In conjunction with the release of the new film Saving Mr. Banks—a dramatization of the making of Mary Poppins starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson—Disney is releasing a special 50th Anniversary Blu-ray of the 1964 musical classic. Regularly on television, and available on home video and DVD for years, most are aware of Mary Poppins basic plot. The story of a kindly nanny with ‘magical’ powers who moves in with an English family and helps them discover the bonds that matter, continues to resonate with audiences.
Always a personal favorite of mine, it’s truly hard to find fault with this adaptation of the books by P.L. Travers. The performances of Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, Dick Van Dyke as Bert, Karen Dotrice as Jane, Matthew Garber as Michael, David Tomlinson as Mr. Banks and Glynis Johns as Mrs. Banks are universally excellent. Even though Van Dyke’s attempt at a cockney accent is admittedly pretty awful, he’s so energetic and fun that it’s easy to overlook it. The mix of live-action and animation is still works, used as a centerpiece in a fascinating fantasy sequence.
Making her film debut as Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews won the Best Actress Oscar for her work. The film also took home the best song Oscar for “Chim Chim Cher-ee” by Richard and Robert Sherman. In an indication of just how strong the Sherman Brothers work on Mary Poppins is, it can easily be argued that “Chim Chim Cher-ee” isn’t even the strongest song on the soundtrack. For my money, that honor goes to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” or maybe even “A Spoonful of Sugar.” In truth, there’s not a bad song in the lot. I wore out my parent’s copy of the album (a record!) I listened to it so much. Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke (and others when called upon) deliver every song with such energy that you can’t help but sing along. And the dancing, lead by Van Dyke’s seemingly rubber limbs, rivals the numbers seen in some of the MGM musicals of the 1930’s. The whole film just crackles with vitality.
If there is a negative, the plot is rather thin. However, what’s there is sweet and fun, serving as a bridge between beautiful set pieces and unforgettable songs. There are also some good messages being served up by Mary Poppins and Bert about family, friendship, and the ties that bind that are always worth hearing.
Presented in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio, Disney’s 1080p transfer is by far the best the film has ever looked on home video. The color is truly outstanding, showing vibrancy never available before. The flesh tones look realistic throughout, and the animated sequences boast surprisingly sharp hues. While thin matte lines from previous releases are noticeable from time to time, they are much tamer here. The filmic texture and spot on black levels makes for a very pleasant viewing experience.
This release offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix (utilized for this review) as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 sound mixes. The strength of conductor Irwin Kostel’s orchestrations is impossible to miss. Things are spread out wonderfully throughout the channels. The bass and underscore are nicely balanced, and singing voices and dialogue emanate perfectly from the center channel.
English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are available.
The following extras are included:
New to Blu-ray:
- Audio Commentary with Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Richard Sherman, Robert Sherman, and Karen Dotrice: Edited together, Andrews and Van Dyke sat together and provide a running, screen specific look at the film. Dotrice and Richard Sherman provide the same type of discussion at a later point in the film. Robert Sherman provides a few of his own remarks, recorded at his home in London. While the commentary is a bit crowded, it’s informative and interesting.
- Becoming Mr. Sherman (HD, 14:01) Composer Richard Sherman and his on-screen alter ego Jason Schwartzman (who plays him in the upcoming Saving Mr. Banks) discuss the songs for Mary Poppins and Schwartzman’s gratitude for Mr. Sherman over his efforts to help him prepare for his role in Saving Mr. Banks.
- Mary-Oke (HD, 7:58) Sing along to “Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Step in Time,” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”
Ported Over from the DVD:
- Mary Poppins from Page to Stage (SD, 48:06) We get a look at the London and Broadway stage adaptations. The piece includes interviews with producer Thomas Schumacher, stars Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins) and Gavin Lee (Bert), producer Cameron Mackintosh, composer George Stiles, lyricist Anthony Drewe, costume designer Bob Crowley and more.
- “Step in Time” (SD, 7:08) A look at the stage version of the memorable dance number.
- Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins (SD, 50:46) A 2004 “Making-of” documentary, featuring interviews with cast and crew, and plenty of vintage clips. The two year odyssey to make this film was certainly an interesting one!
- World Premiere (SD, 17:45) The film’s premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood features interviews with many celebrities in both color and black and white.
- Premiere Party (SD, 6:23) Radio interviews conducted with various celebrities attending the premiere party after the film had finished.
- Movie Magic (SD, 7:05) A brief look at the film’s special effects.
- Deconstruction of “Jolly Holiday” (HD, 13:03) Various clips show the live action, in between animation, and compositing of images needed to achieve the look of the sequence in the film.
- Deconstruction of “Step in Time” (SD, 4:52) A peek at how the dancing and effects were achieved during this production number.
- Dick Van Dyke Make-up Test (SD, 1:07) The make-up test for Dick Van Dyke as the aged Mr. Dawes.
- Trailers: teaser (2:54), theatrical (4:14), Julie Andrews premiere greeting trailer (0:39), two TV spots (0:32, 0:33), three reissue trailers (1:02, 1:12, 1:02)
- Magical Musical Reunion (SD, 17:19) Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, and Richard Sherman sit around a piano and recall fond memories of making the film.
- Deleted Song “Chimpanzoo” (SD, 1:38) Storyboard visuals are provided.
- Disney Song Selection (HD, 32:55) Go directly to eight separate songs in the film with subtitled lyrics. They may also be accessed individually.
- The Cat That Looked at a King (SD, 9:52) Julie Andrews stars in an animated/live action short, based in part on P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins Opens the Door.
- DVD/Digital Copy: disc and code sheet enclosed.
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