Saving Mr. Banks marks the debut of a Disney film where its founder, Walt Disney, is depicted as a character, and attendees at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA, yesterday were among the first to watch scenes from the feature.
Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak, who play Richard and Robert Sherman, respectively, the brothers who wrote the songs to Mary Poppins, appeared at the Expo to share memories and footage.
The first scene showed Emma Thompson‘s P.L. Travers, the woman who wrote the book later adapted into the Mary Poppins film we all love, arriving at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, circa 1961.
Bradley Whitford, who plays writer Don DaGradi, greets Travers outside of her limo, driven by Paul Giamatti. Travers’ abrasive and unnerving presence is immediately felt, as the uptight woman does not want to be called by her first name – a tradition that stands today at Disney.
Travers does not feel Mary Poppins could be a musical and impatiently waits to meet with Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks.
Disney convinces Travers to allow him to make the film, a project he had wanted to develop for some two decades. He had made a promise to his daughters that the Mary Poppins character would fly onto the screen, and he intended on keeping it. This awkward exchange between the two is quite funny, and demonstrates the pure talent of these two Oscar-winning actors. The most amusing moment in the scene, set in Disney’s office, is when Travers asks Walt to put a “spoonful of sugar” in the scenes. The D23 Expo attendees sure appreciated that line.
After this scene, Walt Disney Studios’ Sean Bailey shared another clip. This focused on Disney inviting Travers to Disneyland, and he makes a grand entrance.
Disney welcomes her outside the gates of this early 1960s-set theme park, with extras in the background all adorning clothing of the era. Other touches replicate this period of time.
“Is it all like this?,” the skeptical Travers asks Walt, immediately turned off by this most enchanting atmosphere.
Disney takes Travers on the carousel, though she resists.
“Get on the horse, Pamela,” Disney says. Then he jokes that he won a bet he made with his friends in managing to persuade her on the ride, a scene we have seen in the recently-released trailer.
Schwartzman and Novak come out on stage at the Expo after this scene, and the two shared recollections of learning the music from Richard Sherman himself. After all, this is one of the two men who wrote the Oscar-winning tunes.
“The songs that feel so easy now came with difficulty,” Schwartzman said. He described Sherman as not only a Disney legend, but also a “human legend.” Schwartzman said he received a “master class in songwriting” and loved how Sherman is “a really good winker” in helping him play the notes.
“That’s the ultimate high-five,” he added.
Novak said this was the “first and last” time in singing for a film.
The third and final scene shown featured Schwartzman, Novak and Travers talking about the potential songs for Poppins. They argue over the lyrics and Travers disagrees with them in viewing Dick Van Dyke as “one of the greats.” We all know how that casting ended up. The men play “Chim Chim Cher-ee on the piano” and the scene concludes with the men hiding the sheet music for the longest song title after Travers shows disgust over the clever wordplay in the former song.
Back on stage Schwartzman and Novak were greeted by Richard Sherman, who received overwhelming applause and a standing ovation. “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” was played as performers in vintage, dapper apparel rushed out into the audience “flying kites.”
What a fantastic ending to the spectacular Studios presentation!
Saving Mr. Banks enters theatres this December!
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[Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks images courtesy of Walt Disney Studios. Used with permission.]