New To Blu: Saving Mr. Banks

A movie about the making of a movie based on a book written by a woman that did not want it to be made in to a movie. Got that?

"Hey!!! What's up Wilson?"
Saving Mr. Banks is the story of Walt Disney's persistence in getting Mary Poppins transitioned from book to screen. Tom Hanks (Walt Disney) and Emma Thompson (P.L. Travers) star in this back story, following the difficult time that Disney had getting Poppins author P.L. Travers to sign off on the rights to her characters and story. The film shifts to flashbacks of Travers’ difficult childhood in Australia and relationship with her father (played by Colin Farrell) to shape Travers for the viewers and give some insight as to why she has become such an unpleasant adult. It becomes obvious though these flashbacks that the Mary Poppins book was a heavily biographical tale of her childhood, a fact that Travers reveals to nobody.

Travers is depicted as highly difficult to work with and overly protective of her creative works, objecting to everything from the inclusion of songs in the film to the use of any animation. It is only through the sheer charm and determination of Walt Disney that Travers is ultimately won over by the Disney vision. Taken in this context, the film works decently. The flashbacks are well constructed, the acting is all solid and we have a nice little film about the making of a Disney classic.

"Damn you! I called the
white horse!!"
There is just one little problem. Saving Mr. Banks is complete revisionist history. The film would have us believe that in the end Travers was happy with the final product but that is just not the case. In reality Travers was devastated by what she felt was a betrayal of her work and would go to her grave in 1996 having never forgiven Walt Disney. It would seem that even though Travers had approval rights to the script, what she failed to understand was she had no say over the editing of the film, so everything she hated about it remained despite her stern objections to Disney.

That is my biggest problem with the movie. Disney wanted to make a film to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of one of their most beloved classics. I can understand that. But the decision to make a movie about the back story of Mary Poppins just seems like a bad idea given what really happened. I can only imagine how insulted P.L. Travers would be by this movie if she were still alive to see it.

As a stand-alone work of fiction, Saving Mr. Banks is a pretty decent movie but it presents itself as the earnest back story to a real life Disney classic and I can’t help but to find it rather distasteful. If nothing else, Saving Mr. Banks is a harsh reminder that history really is written by the winners.

-Brian Rohe