Why it took 54 years for Mary Poppins to return | Film | DW | 19.12.2018
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Why it took 54 years for Mary Poppins to return

The magical nanny, portrayed by Julie Andrews, first floated over London in 1964. Disney actually wanted to produce a sequel to its hit musical a year later. Now, over half a century later, Mary Poppins finally returns.

Back in 1964, millions poured in from all over the world: "Mary Poppins" was a box office sensation. It turned Julie Andrews into a star, and people cheerfully sang the film's catchy tunes all the way home, and shared the experience with their children for the decades that followed.

To this day, Mary Poppins remains one of the most successful musical films ever made. While it was directed by a seasoned filmmaker, Robert Stevenson, it remains above all a Disney production.

At the time, Walt Disney was best known as an animation specialist. With movies including Bambi, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, the US production company had already enchanted millions of people — and not only children.

But Disney had to come up with something new to keep building on its success. That happened with Mary Poppins, a musical that innovatively combined live action and animation. 

Filmstills Mary Poppins (picture-alliance/Mary Evans Picture Library)

Julie Andrews as the "practically perfect" nanny making the Banks children (Mathew Garber and Karen Dotrice) happy

Half a century later

Mary Poppins remained a cult classic over several generations.

Knowing that Hollywood is the master of sequels, prequels and remakes, it is therefore no surprise that a new movie, Mary Poppins Returns, should follow up on the popular story. But what's unusual is that it took so long for it to happen: 54 years.

The author of the original Mary Poppins books, P.L. Travers, wasn't satisfied with the Disney film from 1964. She didn't like the way it sweetened her title character and she hated the use of animation.  

While Walt Disney attempted to develop a sequel a year after the first film's release, the Australian-born British author stood in the way of the project. Later attempts to get her approval for a sequel in the late 1980s also failed.

Travers died in 1996. In 2015, her estate approved a project that was to be directed by Rob Marshall, who won the 2002 Oscar for the musical Chicago and had just completed another Walt Disney Pictures musical fantasy film in 2014, Into the Woods.  

Film still Mary Poppins Returns (Jay Maidment)

A new character adds to the fantasy: Meryl Streep is Cousin Topsy

2018's top box office spots

Disney was behind three of the top five biggest earners of 2018 at the US box office — with Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Incredibles 2. The numbers of the competitive end-of-year period obviously aren't in yet: Will Mary Poppins Returns join them at the top?


Mary Poppins Returns is released in the US on December 19 and a day later in Germany.


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