Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson star in a real life culture clash, as Saving Mr. Banks peels back the curtain to examine Walt Disney’s (Tom Hanks) twenty year quest to convince Mary Poppins author PL Travers to let his studio make her books into a film. Funny, yet sobering, Emma Thompson gives a quietly powerful performance, adding an unexpected dimension to the story.
In London 1961, PL Travers is sitting behind her desk, trussed up in a tweed suit, back straight as an arrow. Her agent has come for the nth time in the past two decades, begging, on behalf of Mr. Disney for the screen rights to Mary Poppins. Again, she flatly refuses. However, this time her agent is forced to blunt: since she refuses to write any more books and royalties have dried up, she has no more money coming in. Faced with this harsh reality, Travers reluctantly agrees to fly to Los Angeles for two weeks and oversee the writing process of Mary Poppins.
Upon arriving, Travers is introduced to her co-workers: screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford), and songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak). Thompson is at her hilarious best during these early meetings, haggling with the writers over every word, and looking down at the Sherman brothers with utter disdain. Insisting that every meeting be taped, they haggle over everything from scene headings to how a phrase is properly pronounced, and just what the Banks’ house looks like.
In flashbacks, we begin to see what’s really at the heart of Travers’ objections. As a young girl in rural Australia, Travers had an especially close relationship with her father (Colin Farrell), an otherwise unreliable and occasionally ill-tempered drunk who nonetheless adored his eldest daughter “Ginty” and encouraged her to think creatively. He died when she was still a young girl, and clearly, Travers has yet to come to terms with the loss, and the fact that Walt Disney and his staff don’t truly understand what Mary Poppins means to her, is infuriating.
When we first meet PL Travers, she a woman with some rather funny eccentricities, but as the flashbacks continue, those eccentricities reveal themselves to be the severe emotional scars that they are, and no amount of humor, as subsequent scenes show, can make those go away. To that end, Disney and screenwriters Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith deserve credit for telling a story rife with conflict, and rather than trying to fix everything with a series of one-liners, we are left with a PL Travers who was undeniably talented, but troubled. Walt himself, doesn’t get away unscathed either, we learn about the troubled relationship between him and his father, and how that issue quietly made its way into the film version of Mary Poppins.
While the drama is important, at its core, Saving Mr. Banks is a whimsical film that will take a lot of people back to fond childhood memories. Buttressed by wonderful performances from Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, and Colin Farrell, Saving Mr. Banks is a film any Disney fan should see.
Faithfully reproduced in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Disney’s 1080p transfer is wonderful, allowing for incredible sharpness throughout, and colors that pop. Flesh tones look natural, and contrast is consistent, helping to maintain a stable image. Black levels are excellent, as is shadow detail.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix serves the film very well, with Thomas Newman’s vibrant score nicely separated into the channels. Ambient sounds are present in the front and rear speakers. Dialogue has been cleanly recorded and placed in the center channel.
English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are available.
The following extras are included:
- The Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins To The Present (HD, 14:35) Director John Lee Hancock and production designer Michael Corenblith serve as guides for a look at Disney studios, past and present. We get a look at vintage footage from the time of Mary Poppins’ production, all the way up to today. Also featured are memories from some of the children of the original Disney staff and composer Richard Sherman.
- Let’s Go Fly a Kite (HD, 1:47) Co-songwriter leads a sing-along of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” with the Saving Mr. Banks cast and crew on the last day of filming.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 7:24) Three deleted scenes include: “Stargaze,” “Nanny Song” and “Pam Leaves.” Can be played separately, or as a montage.
- Digital Copy: code sheet enclosed in the case.