45th Anniversary Edition
Studio: Walt Disney
US Rating: G - General Audiences.
Film Length: 139 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Original 2.0 Theatrical Mix, French and Spanish Language Tracks
Subtitles: French and Spanish
Review Date: January 21, 2009
The Film - out of
Mary Poppins isn’t timeless, but its influence and fanciful delight most certain is. A veritable cavalcade of musical treasures, wishful magic and one of the worst (but loveable) cockney accents ever used on film. The film exists as a jewel in the pantheon of Disney classics with bounds of wonder, heart, imagination and cheerfulness.
It is the spring of 1910 and Mary Poppins is poised above the great city of London in a cloud. While she is perched pleasantly above the grandness of the English capital, we are introduced to Bert, a lively, cockney street entertainer (and chimney sweep) who, speaking directly to us, the audience, gives us a quick tour of a nice neighborhood. In no time at all, we meet the Banks Family – a family in trouble. The Nanny has quit in exacerbation at the two Banks children, Jane and Michael, having runaway yet again. The family is at loose ends with the mother, active in the suffragette movement to afford women the right to vote and Mr. Banks, a detached financier for whom his time and patience does not include his family as they are to be maintained by the Nanny and not intrude on his routine (though he does, of course, love his children).
A replacement Nanny is sought but into the Banks family calmly floats Mary Poppins, an unassuming and disarmingly demure woman who is far from normal. She is an enchanted and strong-willed lady, gifted with a set of unique talents that endear her quickly to the children. She engages their imaginations, at the vexation of Mr. Banks. Memorable moments abound in this treasure, indulged by great special visual effects that earned the film an Oscar, along with four others for Best Score (Composer Irwin Kostal), Song Richard and Robert Sherman), Editing (Cotton Warburton) and Best Actress, Julie Andrews. In total, it received 13 Academy Award nominations.
The remarkable and lasting marvel of Mary Poppins is inherently the product of Julie Andrew’s superb performance and the incredulously catchy musical numbers. No child on this planet older than a few years won’t at some stage in their early life hear the unusual and catchy ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ - Heck even my spell check recognizes the word. We are all universally aware of the notion that a “spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” and no-one who experienced Julie Andrews angelic voice and Dick Van Dyke’s slapstick rumpus could deny a soft spot for the numbers “Chim Chim Cher-ee” or “Feed the Birds”. No, indeed this Walt Disney sumptuous and cherished classic has undeniably earned its cinematic longevity by being the truest embodiment of the indelible and archetypal family treasure. It appeared in theaters for the first time on August 27, 1964. In the subsequent years, prior to the advent of home viewing mechanisms (VHS, Beta through Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-Ray) it appeared in theaters again and again, bringing to audiences the delights that Disney only could. I remember seeing Mary Poppins at the Southampton Cinema with my brother, sister and mum when I was very young, and have long held it close as a special love. Even when it would appear on Television (again, before the market for home ownership of films), it would happily be watched again and again.
The talent onscreen and behind the camera certainly yield great results. Director Robert Stevenson and screenwriters Bill Walsh and Don DiGradi bring the Mary Poppins character, from the beloved book series by P.L. Travers to life with a splendid blending of live action and animation. The Poppins character is a variation on the literal one, and it has come to light through the years that the author was displeased with some of the direction the screen adaptation took. But creative differences aside, what made it to the screen is distinctly Disney and filled with charm and chirping happiness throughout. The animation, animatronics and jovial jubilance that permeate the over two hour running time is still a joy to behold.
Mary Poppins is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and uses the same digitally restored transfer from the 40th anniversary release from 2004. Despite some unavoidable softness, the colors and energy is vibrant. Occasional dirt can be found, but only occasionally and is most noticeable during the opening titles. But for the greater majority of the film, it is cleaned up and free of issues as never before at home.
The only points of note, beyond a little debris are resultant of the films age. The effects, matte painting blended with live action suffer the most, but all in all, look better than ever before. Colors are rich and very warm – skin tones reflect that warmth and blacks are deeper than you might expect. Disney has done a fine job with this release.
Disney has provided an expanded Dolby Digital 5.1 option in addition to the original 2.0 theatrical mix. The 5.1 option is front laden with some swift surround activity during musical moments. But for the most part, the center channel and front left and right carry the weight of the audio. Appropriate for its year, the sound is fuller, softer and higher in the treble and the 5.1 mix gives us just a little more by way of the rear speakers and a little punch in the sub-woofer. The sound is of surprisingly good quality given its age and will please newcomers and longtime fans alike. Those who care about true preservation will thoroughly enjoy the original 2.0 theatrical mix that has been included.
Music & More:
Disney Song Selection: Jump directly to 8 songs from the film, available with optional onscreen lyrics.
Audio Commentary with Julie Andrews, Karen Dotrice, Richard Sherman, Robert Sherman & Dick Van Dyke.
Poppings Pop-up Fun Facts
Fun facts about Mary Poppins pop-up on screen as you watch the film.
Disney on Broadway:
Mary Poppins: From Page to Stage- (48:04) –Disney brings yet another of its film classic to the stages of Broadway. This look at the people and process of adapting the story to the theatre setting is quite well done. We meet the principle individuals responsible for creating it, including producers, composer, lyricists and scenic directors. Involved and well produced, this is more interesting than you might expect.
’Step In Time’: Musical Number from Mary Poppins on Broadway - (7:08) – An exclusive look at a musical number from the show featuring chimney sweeps.
Bob Crowley’s Design Gallery – Bob Crowley, costumer designer for the Broadway production introduces a look a series of drawings from the show broken into four segments; Costume Designs, Concept Art, Set Design and Set Models. You can page through the designs, enlarging images that catch your interest.
Download and MP3 of “Step In Time”– Insert the disc into a DVD-Rom to get a copy of the song sung by the cast.
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins - (50:42) – A detailed look at the production of the film with interviews with Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and other cast members and composer/lyricists. This was created for the 40th anniversary release and provides a superb look at the films production, impact and longevity.
Movie Magic - (7:05) – A look at the creation of the effects used in the film; effects of all kinds – from matte paintings, props, animatronics and others.
The Gala World Premiere - (17:45) – Archival footage from the television and radio broadcasts of the films premier. Though not all the complete film and sound elements have made it through the years, this special feature presents recently discovered elements found in the vaults of Disney.
Dick Van Dyke Make-up Test - (1:07) – Dick Van Dyke, donning make-up to create the old man (his second character in the film) is shown here with Dyke telling us how he got that role.
Publicity - (00:00) – A bevy of publicity available here as follows:
Original Theatrical Teaser Trailer
Original Theatrical Trailer
Julie Andrew’s Premiere Greeting
Original TV Spot #1
Original TV Spot #2
1966 Re-Issue Trailer
1973 Re-Issue Trailer #1
1973 Re-Issue Trailer #2
Mary Poppins Still Art Gallery - (00:00) – Broken into segments:
Peter Ellenshaw Paintings
Costumes & Make-Up
Behind the Scenes
Walt & Friends
Music & More
A Magical Musical Reunion featuring Julie Andrew, Dick Van Dyke and Richard Sherman - (17:18) – The two principle adult actors and one half of the musical force discuss and reminisce about the making of and magic of Mary Poppins. With Sherman at the piano and the two actors standing by him, stories from so many years ago come alive, including how the critically lauded song ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ came about.
A Musical Journey with Richard Sherman - (20:51) – Richard Sherman takes us through some of the musical sequences and we get rare glimpses at making of footage and unused songs. These looks back at creating the music, with photos and film footage that Disney has shared on the anniversary discs are quite the treat.
Deleted Song: “Chimpanzoo” - (1:38) – Richard Sherman plays this deleted song with storyboards of the sequence.
Bonus Short - (9:52) – “The Cat that Looked at a King” from “Mary Poppins Opens the Door” by P.L. Travers
Mary Poppins is as delightful today as when I first experienced its magic on the big screen, which for me was the early 1980’s. Even amongst today’s children’s films laden with clean effects it manages to hold up well, with its never realistic settings and endless inventive effects – it is crammed with fun and heart. This superb 45th Anniversary Edition loving produces the film’s magic and provides a wonderful set of special features that reflect warmly upon the experience of perhaps Walt Disney’s most beloved live-action film classic. With a quality image and audio presentation, a good set of extra features (that tilt toward adults) and the chance to share this great film with a new generation of kids, this latest edition of Mary Poppins is a worthy purchase.