Whether your first encounter with Mary Poppins was through the P.L. Travers books, the 1964 Walt Disney film, or the Disney Theatrical production, there’s something for every Poppins fan in Practically Poppins in Every Way, a new book by Jeff Kurtti from Disney Editions. The cover suggests that this release is in celebration of Mary Poppins Returns, but “A cover is not the book” and the majority of its pages celebrate the character’s origins, the author behind it all, the talented artists behind the Disney classic, and the flying nanny’s decades-long journey to the stage.
The first third of the book is largely focused on the 2018 film, Mary Poppins Returns, which flies into theaters on December 19th. Director Rob Marshall provides the book’s introduction and this section goes in depth on the elements of the film inspired by the Travers books, how they crafted a new Poppins story, and all elements of production, including songwriting and casting. From a narrative standpoint, it feels out of place to have this first, since the rest of the book tells the story behind Mary Poppins in chronological order. But if your primary interest is the upcoming film, your fingers will be glad it’s at the front of the book.
While Jeff Kurtti takes sole writing credit on the cover, the rest of the book is largely comprised of essays from other Disney Historians and luminaries. Brian Sibley, Paula Sigman-Lowery, and Jim Fanning provide the bulk of the writing on the chapter about P.L. Travers and the Poppins books, which also leads into a single page about the 2013 film, Saving Mr. Banks. The third chapter, “Mr. Disney Opens the Door,” chronicles Walt Disney’s trials to make Mary Poppins with explorations into the music and cast. Essays in this section are provided by Fox Carney, Cameron Mackintosh, Gavin Lee, John Myhre, Greg Ehrbar, Marc Shaiman, and Richard and Robert Sherman (via an excerpt from their book Walt’s Time: From Before to Beyond).
The final sections of the book chronicle the worldwide success of the Disney film and the road to the West End and Broadway. The section on the impact of the film is short but interesting, with a gallery of promotional tie-in merchandise and a roundup of critical consensus from 1964. The section about the stage musical is by Brian Sibley and is an exciting story, but fans of the show are encouraged to pick up his full book about the show, Mary Poppins: Anything Can Happen If You Let It). Sibley also provides one last essay at the end that wraps the entire Poppins narrative up in a heartwarming bow.
The Mary Poppins books and the Walt Disney film are true classics that deserve to be celebrated, along with the award winning theatrical show they both inspired and the modern classic, Mary Poppins Returns. Practically Poppins in Every Way is a great way to dive deeper into your Poppins fandom and is full of wonderful anecdotes about all things Poppins. While Emily Blunt may be on the cover, you’ll find all iterations of Mary Poppins inside this “Carpetbag of countless wonders.” Au revoir!
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.