Entertainment » Movies

Saving Mr. Banks

by Louise Adams
Tuesday Mar 18, 2014
Saving Mr. Banks

"Saving Mr. Banks" is a puff piece for, and by, The Mouse. Produced by the Disney juggernaut, the film had no other alternative than to assign benevolent credit to Walt for wooing harridan author P.L. Travers to adapt her children's book into the 1964 hit film "Mary Poppins," slipping in Dick Van Dyke's animated penguin dance and cacophonous Cockney accent.

The film flashes back and forth from young, tousle-headed Ginty Goff's (excellent Annie Rose Buckley) youth in Australia, loving and fearing her imaginative yet alcoholic banker father (sympathetic Colin Farrell), to the mature writer Mrs. Travers (which she insists on being called, ad nauseam), whose brittle personality is rivaled only by her crispily-permed hair.

Travers (ever brilliant Emma Thompson exploring another nanny) reluctantly travels to Hollywood because she wants to earn the means to keep her comfortable London flat, and has to suffer through toady movie composers Robert and Richard Sherman (B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman) and a treacly Walt, made barely tolerable by a "Saving Mr. (Tom) Hanks," who, among the many pill bottles in her hotel room, plants plenty of cartoon swag. After throwing an oversized plushie into the corner, Travers commands, "Mickey, you can stay there until you learn the art of subtlety."

Despite her demands, including having every rewrite session recorded (some of the actual audio archives are played over the closing credits), Walt, of course, convinces her to "let it all go and have a life that isn't dictated by the past," which means adding toe-tappers and pandering penguins to her beloved "family member" Nanny Mary's story.

"Mickey, you can stay there until you learn the art of subtlety."

The bonus material includes deleted scenes and a "Let's Go Fly a Kite" sing-along with cast and crew on the last day of shooting in November 2012. The mini-documentary "The Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins to the Present" is also a chapter from the Disney liturgy, where director John Lee Hancock sings the praises and leads a tour of the conglomerate, which started with animation then moved into television, live action films and exhibitions for Disney Land and the 1964 World's Fair. Disney is also credited with pioneering animatronics and stop motion animation.

The Disney dynasty has voluminous archives, used for both the feature and this extra, and tours of the campus, built by architect Kem Weber in a "Mouse Deco" style, spend time in the largely unchanged animation department.

This workplace, which opened in 1940, encouraged family visits, and grown up kids reminisce about the summer work program, where boys apprenticed in the mailroom and made props while girls did stenography and publicity. Even stereotypical gender roles are celebrated here. Stop motion indeed.

"Saving Mr. Banks"

Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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