Toon Talk: Mary Poppins DVD
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
40th Anniversary Edition DVD
No Wonder That It's â€˜Mary' That We Love
"Practically perfectâ€?. "Walt's crowning gloryâ€?. And, of course, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidociousâ€?. These words all apply to Mary Poppins, one of the most beloved and enduring musical fantasies of all time. And now, with a special 40th anniversary edition DVD, the "perfect nannyâ€? gets her due in a lush two-disc treatment that is as "practically perfectâ€? as she is.
I first saw Mary Poppins in its 1973 theatrical re-release, and even at a mere five-years of age, I was enthralled by its magic and melody; that viewing firmly cemented my budding fascination with movies in general and Disney films in particular, an adoration that continues to this day. Watching it again, with its bright colors and vivid sounds cleaned up for this release, I fell in love with it all over again. No other film, save for the equally entrancing The Wizard of Oz, comes close to matching its vibrancy, its charm, its simple magic.
Having not watched it for many years now, I was joyfully reminded of how every aspect of its production, from the design and story to the music and cast, blissfully came together to create a classic for the ages. Lightning was definitely captured in a bottle during the making of this film, and all involved knew it at the time. Any Poppins fan worth his or her spoonful of sugar has heard many of the behind-the-scenes anecdotes gathered in the voluminous bonus materials gathered here, but there are still quite a few tantalizing tidbits to discover along the way, making this collection (which is thankfully light on the kiddie stuff) the definitive one, a definite must-own.
The anchor for this set is the new, 50-minute featurette Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Making of â€˜Mary Poppins' an exhaustive overview of the making of the film before, during and after production that is nicely complimented by the remaining supplemental features. Hosted by Bert himself, Dick Van Dyke (the original DVD), it features new interviews with surviving cast members Karen Dotrice (Jane Banks), Glynis Johns (Mrs. Banks) and Mary Poppins herself, Julie Andrews, as well as such other Disney Legends as the songwriting brother team of Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, effects artist/matte painter Peter Ellenshaw and animator Frank Thomas (whose style is indelibly apparent in the immortal penguin dance sequence).
Actual tape-recorded production notes by Poppins' infamously prickly author P.L. Travers highlight the pre-production phase, as is a rundown of how the film was cast. Walt's original ideas for his leading lady included some choices obvious (Mary Martin, Angela Lansbury) and some not (Bette Davis!). After seeing her Broadway performance in Camelot, he found his ideal choice with Andrews, who had been notoriously snubbed by Jack Warner for the film version of her first stage success, My Fair Lady (Warner went with a non-singing Audrey Hepburn instead, one of the biggest cinematic scandals of the 1960s). In addition to her very first film role, Andrews' casting also helped her then husband, Tony Walton, get hired as the film's design consultant and costume designer.