Saving Mr. Banks – Disney’s forthcoming production about P.L. Travers and the making of Mary Poppins in the early 1960′s – arrives in theaters in just over a month, and while we’ve seen some early images and a premiere trailer for the film, marketing has been relatively (and surprisingly) quiet on the project. Today, however, that silence has been broken with the release of a brand new featurette, which can be seen above, that focuses entirely on the endlessly complicated Travers as well as the esteemed actress portraying her, Emma Thompson.
The clip is largely comprised testimonials from director John Lee Hancock and from the rest of the cast, notably B.J. Novak (who plays Robert B. Sherman, the composer and lyricist who co-wrote the songs used in the film alongside his younger brother, Richard, portrayed by Jason Schwartzman) and, of course, none other than Tom Hanks, stepping into the role of Uncle Walt himself. Thompson has the chance to speak, but mostly, this is about what her fellow performers think of her work on the set and why she’s such a perfect fit for the role; if half of what they say about her efforts here is true, then we’re all going to be in for a treat.
What the featurette doesn’t really get into is how much Saving Mr. Banks will look back to Travers’ childhood as a reference point. Hanks, speaking to the camera here, hints at a “secret” she kept from Walt during the filmmaking process, which most likely is that she used her own alcoholic father, Robert (played by Colin Farrell in the movie), as an inspiration for the eponymous Mr. Banks – the patriarch of the Banks family in Mary Poppins - both on the page and on the screen. Her life growing up in Queensland, Australia, provided a good deal of the framework for the story she eventually told in her novel.
It’s more than likely that this is what Hanks is talking about, but we don’t really get to see much of that here. In fact, a lot of the footage on display here is lifted straight out of that first trailer from four months back (which, it’s worth noting, shows off way more scenes of Travers’ upbringing). That’s to be expected – this is just a featurette, after all, and the purpose is to sell Thompson as the star. In that respect, this is a fairly successful bit, though there are undoubtedly more layers to her performance here than uptight artistic quirkiness. We’ll see for sure in December!
Saving Mr. Banks arrives in US theaters on December 13th, 2013.