Disney scores again! First it was multi-Oscar winning Mary Poppins, now Saving Mr. Banks, a biopic of Mary Poppins writer P. L. Travers. In the person of Emma Thompson she's stern, a bit of a frump, Britishly out of step, yet endearing as she comes around giving Walt Disney the rights to make this classic musical. Let's face it: who can say no to Tom Hanks? Set in two time frames, the 1960's when Disney finally got Travers to agree and the 1930's back brush Australia where Travers nee Helen Goff grew up, a daughter of an alcoholic with lofty dreams played movingly by Colin Farrell. Featuring a stellar supporting cast of Jason Schwartzman, Paul Giamatti, Rachel Griffiths, Kathy Baker, B. J. Novak, the miracle of this movie is its tone: with sad and funny in equal measure, Saving Mr. Banks will surely top award season lists.
The invitation for a celebratory luncheon at The Four Seasons read "Singalong." Sure enough, diners equipped with Mary Poppins songbooks, accompanied by piano and the voices of Emma Thompson, Tova Feldshuh, Bob Balaban and others, sang out: "Let's Go Fly a Kite," "Chim Chim Cher-ee," "A Spoonful of Sugar," etc. One guest, Tony Walton was at the time married to Julie Andrews. Of course, Andrews ended up starring and Walton did the drawings, designing sets and costumes, the distinct look of Mary Poppins. He told me at lunch, Disney was trying to court them both, but insisted upon keeping the drawings. Disney finally had to concede. You may melt for Hanks, but Walton said no to Walt.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.