When Disney released Mary Poppins in 1964, it was a smash hit. The musical film, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, went on to win 5 Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Andrews, but Walt Disney didn't have an easy time getting the film to the screen. As is well-dramatized in Saving Mr. Banks, original Mary Poppins creator, P.L. Travers, was fiercely protective of the magical nanny of her creation, and for a long time withheld the rights to any of her Mary Poppins books from Disney. Though she eventually relented, she was allegedly never satisfied with the film or the changes Disney had made; namely to make Mary Poppins a more family-friendly (though still strict) English nanny, rather than the darker version that Travers had created.
Who knows, then, what Travers would have made of the news that Disney are working on another Mary Poppins movie, Mary Poppins Returns. While the sequel has been rumored for a long time, Disney have finally confirmed the title, release date, and casting news. Mary Poppins Returns will be directed by Rob Marshall (Into the Woods) and is set in a Depression-era London, which is when Travers' original stories were set. The story will draw on Travers' other seven additional Mary Poppins books, and will focus on a now-grown Jane and Michael Banks, and Michael's three children. The action begins when the family are visited by Mary Poppins following a personal tragedy. The film is set for a December 2018 release.
The only casting confirmed so far is Emily Blunt (Into the Woods) as Mary Poppins, and Lin-Manuel Miranda as a new character, a street-lamp lighter named Jack (following on in a similar vein to that of chimney sweep Bert). Miranda is a hot ticket right now; his sold-out musical, Hamilton, is the darling of Broadway and has just recently become the most Tony nominated show ever, and is widely expected to sweep the board when the awards take place in a few weeks time. As director, writer, and star of the show, Miranda has also been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his work.
Mary Poppins Returns will have its screenplay written by Oscar nominee David Magee based on The Mary Poppins Stories by P.L. Travers, with Oscar nominee and Tony Award winner Marc Shaiman composing an all-new score and Shaiman and Scott Wittman writing original songs. The pair previously wrote the score for Hairspray together. Of taking on the daunting prospect of bringing Mary Poppins back to the big screen, Marshall called it an "honor" and added that the original film means a lot to him.
“I am truly humbled and honored to be asked by Disney to bring P.L. Travers’ further adventures to the screen. The iconic original film means so much to me personally, and I look forward to creating an original movie musical that can bring Mary Poppins, and her message that childlike wonder can be found in even the most challenging of times, to a whole new generation."
It seems as though Mary Poppins might well have found a safe pair of hands in Marshall; his adaptation of Into the Woods might have received mixed reviews but it's fair to say that the end result was something that fitted the Disney musical genre well. Blunt certainly encapsulates the English Rose persona required, and her role in Into the Woods is proof she can sing well. As for Miranda, well, most people are currently wondering if there's anything the man can't do, and again, it seems a safe bet that he will give this role his all. The choice of score writers is also inspired; Hairspray remains an incredibly popular show and its soundtrack is infectious. So...all is well?
Well, there's just one problem. This is Mary Poppins. The original movie is nothing short of iconic, a staple of many people's childhoods and still loved and held dear by nearly all who have seen it. Andrews holds status as one of the most beloved musical performers of all time; and, though his accent was atrocious, Van Dyke brings a cheeky cheeriness to his role that makes everyone smile. Will Disney ever be able to recreate that magic? Possibly not, but, let us not forget that the stage version of Mary Poppins has played all over the world to great critical and commercial acclaim. Let's hope Mary Poppins Returns proves itself to be just as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (sorry!).
Mary Poppins Returns will be released in U.S. theaters on December 25, 2018.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures