Today I found myself in a fascinating conversation with a group of close friends, friends I thought I knew very well and whose preferences on everything from parenting to food I could probably list without much effort. Like I often do, I shared a link to something I found fascinating today – the trailer to the new Disney film, Saving Mr. Banks. Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of Walt Disney’s quest to buy the rights to make the film version of the P. L. Travers book series starring the cloud-floating, parrot-umbrella-toting nanny, Mary Poppins. I watched the trailer and got not only goosebumps, but actual tears in my eyes. The first couple friends to see it joined me in my excitement if not my degree of excitement, although there were confirmed goosebumps all around.
And then someone said they didn’t like Mary Poppins. Then another person said the same thing. Then we all gasped in horror and looked around digitally and wondered, “Who are these people????”
Okay, so that last bit probably didn’t really happen, but it left me to wonder, do some people seriously not like Mary Poppins? I love everything about the character, the costumes, the songs, the movie, the stars – all of it. So I ran to Facebook as a blogger is wont to do and I asked:
Maybe you prefer Cinderella. I understand, really I do. She’s kind of the head princess after all, the one you’d have to know to really be down with the Disney Princesses. Or maybe you came of age during the rebirth of Disney’s animation prowess when films like Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast took our breath away with incredible artwork and timeless songs.
But how can you not like Poppins? She is practically perfect in every way.
Let me explain…
1. Her mode of transportation: Like a spring rain or the first snow of winter, Poppins floats in with the changing weather, riding a cloud as if it’s the most natural thing to do. The first time we flew to Disney, my daughter looked out the window and asked, “Where’s Poppins?” Now that’s traveling in style.
2. The company she keeps: As evidenced by the types of in-depth discussions we have about Disney, I have great friends. But Poppins travels with the kind of crew who can jump into sidewalk chalk drawings and giggle until they float to the ceiling. I’d love to be a member of her inner circle.
3. Her housekeeping skills: I don’t mind cleaning – you know, actually spraying some product on a dust rag and wiping down surfaces. But I despise cleaning up. However, if you live with Poppins, you need just to sing a song and point and your toys will fly through the air and into the suddenly open drawers. If her nanny jobs ever dry up, she’s got a great maid service business to fall back on.
4. Medical prowess: It doesn’t matter that medicine has evolved from cod liver oil to cherry flavored gummy vitamins. Some kids just refuse to take their medicine. Poppins, however, knows that the key to getting kids to take their meds is to provide them with some sugar. And a song. There’s always a song.
5. Pipes like no other: Did I mention that Mary Poppins sings? And I’m not talking the kind of singing my children are subjected to, the kind that led my daughter’s first sentence to be, “Mama, no sing.” Rather than hide the talents of the incredible Julie Andrews behind a frilly petticoat, Walt Disney used the character of Poppins to showcase her incredible skills. Any child would love to be sung to sleep by the talented Ms. Andrews.
6. Ability to change the topic: If you haven’t ever seen the film (seriously, get thee to Netflix immediately), Poppins very nearly gets canned. Mr. Banks has had enough, and it is time for Poppins to ride out on the cloud she rode in on. But Poppins isn’t having it. Rather than engage in a pointless debate, Mary steers the conversation and leaves Mr. Banks believing that he never intended to fire her in the first place. It ends with Banks flabbergasted and confused – as he should be.
7. Focus on what’s important: While Mr. Banks is crunching the numbers in an age long before computers and Mrs. Banks is working for women’s rights in an age long before the working mom, Poppins is reminding the kids – and the parents – what’s most important, things like flying kites and riding carousels and tea with friends. Poppins embodies the argument for work/life balance and as a busy mom, I love her for it.
8: Selflessness: Poppins could be the hero of this film. After all, it is named for her. But she’s not. Despite everything I pointed out above, at the end of the movie the children’s focus is on their parents, not the world’s best nanny. It’s surprising, it’s beautiful, and gosh darn it pass the tissues – it gets me every time.
As for the film itself, every last moment of the nearly two and a half hour film makes me happy. From the classic Julie Andrews eye rolls to the twinkle in Dick Van Dyke’s eye to the absolute absurdity that defines this film, Mary Poppins brings me joy. I’ve loved sharing this timeless classic and entertaining film with my own children, who seem to not mind (or at the very least tolerate) when I march around the room singing “Step in Time” at the top of my lungs and who agree that Mary Poppins is some of Disney’s finest.