Mary Poppins Returns director Rob Marshall has explained why he decided to make a sequel to one of Disney’s best-loved movies. By the time Mary Poppins Returns hits theaters on Christmas 2018, it will have been 54 years since the original Mary Poppins captivated audiences. That’s one of the longest gaps between sequels ever- the record is 63 years held by Bambi and the straight to DVD release of Bambi II. Given the length of time that has elapsed, it’s not possible for Julie Andrews or Dick Van Dyke to reprise their roles in a movie that is set just 20 or so years after the first one, so the starring roles fall to Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins, and Lin-Manuel Miranda as lamplighter Jack- a former apprentice of Bert.
Talking to EW, Marshall explained that it was the Mary Poppins novels by P.L. Travers that inspired him to make the sequel, since there was so many more stories to tell:
“We realized there was such a wealth of adventures that never materialized onscreen, and I thought, maybe there’s a reason to do this film. There was talk about doing one in the ’80s or ’90s that never materialized, but when Disney brought this up to me, they said the Travers estate was very open to this, as long as we treated it carefully. And I thought, well, that’s the one thing I know I can do — treat it as beautifully as it deserves to be treated.”
Those who have seen the Disney stage musical of Mary Poppins will know it also draws influence from Travers’ novels; with scenes added that are not in the movie. Mary Poppins is based on the first two books in the series, but there are six more stories, all as magical as each other, and it can only be a good thing that Disney have decided to bring elements of them to life. Since the books themselves have aged, it is unlikely that kids of today would pick them up to read, whereas they are very likely to go and watch a musical movie all about the magical nanny.
Marshall has strong movie musical pedigree, bringing both the Oscar-winning Chicago and Into the Woods to life. His success with both of those projects will no doubt mean Disney view him as a safe pair of hands with the source material. The casting for Mary Poppins Returns is superb; in addition to Blunt and Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, and Julie Andrews will appear, with cameos from Angela Lansbury and Van Dyke. With an original musical score from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray), this could well turn out to be a practically perfect musical.