P.L. Travers never did warm up to the song "Let's Go Fly a Kite", as depicted in the film. According to Richard M. Sherman, it was "Feed the Birds" that actually won her over.
The audiotapes of the working sessions between the real P.L. Travers and Walt Disney's team amounted to 39 hours, all of which screenwriter Kelly Marcel and later Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson had access to. Emma Thompson has said she listened to all of them in preparation for her role, and that the experience was "like being poked in the ear with hot forks!".
One major scene in the movie that was not true, "the biggest fictionalized piece", screenwriter Kelly Marcel remarked was Walt Disney visiting P.L. Travers at her London house. In reality, they only talked by phone, but Marcel insisted that everything Disney told Travers about his father "is completely true".
The emotional weight of the scene featuring the song "Feed the Birds" is based on the fact that it was Walt Disney's personal favorite song. According to Richard M. Sherman, Walt would drop by the Shermans' office and ask Richard to play the song when he felt depressed. It got to the point that he would drop by and simply say, "Play it," and they'd know what he wanted. According to Richard Sherman, Walt felt that the song was a perfect summation of why he created Walt Disney Pictures in the first place.
Walt Disney hid his smoking habit from the public, especially children, fearing it would harm his and his studio's family friendly image. Tom Hanks wanted his portrayal to be accurate, so he lobbied to show Disney smoking. Disney, however, still insisted that smoking was not appropriate for a family film, so we only see the aftermath of Walt's smoking session, with Disney stubbing out a cigarette. Early references in this movie to Walt being a smoker is hearing his cough before meeting Pamela Travers. Tom Hanks has said that Robert B. Sherman told him that Walt used to smoke up to two packs a day and you always knew when he was coming because you could hear his cough in the background of where ever he was. Walt Disney died of lung cancer in 1966.
According to the book "The Secret Life of Mary Poppins (1964)", in a rare 1977 interview, P.L. Travers commented on the legacy of the film : "I've seen it once or twice, and I've learned to live with it. It's glamorous and it's a good film on its own level, but I don't think it is very like my books."
Robert M. Sherman's limp was indeed due to getting shot in the leg. It was a war injury to his knee that took place during his service in Europe during World War II, after his unit helped to liberate the Nazis' infamous Dachau concentration camp.
When Mrs. Travers and the Shermans are discussing changing the first name of Mrs. Banks, the list of names that they go through are the names that Bert and the penguins go through at the fantasy restaurant in Mary Poppins (1964).
According to an article on the website The Flickcast - All Things Geek, during their Saturday panel, "Working with Walt," renowned Walt Disney Imagineers member Bob Gurr began to tear up while speaking about the film. As the web article reads on, "He, and the fellow Disney legends that joined him on stage, were touched by how director John Lee Hancock and screenplay writer Kelly Marcel brought Walt Disney to life again. Little quirks, like Disney clearing his throat to let you know that he was about to enter a room, have added a level of authenticity often lost in films like this."
To prepare for his role, Tom Hanks made several visits to the Walt Disney Family Museum at San Francisco's Presidio and interviewed some of Walt Disney's relatives, including his daughter, Diane Disney Miller.
P.L. Travers never did approve of casting Dick Van Dyke as Bert in the pre-production stages of Mary Poppins (1964). Although he claimed that it was the best film he was in, Van Dyke felt that he was miscast to play Bert and said that either Jim Dale or Ron Moody should have been cast to play Bert. Travers suggested actors like Richard Burton, Alec Guinness, Richard Harris, Rex Harrison, Ron Moody, Laurence Olivier, Peter O'Toole, and Peter Sellers for the role, in keeping with the British nature of her books. Even Travers and Walt Disney both favored Stanley Holloway for Bert, but Holloway had to turn down the role due to his obligation on reprising his stage role of Alfred P. Dolittle for My Fair Lady (1964), which became the chief box office competitor to "Mary Poppins" in 1964.
Tom Hanks said that Disney CEO Bob Iger called and personally asked him to portray Walt Disney, especially since the company had not originally developed the script it had acquired, and now wanted to make certain it had someone it could trust to play its iconic large-than-life founder to move ahead with the risky project.
A map of Florida is visible in Walt's office with a mark on the planned location of Walt Disney World, which opened in 1971, five years after Walt Disney died.
In several scenes Walt is shown wearing a tie with the initials STR. This stands for Smoke Tree Ranch, a resort area in Palm Springs where Walt Disney owned a house. This is the same tie that Walt is wearing in the Partners Statue (where he is posing with Mickey Mouse) at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom.
Even though she didn't like much of the Sherman Brothers musical score, P.L. Travers was shocked and dismayed when Julie Andrews wrote to her that the filmmakers were planning to delete the song "Stay Awake" - one of Andrews' favorite songs and Travers' few favorite songs from the movie - from Mary Poppins (1964). She then requested the filmmakers to still retain the song in the film.
P.L. Travers never forgave Walt Disney for what she saw as vulgar and disrespectful adaptation of her "Mary Poppins" novels. In 1994, thirty years after the release of Mary Poppins (1964), stage producer Cameron Mackintosh (Cats, Les Misérables, Oliver!, The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon) approached Travers about a musical theatre version of her work. The author initially refused, citing the film as a reason why she would never again allow an adaptation of her "Mary Poppins" series. After several meetings, the author relented, though when Mackintosh suggested using the songs from the Walt Disney film in the production, Travers again balked. After much more pleading, Mackintosh convinced Travers to allow a stage production with the songs from the film on the strict proviso that no Americans participate in the development, and further that no one involved with the film version--including original film composers Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, both of whom were still alive and working in 1994--could participate. Mackintosh proceeded with development of the stage adaptation for several years without any involvement from Disney, per Travers' wishes, though after the author's death in 1996, the Walt Disney Company was allowed some degree of creative involvement and went on to co-produce the musical with Mackintosh.
When the Sherman Brothers are at the piano playing 'A Spoonful of Sugar' and have perfected the tune, Walt is heard coughing in the background and Don says 'Man is in the forest' before he comes through the door. This is what Disney employees used to say when they heard Walt Disney coming down the hallway. It is a line from Bambi (1942).
The production team were absolutely meticulous about every detail of Tom Hanks' portrayal of Walt Disney, right down to measuring the exact length of his mustache.
According to the 40th Anniversary DVD release of Mary Poppins (1964) in 2004, Walt Disney first attempted to purchase the film rights to Mary Poppins from P.L. Travers as early as 1938, but was rebuffed because Travers was disgusted by Hollywood's handling of book-to-film adaptations, and did not believe a film version of her books would do justice to her creation. Another reason for her initial rejection would have been that at that time the Disney studios had not yet produced a live action film. For more than twenty years, Disney made periodic entreaties to Travers to allow him to make a Poppins film. He finally succeeded in 1961, but Travers demanded and got script-approval rights. Planning the film, writing the script and composing the songs took about two years. Travers objected to a number of elements that actually made it into the film. Rather than Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman's original songs, she wanted the soundtrack to feature known standards of the Edwardian period in which the story is set. Travers also objected to the idea of using animation to depict the chalkboard world. Disney overruled her, citing contract stipulations that he had final say on the finished print. Travers refused to allow any other Mary Poppins books to be filmed, even though Walt tried very hard to get her to reconsider.
No one in Hollywood seemed interested in telling P.L. Travers' story on the big screen until producer Alison Owen at Ruby Films in England suggested honing in on the Disney subplot. When the project came across the desk of screenwriter Kelly Marcel, she was instructed to focus solely on Travers' connection to the production of Mary Poppins (1964). She included many lines from the Disney film, as well as its songs and a scene set at Disneyland with Walt Disney and Travers riding the carousel together. It was only later that Marcel realized the risk involved in doing that. "I was so naïve when I started writing it," she says, admittedly oblivious that Disney owned the intellectual rights to the material. "Once I finished it, I was like, 'Oh s**t. There is only one studio who can make this film, and they'll probably give us a cease-and-desist order.'" 'Alan Horn', Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios, didn't believe any other studio could have made Saving Mr. Banks. "Why would Paramount make a movie about Walt Disney?" he asked. "I think that would be a difficult pitch." It was also a difficult pitch to Disney, which had never made a movie that featured its founder. If it veered too far in one direction, the film could have seemed like a self-promotional infomercial; too far in another and it could have been an embarrassing blow to the brand.
In the film, Disney tells Dick Sherman that he knows what it's like to have someone else control the characters one's created, referencing a "New York producer" who wanted to buy Mickey Mouse. The real Walt Disney and his creative partner Ub Iwerks created "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit", which Universal Studios (represented by Charles Mintz) bought and then handed to other writers and artists. Disney vowed never to work on another project he did not control. He and Iwerks would later create a mouse character that Walt named Mortimer, but Mrs. Lillian Disney convinced Walt at the last minute that the name should be changed to Mickey.
For the Disneyland sequences, Disney blocked off certain parts of the theme park, including the Sleeping Beauty (1959) castle; Main Street, U.S.A.; Fantasyland and the Astro Orbiter attraction from November 6 to 7, 2012. The park's cast members were also hired as extras.
For the Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (1954) television show Mrs. Travers watches in the film, Tom Hanks watched all of the episodes of the "Disneyland" and "The Wonderful World of Color" shows at the recommendation of Diane Disney Miller, Walt's daughter, to get a sense of how Walt presented himself on television. Also for the "Disneyland" television episode sequence, master animator Mark Henn and the Special Projects unit of Walt Disney Animation Studios re-created Tinker Bell to appear alongside Hanks, instead of reusing shots of Tinker Bell from the original television show.
At one point, while in his office, Walt mentions needing to speak with G.E. At the time he was developing General Electric's 1964 World's Fair attraction, which would later become known as the "Carousel of Progress". After the World's Fair, the Carousel attraction was moved to Disneyland, where it operated until 1973; in 1975 it reopened in the Disneyworld Tomorrowland area, where (with periodic updates in technology) it still operates today.
In the Mary Poppins (1964) premiere scene, Julie Andrews is played by uncredited lookalike Victoria Summer and Dick Van Dyke is played by Kristopher Kyer.
While a guest on "The Queen Latifah Show" in February 2014, Bradley Whitford recounted a story about a prank that Emma Thompson played on him and his co-actors. Because they were filming a scene in which she was not onscreen, Thompson had taken the opportunity to change out of her restrictive costume and into a robe to relax. Whitford was in the middle of a take in which he was singing "Let's Go Fly a Kite" and Thompson stood up and opened her robe. Whitford said she was wearing nothing underneath it but two pasties depicting Mickey Mouse.
This was the first theatrical movie with Walt Disney as a lead or supporting character since 1941's The Reluctant Dragon (1941). Walt Disney plays himself in that picture, screening the title cartoon with star Robert Benchley.
The film's opening logo for Disney Studios is the style used in the early 1960s when Walt Disney was planning out Mary Poppins (1964). The film marked the first time that a Disney film used its original logo, with the "Walt" and "Pictures" or "Presents" in the logo, since Winnie the Pooh (2011).
Mary Poppins (1964) songwriter and composer Richard M. Sherman served as a consultant for the film. In a manner of coincidence, this is similar to P.L. Travers serving as a consultant for Mary Poppins (1964), with each of them working with filmmakers to preserve authenticity to the respective source material.
Tom Hanks was 55 when filming began, making him not quite five years younger than Walt Disney was in 1961.
Walt Disney's office on the Disney Studios lot in Burbank was a replica built on a set. The real office is now occupied by Marc Cherry and his company Cherry/Wind Productions; he wouldn't allow the production to shoot in it.
The scene where Walt Disney gives P.L. Travers a personal tour of Disneyland is fictional. Disney planned to take the author to his theme park on Easter Sunday, 1961, and since it was to have been a private affair, many at the studio assumed he did. In fact he begged off at the last minute, saying he had a cold, and sent an employee (story editor Bill Dover) to act as her guide. While there Travers was allowed the use of Disney's personal electric touring car and to have lunch in his private apartment above the firehouse on Main Street; but it is not known if she indulged in any of Disneyland's rides or attractions, and she did not enjoy the experience. One factual nugget in the scene is Disney's quick handling of autograph-seekers. He gave them pre-signed cards he always carried with him when he was out in public.
Mrs. Travers says to an exasperated Walt that "Disappointments are to the soul what a thunderstorm is to the air." This line is from German dramatist Friedrich Schiller.
The first American-British dramatic film project for the Walt Disney Company, who co-produced and co-financed the film with BBC Films. Disney and the BBC previously collaborated in reediting the documentary Planet Earth (2006) to become Earth (2007).
After one of the days, Tommie gives Walt a Scotch Mist. The real Tommie would prepare a Scotch Mist for Walt Disney every day at 5 p.m. The drink consisted of mostly ice and water with a little bit of Scotch.
Walt Disney often claimed that had Babes in Toyland (1961) not been made, Mary Poppins (1964) would have never been made. When P.L. Travers in the movie first arrives at the Walt Disney Studios, her car stops in front of a sound stage. There is a poster on the sound stage door for "Babes in Toyland", indicating that was the movie being "shot" in the sound stage.
When Walt refers that it's taken twenty years to finally start the project with Mrs. Travers, he's referring to when his brother, Roy met with her to pitch the idea that Disney adapt her Mary Poppins character into a screenplay. According to a letter dated January 24,1944 (at the Walt Disney Family Museum, Presidio, San Francisco) she was living in New York City with her son, and was enthusiastic about the idea, as long as it was not animated. No reference was made to the son in the film.
In the film's opening scene, the name "Gurdjieff" is seen when P.L. Travers appears to be meditating. She was indeed a follower of George Gurdjieff's "System" as early as the mid-1930s, and had personally met the mystical guru.
In 2011, Kelly Marcel's screenplay was listed in film executive Frank Leonard's Black List, voted by film producers as one of the best unsold, un-produced screenplays circulating in Hollywood. In early 2012, Walt Disney Pictures acquired the screen rights to Marcel's script; Alan Horn, newly-appointed Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, referred to the film as "brand deposit."
Emma Thompson remarked in an interview with Mark Kermode how the song "Let's Go Fly a Kite" is very interesting since the chord D-Minor was considered "of the Devil", it comes from a dark place of the human consciousness. They listened to this song many times while making the movie, and never got fed up of hearing it due to its emotional resonance; for it carries great power, and makes you cry.
Tom Hanks says that his favorite Walt Disney-produced film is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).
Despite being the star of Mary Poppins (1964), and one of the few things that P.L. Travers liked about the film, Julie Andrews is never mentioned by name in the film and she only appears at the premier at the end. No mention is made of casting Mary Poppins at all.
When Annie Rose Buckley saves Ruth Wilson from the river, the strong current was actually created by six Fastlane units, the swim-current generator in Endless Pools.
This is the first time Thomas Newman has composed music for a live action film made by The Walt Disney Company, as opposed to subsidiary Disney-Pixar, for which he composed Finding Nemo (2003) and WALL·E (2008).
Emma Thompson wrote and played a Mary Poppins-like character in Nanny McPhee (2005) and Nanny McPhee Returns (2010).
Emma Thompson's first live action film project for Walt Disney Pictures, as opposed to Treasure Planet (2002) for Walt Disney Feature Animation (now Walt Disney Animation Studios) and Brave (2012) for Pixar Animation Studios.
In the film, Mrs. Travers mentions the flight to Los Angeles will last eleven hours. Her April 1961 flight took place just one month after the first direct BOAC flights from London to Los Angeles., on Boeing 707s. BOAC polar flights started on March 2, 1961, according to British Airways' website.
Cinematographer John Schwartzman is the half-brother of Jason Schwartzman, who plays Mary Poppins (1964) songwriter/composer Richard M. Sherman in the film. This is also the first time that John Schwartzman has collaborated with director John Lee Hancock since The Rookie (2002).
The first dramatic, non-action/adventure film made by Walt Disney Pictures (and not its subsidiaries Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures) to be rated PG-13, as well as the fifth Disney film to be rated PG-13 following the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (counted here as a single entity), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), John Carter (2012), and The Lone Ranger (2013).
Walt Disneys favorite horse of the carousel is named Jingles, just like the little mouse in The Green Mile.
Dolly, played by Melanie Paxton, wears dresses inspired by Disney princess colors, e.g., Snow White blue, Jasmine teal, Belle yellow and Pocahontas tan.
The first film directed by John Lee Hancock not to have music by composer Carter Burwell. Thomas Newman was engaged to score the film instead.
Sue Smith's screenplay was about P.L. Travers' life and specially her relationship with her step-son. Kelly Marcel was then hired to make it into the story of the making of Mary Poppins (1964) as a movie.
Second movie Tom Hanks has done with the word 'Saving' in the title, after Saving Private Ryan (1998).
Although in this film he portrayed Walt Disney, in a previous film Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), Tom Hanks portrayed a character named Mr. (Joe) Banks.
When Helen presents her award winning poem she wrote to her bed-ridden father, he states, "Well, it's no Yates." P.L. Travers eventually adopted one of Yates' sons, who was actually a twin. When her adopted son at 18 discovered he had a twin and she hid it from him, he left her.
Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney in this film, making him the sixth Oscar winner to play an Oscar winner in a movie. The first is Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest (1981). The second is Nicolas Cage as Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation. (2002). The third is Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator (2004). The fourth and fifth are Christian Bale and Heath Ledger (along with Blanchett) as Bob Dylan in I'm Not There. (2007).
Despite receiving nominations for Best Actress at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Screen Actors Guild awards, Critics Choice awards and even the Saturn Awards, Emma Thompson failed to receive an Academy Award nomination. Critics, audiences, major film groups and publications considered this a major snub at the time.
Lily Bigham, the child actress who played Travers's younger sister, formed a close bond with Colin Farrell during filming and did not know about his character's fate. When watching the film for the first time, she cried hysterically upon seeing him die on screen.
Near the start of the film, the young P. L. Travers is shown moving to a new town with her family on an obviously American western style train. These trains would not have been used in 19th century Australia, as most rolling stock would have been imported from England at that time.