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Toon Talk: Mary Poppins DVD
Page 5 of 5

With such an abundance of material elsewhere, one could hardly expect much left for a decent Audio Commentary, but one would be wrong. And although Andrews and Van Dyke were recorded separately from Dotrice and Richard Sherman, with additional comments from Robert Sherman (who is very philosophical) and vintage recordings from Walt himself, as well as Stevenson and Kostal, you could also expect a bit of a hodgepodge of information, but it all comes off surprisingly well, and even manages to reveal a few new facts, including:

The Top Ten Things We Learn From This Commentary:

  1. All the sets were actually all built indoors. There were no exteriors shot for the film, they were provided by expert matte artist Peter Ellenshaw. The Disney Studios soundstage where Cherry Tree Lane stood was also used for the filming of Andrews' The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement and has since been renamed the Julie Andrews Soundstage.
  2. Karen Dotrice was the goddaughter of actor Charles Laughton, who was married to Elsa Lanchester, best known to film audiences as The Bride of Frankenstein. Dotrice's mother suggested she would be perfect for the role of Katie Nanna. Katie Nanna was originally given a song titled "Lead the Righteous Life�, which was later recycled as "Strengthen the Dwelling� for The Happiest Millionaire.
  3. Mary Poppins' famous flying entrance was actually Andrews' stunt double, who later appears in the film as the woman who blows Bert a kiss during "Chim Chim Cher-ee�.
  4. Mary Poppins' brown hair was actually a wig. Andrews cut her hair short for comfort, and kept it that way for The Sound of Music.
  5. The beginning moments of the "Jolly Holiday� sequence were the first scenes shot on the film. The bird woman's scenes, with Oscar-winning actress Jane Darwell (The Grapes of Wrath) in her final film role, were the last to be shot.
  6. The sound of the penguins' feet during their dance number was actually Kostal slapping his hands on his stomach.
  7. The carousel horses were designed as caricatures of their riders, most notable with Bert's - check out that chin.
  8. Dotrice and Garber were not told that Van Dyke was playing Mr. Dawes, Senior. Dotrice admits she didn't know it was him until she saw the credits on opening night.
  9. Mary Poppins' spectacular spin during "Step In Time� was accomplished by using a Lazy Susan-type device.
  10. Her Princess Diaries director Gary Marshall now owns the house that Andrews lived in during the filming of Mary Poppins.

In addition to the audio commentary, a Disney's Song Selection is also available, where you can watch the major songs with or without onscreen lyrics, as well as Pop-Up Fun Facts, which focuses on the literary aspects of the film as well as further background on the cast. You can also access original trailers and TV spots in the Publicity section, as well as visual and story development art, Ellenshaw's beautiful matte paintings, whimsical costume and make-up designs, a slew of behind-the-scenes photos, movie posters and memorabilia (such as View Masters and Magic Slates, remember those?) in the Still Art Galleries.

Wrapping up the disc is a brand new animated short, The Cat That Looked At A King, based on a P.L. Travers story. Starring Andrews herself and featuring the voices of Tracey Ullman, Sarah Ferguson (yes, that Sarah Ferguson) and ol' stand-by David Ogden Stiers (in two roles, natch), the short is charming and clever in the Travers' tradition. The animation is adequate, but it's the story's final live action moments that make it worthwhile, a fitting epilogue to the Poppins movie legacy.

Toon Talk Rating: A

The Toon Talk Top 10 - That's Dancing!

The big production number of Mary Poppins, the chimney sweeps' "Step In Time� (choreographed by Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood), was just the first of many memorable dance sequences from Disney films:

  1. The Happiest Millionaire (1967): Tommy Steele teaches Fred MacMurray and Lesley Ann Warren how to do an Irish jig in "I'll Always Be Irish�. Also choreographed by Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood.
  2. The One and Only, Genuine Original Family Band (1968): Probably the most elaborate and accomplished dance number in the early Disney live action musicals can be found here with "West of the Wide Missouri�. Choreographed by Hugh Lambert.
  3. Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971): The first musical post-Poppins, this musical fantasy featured different dance styles from around the world as represented by the denizens of "Portobello Road�. Choreographed by Donald McKayle.
  4. Pete's Dragon (1977): Helen Reddy is joined by a schoolyard-full of children to dance to "There's Room for Everyone�. Choreographed by Jerry Trent and Onna White, the Oscar-winning choreographer of Oliver!
  5. Dick Tracy (1990, Touchstone): Madonna's Breathless Mahoney and her chorines glitz it up with "More�. Choreographed by Jeffrey Hornaday, who also choreographed Captain EO.
  6. Newsies (1992): The newsboys celebrate an early victory with "King of New York�. Choreographed by Peggy Holmes and Kenny Ortega.
  7. Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1997): Princesses, garbed in swirling gowns, waltz in the arms of dashing princes in "Ten Minutes Ago�. Choreographed by Rob Marshall, who would go on to choreograph ...
  8. Annie (1999): A troupe of precocious orphans taps their hearts out in "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile�. Marshall next turned his choreographic talents to the big screen (with big results) in ...
  9. Chicago (2002, Miramax): Nothing can beat the six merry murderesses of the Cook County Jail in their rendition of "The Cellblock Tango�.
  10. Meredith Wilson's The Music Man (2003): No, not choreographed by Rob Marshall, but his sister Kathleen. The pomp of "Seventy-Six Trombones� is a delightful highlight.

Coming Soon in Toon Talk:

  • The current wave of Walt Disney Treasures DVDs: The Complete Pluto Volume 1, Mickey Mouse in Black and White: Volume 2, Mickey Mouse in Black and White: Volume 2 and The Mickey Mouse Club: Week 1.
  • Will The Incredibles soar? Is Mary Poppins practically perfect? How victorious will On the Frontlines be? ‘Toon' in for a special year-end wrap-up to find out in The Toon Talk Top 10 - The Best of 2004.
  • The new Walt Disney Cartoon Classics DVD series debuts with four individual volumes featuring favorite shorts starring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Chip 'n Dale, all available January 11th.

And Coming Soon from Buena Vista Home Video:

December 14th:

  • Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews star in the summer hit sequel The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.
  • Barry Pepper stars as the racing legend in 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story.

December 21st:

  • King Arthur, starring Clive Owen and Keira Knightley, makes its DVD debut in two versions: the theatrical edit and an expanded director's cut.
  • Ned Betty, Dabney Coleman, Kris Kristofferson and Dave Matthews (yes, that Dave Matthews) star in the latest screen adaptation of the beloved story Where the Red Fern Grows.
  • Another childhood favorite returns in Young Black Stallion.

December 28th:

  • Just in time to loose all that holiday-gained weight: Extreme Makeover Fitness: Weight Loss Work Out for Beginners.

January 11th:

  • Get your M. Night Shyamalan fix with the DVD debuts of The Village and The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan.

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-- Kirby C. Holt
-- Logo by William C Searcy, Magic Bear Graphics

Kirby is a lifelong Disney fan and film buff. He is also an avid list maker and chronic ellipsis user ...

Took Talk: Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt is posted whenever there's something new to review.

The opinions expressed by our Kirby C. Holt, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.

-- Posted December 13, 2004

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