With the upcoming release of the new Walt Disney/P.L. Travers biopic Saving Mr. Banks, a film about the pre-production troubles of Mary Poppins, Disney has conveniently taken this jolly holiday to release the Mary Poppins 50th anniversary edition Blu-ray. So did Disney go all out for Poppins golden anniversary? Or did they just re-hash material that was used on other DVD releases? Read on to find out!
The Film ✮✮✮✮✮
I absolutely love Mary Poppins. I didn’t grow up watching the film, but rather discovered it when I was a teenager. It instantly became one of my favorite movies, which I would frequently watch on Sunday afternoons. Even though it’s quite a long film clocking in just under three hours, I still am captivated and engaged every time I watch it.
Mary Poppins tells the story of a dysfunctional British family who is desperately in need of saving. Mr. Banks is a workaholic banker and Mrs. Banks is a busy, active suffragette. Due to the couple’s neglectful parenting, their two children, Jane and Michael, become little terrors to all their nannies. Luckily for the family, Mary Poppins, a magical nanny, flies in–literally on her umbrella–to save the day.
The movie is filled with fun songs, crazy antics and a completely heartwarming story. It typifies everything that is magical about Disney. Many of its scenes and characters are iconic–I mean, seriously, Bert and Mary are some of the only live-action face characters that make appearances in the Disney parks…and they are nearly 50 years old! Talk about timeless.
Mary Poppins is a filled with 16 incredible songs written by the songwriting brothers Richard and Robert Sherman. Whether the songs are a few seconds long like “The Perfect Nanny” or a full-blown production like “Step in Time”, each song is charming and unique. They help to further the plot and help us better understand the characters, their desires and motivations. The Mary Poppins soundtrack is one that I can listen to on repeat. It never gets old.
What more can be said of Mary Poppins? It’s one of the greatest Disney films of all time. It has everything: music, comedy, adventure, fun, fantastic character, great plot…I could go on and on. If you’re unsure about is Mary Poppins really so great, then check out this video essay by YouTuber Nick Tierce about “Why Mary Poppins is the Best Movie of All Time.
As for the HD conversion, I thought it was well done. The colors weren’t overly saturated or perfected (cough, I’m looking at you Cinderella), but rather were struck a balance between being vibrant and true to the original print. There are still scenes with visible film grain, such as the opening overture above London in the clouds. Other scenes of the Banks and many of the characters, look clean and appropriately crisp.
They also didn’t try to fix up and perfect the somewhat remedial (by today’s standards) 2D/live-action hybrid scenes. Those were purposely left with the 1960s “imperfections”, which give the film so much of its charm. I’m really glad they left these scenes as is because this allowed them to be left in the form that Walt himself remembered and envisioned them.
Bonus Features ✮✮✮1/2
The bonus features are a bit underwhelming. These include the “classic” bonus features, which were included on other home media releases, as well as two new featurettes. The classic bonus features are a real treat and I’m glad they included them. The include an audio commentary, deleted scenes and songs, a fantastic making-of documentary, and more. Some of it looks a bit dated, but the information it provides is a treasure trove for fans of the film.
As for new content, it’s a bit weak. There is an 11-minute featurette called “Becoming Mr. Sherman” with actor Jason Schwartzman, who plays composer Richard Sherman in Saving Mr. Banks, as he chats with the real Richard Sherman. Schwartzman discusses what it was like preparing for the role and consulting Richard. I’m more interested in the parts where Richard recounts some of his experiences making the film. While it’s nice to watch, let’s be honest, it’s just a disguised promotion for the new Saving Mr. Banks films. Then, of course, we get a trailer for Saving Mr. Banks to top it all off.
The other new feature is called “Mary-oke.” It’s basically stylized karaoke of all the songs in Mary Poppins. This has been done in other Disney Blu-ray releases like The Little Mermaid and seems to be one of Disney’s favorite new features to throw on its musicals. It’s fun to turn this on and dance and sing along, but if you don’t know the words, the “Mary-oke” lyrics that pop on the screen won’t be of any help. They rarely come in at the right time and more are just there to be nice to look at.
The new bonus features on the Mary Poppins Blu-ray are a bit lacking, which was a bit of a disappointment. However, don’t let that stop you: Mary Poppins is a must own for any Disney or movie fan. It’s a film that is timeless, charming and–like Mary Poppins herself–practically perfect in every way.