December of 2013.
The part of Walt Disney is played by Golden Globe and Academy Award winner Tom Hanks. Hanks is known for his work in several critically acclaimed movies, including “Forrest Gump,” “Philadelphia,” and “Cast Away.” Although Meryl Streep was originally considered for the leading role of P.L. Travers, the final decision was to cast Emma Thompson for the part. Thompson is a multiple Academy-Award-winning actor, comedian, screenwriter, and author. She is known for such films as “Beautiful Creatures,” “Love Actually,” and her role in the “Harry Potter” films. Travers’ father, Robert Goff Travers, is portrayed by Colin Farrell. Robert Goff Travers was the inspiration for Mary Poppins’ gruff employer, Mr. Banks.
The plot is split between P.L. Travers’ childhood in Australia around 1907 and the time she spent in Los Angeles in 1961 while acting as adviser for the “Mary Poppins” film. Unlike Disney’s whimsical version of “Mary Poppins,” Travers’ version is a reflection of the hardships she faced as a child seeing her alcoholic father suffer through financial turmoil and failing health.
In the script, Walt Disney spends 20 years trying to acquire “Mary Poppins” from Travers, but she adamantly refuses, holding the character too dear to her heart. Eventually, suffering from financial hardship herself, Travers agrees to travel to America and meet with Disney. The film goes on to depict the collaboration between hardy, optimistic Walt Disney; Travers, who has inherited her father’s brusque nature; and a team of increasingly exasperated writers. Whatever difficulty Disney had in obtaining the rights to “Mary Poppins” pales in comparison to the demands Travers makes during the filming.
Periodically, flashbacks to Travers’ childhood give further insight into this frustrating but intriguing woman’s life. Travers’ father, although a loving man, could not control his alcoholism. Even as he saw his family falling apart because of his drinking, he was powerless to stop. Robert Travers’ substance abuse continued until he became crippled and bedridden from his addiction. Travers was forced to see her weakened father every day, and she longed for their situation to be different. As a coping mechanism, the child created the character of Mary Poppins. From the flashbacks, it is easy to understand Travers’ reluctance to sell “Mary Poppins.” She is afraid the Poppins character she once depended upon will be changed forever by Disney.
Reportedly, the story goes on to show Travers’ relationship with her driver, Ralph. Ralph has a sunny, cheerful disposition that’s in direct contrast to hers. Even though Travers hates Ralph at first, she is eventually won over by his good-hearted nature. Overall, the story is about Travers’ connection to “Mary Poppins” and Disney’s determination to make the film at any cost. It is about two people’s very different personalities and how the film finally came to be made against massive odds.