Sugar coated and wrapped up in fluff, Saving Mr Banks is a wonderful portrayal of the magic of Walt Disney and of the determination necessary to fulfil the promise of Disney to his daughters that he would adapt P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins for the screen. Mrs Travers, a formidable woman who refused for twenty years to sign away the film rights to her beloved novel, is played exquisitely by Emma Thompson as haughty and tight-lipped, reminiscent of an old school mistress who cannot easily be softened by the warmth of Walt Disney, portrayed likeably in the film by the Tom Hanks. Set in 1961, Saving Mr Banks follows Disney as he sets out to charm Mrs Travers, who is terrified that Hollywood will ‘eat up’ her cherished characters.
Saving Mr Banks is an extremely sentimental story, in which the primary tale is told alongside flashbacks of Travers’ childhood and the influence of her alcoholic father. The father-daughter relationship is of the utmost importance within the film and the impact of a child’s upbringing on later life is highlighted. The agonised relationship of Travers’ with her father is a Disney rendition in itself; the film is essentially a Disney story for adults which allows the audience to indulge in escapism, losing themselves in the magical atmosphere where the only concern is whether Mary Poppins will retain the credibility that Travers gave to her.
We all know that the intensely American figure ultimately succeeded in relaying the quintessentially British story of Mary Poppins but the original cast of Dick Van Dyke, Julie Andrews et al do not feature in the film. Jason Schwartzman and B.J Novak play the talented Sherman brothers whose compositions give Mary Poppins a dusting of Disney musical magic. It is doubtful that Saving Mr Banks is a true depiction of how Mrs Travers gave up the film rights to Walt Disney. Primped and preened, this is not a documentary but an engaging fiction which nonetheless brings a little fairy tale back into all our lives.
The chirpy Walt communicates that the past should not dictate our future but without the influence of Travers’ childhood, the story of Mary Poppins may never have come to light. Saving Mr Banks may be a little too sugary for some but it tells a touching story about the creation of the beloved Mary Poppins.