Mary Poppins (film)

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Mary Poppins
Theatrical release poster
Art by Paul Wenzel [1] [2]
Directed by Robert Stevenson
Produced by Walt Disney
Screenplay by
Based on Mary Poppins
by P. L. Travers
Music by
Cinematography Edward Colman
Edited by Cotton Warburton
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • August 27, 1964 (1964-08-27)
Running time
139 minutes [3]
CountryUnited States
Budget$4.4–6 million [4]
Box office$103.1 million [5]

Mary Poppins is a 1964 American musical fantasy film directed by Robert Stevenson and produced by Walt Disney, with songs written and composed by the Sherman Brothers. The screenplay is by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, based on P. L. Travers's book series Mary Poppins . The film, which combines live-action and animation, stars Julie Andrews in her feature film debut as Mary Poppins, who visits a dysfunctional family in London and employs her unique brand of lifestyle to improve the family's dynamic. Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, and Glynis Johns are featured in supporting roles. The film was shot entirely at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, using painted London background scenes. [6]


Mary Poppins was released on August 27, 1964, to critical acclaim. It received a total of 13 Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture – a record for any film released by Walt Disney Studios – and won five: Best Actress for Andrews, Best Film Editing, Best Original Music Score, Best Visual Effects, and Best Original Song for "Chim Chim Cher-ee". In 2013, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". [7] Mary Poppins is considered Walt Disney's crowning live-action achievement, and is the only one of his films which earned a Best Picture nomination during his lifetime. [6]

A sequel, Mary Poppins Returns , was released on December 19, 2018. [8] [9]


In Edwardian London, 1910, George Banks returns home at Cherry Tree Lane to learn from his wife, Winifred, that Katie Nanna has left their service after their children, Jane and Michael, have run away, "For the fourth time this month," ("Life I Lead"). They are returned shortly after by Constable Jones, who reveals the children were chasing a lost kite. The children ask their father to help build a better kite, but he dismisses them. Taking it upon himself to hire a new nanny, Mr. Banks advertises for a stern, no-nonsense nanny. To contrast, Jane and Michael present their own advertisement for a kinder, sweeter nanny. Winifred tries to keep the peace. Mr. Banks rips up the letter and throws the scraps in the fireplace, but the remains of the advertisement magically float up and out into the air.

The next day, a number of elderly, sour-faced nannies wait outside the Banks' home, but a strong gust of wind blows them away, and Jane and Michael witness a young nanny descending from the sky using her umbrella. Presenting herself to Mr. Banks, Mary Poppins calmly produces the children's restored advertisement and agrees with its requests but promises the astonished banker she will be firm with his children. As Mr. Banks puzzles over the advertisement's return, Mary Poppins hires herself, and she convinces him it was originally his idea. She meets the children and helps them magically tidy their nursery by snapping her fingers, before heading out for a walk in the park ("Spoonful of Sugar").

Outside, they meet Mary's old friend, Bert, working as a screever; Mary Poppins uses her magic to transport the group into one of his drawings. While the children ride on a carousel, Mary Poppins and Bert go on a leisurely stroll. Together, they sing "Jolly Holiday", and Bert flirts with Mary Poppins. After the duo meets up with the children, Mary Poppins enchants the carousel horses; Bert rescues a fox from a fox hunt; they take part in a horse race which Mary wins. Describing her victory, Mary Poppins uses the nonsense word "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." The outing is ended when a thunderstorm dissolves Bert's drawings, returning the group to London.

The next day, the three meet odd Uncle Albert, who has floated up in the air because of his uncontrollable laughter and they join him for a tea party on the ceiling with lots of jokes("I Love to Laugh"). Afterward, Mr. Banks becomes annoyed by the household's cheery atmosphere, and he threatens to fire Mary Poppins, but she manipulates him into taking the children to his workplace, the bank, the next day. That evening, Mary tells the children of the woman who sits by St Paul’s cathedral selling bird feed(“Feed The Birds”) Mr. Banks does so, and the children meet Mr. Dawes. Mr. Dawes aggressively urges Michael to invest his tuppence in the bank, ultimately snatching the coins from Michael. ("Fidelity Fiduciary Bank") Michael demands them back; other customers overhear the conflict, and they all begin demanding their own money back, causing a bank run.

Jane and Michael flee the bank, getting lost in the East End until they again meet up with Bert, now working as a chimney sweep, who escorts them home ("Chim Chim Cheree"). The three and Mary Poppins venture onto the rooftops, where they have a song-and-dance number with other chimney sweeps, which spills out into the Banks' home ("Step in Time") after Admiral Boom shoots fireworks at them, mistaking them for robbers. An enraged Mr. Banks returns and receives a phone call from his employers. He speaks with Bert, and Bert tells him he should spend more time with his children before they grow up ("A Man Has Dreams"). Jane and Michael give their father Michael's tuppence in the hope to make amends.

Mr. Banks walks through London to the bank, where he is given a humiliating cashiering and is dismissed. Looking to the tuppence for words, he blurts out "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," tells a joke, and happily heads home. Mr. Dawes mulls over the joke and, finally understanding it, floats up into the air, laughing.

The next day, the wind changes, meaning Mary Poppins must leave. A happier Mr. Banks is found at home, having fixed his children's kite, and takes the family out to fly it. In the park, the Banks family meets Mr. Dawes' son, Mr. Dawes Jr., who reveals his father died laughing from the joke. ("Let's Go Fly a Kite"). Although initially sorry, Mr. Banks soon becomes happy for him since Mr. Dawes Jr. had never seen his father happier in his life and re-employs Mr. Banks as a junior partner. With her work done, Mary Poppins ends the movie by flying away with Bert telling her not to stay away too long.


Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins Mary Poppins5.jpg
Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins
Dick Van Dyke as Bert Mary Poppins3.jpg
Dick Van Dyke as Bert
Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber as Jane and Michael Banks Mary Poppins11.jpg
Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber as Jane and Michael Banks
David Tomlinson as Mr. Banks Mary Poppins4.jpg
David Tomlinson as Mr. Banks
Hermione Baddeley and Reta Shaw as Ellen and Mrs. Brill Mary Poppins12.jpg
Hermione Baddeley and Reta Shaw as Ellen and Mrs. Brill




The first novel in the Mary Poppins series was the film's main basis. According to the 40th Anniversary DVD release of the film in 2004, Disney's daughters fell in love with the Mary Poppins books and made him promise to make a film based on them. Disney first attempted to purchase the film rights to Mary Poppins from P. L. Travers as early as 1938. However, Travers refused; she did not believe a film version of her books would do justice to her creation.

In addition, Disney was then known primarily as a producer of cartoons and had yet to produce any major live-action work. For more than 20 years, Disney periodically made efforts to convince Travers to allow him to make a Poppins film. He finally succeeded in 1961 although Travers demanded and got script approval rights. The Sherman Brothers composed the music score and were also involved in the film's development, suggesting the setting be changed from the 1930s to the Edwardian era. Pre-production and song composition took about two years.


Travers was an adviser to the production. However, she disapproved of the dilution of the harsher aspects of Mary Poppins' character, felt ambivalent about the music, and hated the use of animation so much that she ruled out any further adaptations of the later Mary Poppins novels. [12] She objected to a number of elements that made it into the film. Rather than original songs, she wanted the soundtrack to feature known standards of the Edwardian period in which the story is set. Disney overruled her, citing contract stipulations that he had final say on the finished print.

Much of the Travers–Disney correspondence is part of the Travers collection of papers in the State Library of New South Wales, Australia. The relationship between Travers and Disney is detailed in Mary Poppins She Wrote, a biography of Travers by Valerie Lawson. The biography is the basis for two documentaries on Travers: The Real Mary Poppins and Lisa Matthews' The Shadow of Mary Poppins. [13] [14] [15] Their relationship during the development of the film was also dramatized in the 2013 Disney film Saving Mr. Banks .


In March 1961, Disney announced that it might cast Hayley Mills and Mary Martin in the film. [16]

Julie Andrews, who was making her feature film acting debut after a successful stage career, got the prime role of Mary Poppins soon after she was passed over by Jack L. Warner and replaced with Audrey Hepburn for the role of Eliza Doolittle in his screen adaptation of My Fair Lady even though Andrews had originated that role on Broadway. [17] When Disney first approached Andrews about taking on the role, Andrews was three months pregnant and therefore was not sure she should take it. Disney assured her that the crew would be fine with waiting to begin filming until after she had given birth so that she could play the part. [18] Disney considered the actor Stanley Holloway for the role of Admiral Boom, during the pre-production stage, but the role went to Reginald Owen instead. [19]

Andrews also provided the voice in two other sections of the film: during "A Spoonful of Sugar," she provided the whistling harmony for the robin, and she was also one of the Pearly singers during "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." David Tomlinson, besides playing Mr. Banks, provided the voice of Mary's talking umbrella and numerous other voice-over parts (including that of Admiral Boom's first mate). During the "Jolly Holiday" sequence, the three singing Cockney geese were all voiced by Marni Nixon, a regular aural substitute for actresses with substandard singing voices. Nixon later provided the singing voice for Hepburn in My Fair Lady and played one of Andrews' fellow nuns in The Sound of Music . Andrews later beat Hepburn for the Best Actress Award at the Golden Globes for their respective roles. Andrews also won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role. Hepburn did not receive a nomination. Richard Sherman, one of the songwriters, also voiced a penguin as well as one of the Pearlies. [20] Robert Sherman dubbed the speaking voice for Jane Darwell because Darwell's voice was too weak to be heard in the soundtrack. Sherman's voice is heard saying the only line: "Feed the Birds, Tuppence a bag." [21]

Disney cast Dick Van Dyke in the key supporting role of Bert after seeing his work on The Dick Van Dyke Show . After winning the role of Bert, Van Dyke lobbied to also play the senior Mr. Dawes, but Disney originally felt he was too young for the part. Van Dyke eventually won Disney over after a screen test. [22] Although he is fondly remembered for this film, Van Dyke's attempt at a Cockney accent is regarded as one of the worst film accents in history, cited as an example by actors since as something that they wish to avoid. [23] In a 2003 poll by Empire magazine of the worst film accents of all time, he came second. [24] Van Dyke claims that his accent coach was the English (of Irish extraction) J. Pat O'Malley, who "didn't do an accent any better than I did". [25] In 2017, Van Dyke was selected to receive an award for television excellence from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), at which time he said "I appreciate this opportunity to apologise to the members of BAFTA for inflicting on them the most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema." A chief executive of BAFTA responded, "We look forward to his acceptance speech in whatever accent he chooses on the night. We have no doubt it will be 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious'." [26]


Filming took place between May and September 1963, and post-production and animation took another 11 months. [27]

Storyline differences

The film changed the book's storyline in a number of places. For example, Mary Poppins, when approaching the house, controlled the wind rather than the other way around. Also, the father, rather than the mother, interviewed Mary Poppins for the nanny position.

A number of other changes were necessary to condense the story into feature length. In the film, there are only two Banks children, Jane and Michael. The satirical and mysterious aspects of the original book gave way to a cheerful and "Disney-fied" tone. Mary Poppins' character as portrayed by Andrews in the film is much less vain and more sympathetic towards the children compared to the stern, cross, intimidating nanny of the original book. Bert, as played by Van Dyke, was a composite of several characters from Travers' stories. Travers demanded any suggestions of romance between Mary Poppins and Bert be eliminated and so lyrics were written for "Jolly Holiday" that clearly indicated that their friendship was purely platonic; some subtle hints of romance, however, remained in the finished film.


The film's music features music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. The Shermans took inspiration from Edwardian British music hall music. [28] Irwin Kostal arranged and conducted the film's score. Buena Vista Records released the original motion picture soundtrack in 1964 on LP and reel-to-reel tape. [29]


Mary Poppins premiered on August 27, 1964, at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. [27] [30] The film's poster was painted by artist Paul Wenzel. [31] [2] Travers was not extended an invitation to the event, but managed to obtain one from a Disney executive. It was at the after-party that Richard Sherman recalled her walking up to Disney and loudly announcing that the animated sequence had to go. Disney responded, "Pamela, the ship has sailed" and walked away. [15]

Home media

Mary Poppins was first released in late 1980 on VHS, Betamax, CED and LaserDisc. On October 28, 1994, August 26, 1997, and March 31, 1998, it was re-released three times as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection. In 1998, this film became Disney's first DVD. On July 4, 2000, it was released on VHS and DVD as part of the Gold Classic Collection. On December 14, 2004, it had a 2-Disc DVD release in a Digitally Restored 40th Anniversary Edition as well as its final issue in the VHS Format. The film's audio track featured an "Enhanced Home Theater Mix" consisting of replaced sound effects (to make the soundtrack more "modern") and improved fidelity and mixing and some enhanced music (this version was also shown on 2006–2012 ABC Family airings of the movie), though the DVD also included the original soundtrack as an audio option.

On January 27, 2009, the film was released on DVD again as a 45th anniversary edition, with more language tracks and special features (though the film's "Enhanced Home Theater Mix" was not included). Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray as the 50th Anniversary Edition on December 10, 2013. [32]


Critical reception

The film received universal acclaim from film critics. [33] Variety praised the film's musical sequences and the performances of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, in particular. [34] Time lauded the film, stating, "The sets are luxuriant, the songs lilting, the scenario witty but impeccably sentimental, and the supporting cast only a pinfeather short of perfection." [35] Bosley Crowther, reviewing for The New York Times , described the film as a "most wonderful, cheering movie". Furthermore in his review, he remarked that "For the visual and aural felicities they have added to this sparkling color film—the enchantments of a beautiful production, some deliciously animated sequences, some exciting and nimble dancing and a spinning musical score—make it the nicest entertainment that has opened at the Music Hall this year." [36]

For The Hollywood Reporter , James Powers applauded the performances, visual effects, musical score, production design, and the choreography. Ultimately, he found that "Mary Poppins is a picture that is, more than most, a triumph of many individual contributions. And its special triumph is that it seems to be the work of a single, cohesive intelligence." [37] Ann Guerin of Life criticized the creative departures from the novels, particularly the "Jolly Holliday" sequence. She noted that "Some of the sequences have real charm, and perhaps the kids will eat them up. But speaking as a grownup, I found a little bit went a long way." She concluded that "With a little more restraint and a little less improvement on the original, the film's many charms would have been that much better." [38]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the films holds a 100% approval rating, based on 49 reviews with an average rating of 8.39/10. The site's consensus reads, "A lavish modern fairy tale celebrated for its amazing special effects, catchy songs, and Julie Andrews's legendary performance in the title role." [39] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 88 out of 100 based on 13 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". [40] Critic Drew Casper summarized the impact of Mary Poppins in 2011:

Disney was the leader, his musical fantasies mixing animation and truly marvelous f/x with real-life action for children and the child in the adult. Mary Poppins (1964) was his plum. ... the story was elemental, even trite. But utmost sophistication (the chimney pot sequence crisply cut by Oscared "Cotton" Warburton) and high-level invention (a tea party on the ceiling, a staircase of black smoke to the city's top) characterized its handling. [41]

Box office

The film earned $31 million in North American rentals during its initial run. [42] The film was re-released theatrically in 1973, in honor of Walt Disney Productions' 50th anniversary, and earned an estimated additional $9 million in North American rentals. [43] It was released once more in 1980 and grossed $14 million. [44] It returned a total lifetime rental of $45 million [45] to Disney from a gross of over $102 million from its North American theatrical releases. [5]

The film was the twentieth most popular sound film of the twentieth century in the UK with admissions of 14 million. [46]

The film was very profitable for Disney. Made on an estimated budget of $4.4–6 million, [4] [47] [48] it was reported by Cobbett Steinberg to be the most profitable film of 1965, earning a net profit of $28.5 million. [33] [49] Walt Disney used his huge profits from the film to purchase land in central Florida and finance the construction of Walt Disney World. [50]


AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipients and nomineesResult
Academy Awards [51] April 5, 1965 Best Picture Walt Disney and Bill Walsh Nominated
Best Director Robert Stevenson Nominated
Best Actress Julie Andrews Won
Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi Nominated
Best Art Direction – Color Carroll Clark, William H. Tuntke, Emile Kuri and Hal Gausman Nominated
Best Cinematography – Color Edward Colman Nominated
Best Costume Design – Color Tony Walton Nominated
Best Film Editing Cotton Warburton Won
Best Music Score – Substantially Original Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman Won
Best Scoring of Music – Adaptation or Treatment Irwin Kostal Nominated
Best Song "Chim Chim Cher-ee" – Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. ShermanWon
Best Sound Robert O. Cook Nominated
Best Special Visual Effects Peter Ellenshaw, Eustace Lycett and Hamilton Luske Won
British Academy Film Awards [52] 1965 Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles Julie AndrewsWon
Directors Guild of America Awards [53] 1965 Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Robert StevensonNominated
Golden Globe Awards [54] February 8, 1965 Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Mary PoppinsNominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Dick Van Dyke Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Julie AndrewsWon
Best Original Score – Motion Picture Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. ShermanNominated
Grammy Awards [55] April 13, 1965 Best Recording for Children Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Glynis Johns, David Tomlinson and Ed Wynn Won
Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Show Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. ShermanWon
New York Film Critics Circle Awards [56] January 23, 1965 Best Actress Julie AndrewsNominated
Writers Guild of America Awards [57] 1965 Best Written American Musical Bill Walsh and Don DaGradiWon


Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke were reteamed in the TV-movie Julie and Dick at Covent Garden (1974), directed by Julie's husband Blake Edwards Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke (Julie and Dick in Convent Garden) 1974 ABC TV Photograph.jpg
Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke were reteamed in the TV-movie Julie and Dick at Covent Garden (1974), directed by Julie's husband Blake Edwards

Mary Poppins is widely considered to be Walt Disney's "crowning achievement". [58] It was the only film of Disney's to garner a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars in his lifetime. [59]

The newly constructed Walt Disney World Monorail System benefited from the film because of the profits the movie generated. Some profits from this movie were taken to help fund the Disney World Monorail system. Disney’s monorail system pays homage to this film by naming the MAPO (MAry POppins) safety system included on all Disney monorails.

The film also inspired the eighth season episode of The Simpsons entitled "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious", featuring a parody of Mary called "Shary Bobbins" who helps out the Simpson family after Marge loses her hair due to stress, and spoofs of the songs "The Perfect Nanny", "A Spoonful of Sugar", "Feed the Birds" and "The Life I Lead".

Never at ease with the handling of her property by Disney or the way she felt she had been treated, Travers never agreed to another Poppins/Disney adaptation. So fervent was Travers' dislike of the Disney adaptation and of the way she felt she had been treated during the production that when producer Cameron Mackintosh approached her about the stage musical in the 1990s, she acquiesced on the conditions that he use only English-born writers and that no one from the film production be directly involved. [60]

American Film Institute


On December 19, 2018, Walt Disney Pictures released the film Mary Poppins Returns . The film takes place 25 years after the original, [62] Mary Poppins, and features a standalone narrative based on the remaining seven books in the series. Rob Marshall directed, while John DeLuca and Marc Platt served as producers, with Emily Blunt starring as Poppins, co-starring Broadway actor, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Dick Van Dyke returned to portray Mr. Dawes Jr. Karen Dotrice also appeared in a cameo role.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Song from the 1964 Mary Poppins film

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<i>Mary Poppins Returns</i> 2018 musical film

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