“What’s your favorite Disney movie?” is a question I get asked a lot. I always go back and forth between a few of them, but at the end of the day when all is said and done, it’s got to be Mary Poppins. There is no other film that embodies so well the spirit of Disney—as a corporation with a plan and as a man with a dream.
I can see you at your computer—”WHAT?!? Best Disney movie EVER? It’s totally _____________ or _____________ or ____________!” Let me justify the claim with a metaphor (we’re all about being classy at The Rotoscopers, you see). Introducing the marvelous—and tasty, if you must know—Mary Poppins quadruple-level cake!
All right. So the first tier of the cake. You’ve got yourself a great movie. Songs, characters, story… this thing gets it right with some of the most fun scenes, tunes, and moments in film history.
In the next layer of this ever-delicious confection (mmmm icing), there’s a strong and important motif at the core of Mary Poppins. As a character, Mary’s purpose for visiting the Bankses is to transform this group of people from a household into a family. In doing so, the audience is reminded to always make time for the people they love. We see ourselves in Mr. Banks’ struggle to prioritize time, be there for his children, and be the competent father, husband, and banker he expects himself to be. That’s pretty heavy stuff, and the movie handles it delicately and expertly.
Then (yeah, this is a pretty serious cake), we have what this movie really means to the Disney legacy. It wasn’t Walt’s last film, but it was his last huge project of this scope and scale, with Mary Poppins having released in 1964 and Walt having passed away in 1966. From music to casting to everything in between, the movie really culminates together everything Walt learned over his vast career and combines it into one behemoth of a movie. (How cultured you must feel to be reading something that uses “behemoth” in a sentence.)
Finally (one more bite, you can do it), Mary Poppins was a monumental film for the future of the entire Walt Disney Company. Its tremendous box-office success funded the construction of Walt Disney World, which opened in 1971 under the supervision of Walt’s brother, Roy. No Mary Poppins, no Disney World, or at least not in the timing and form we know it to be today. So it’s quite valid to say that Walt’s (arguably) finest cinematic achievement allowed his grandest dream to become a reality. That’s pretty special.
Mary Poppins is quintessential Disney and quintessential Walt. This film is Disney magic. Within it is every emotion we associate with why Disney is so beloved to us: love, laughter, friendship, family, and tuppence.