Ms. Poppins and her umbrella are getting some serious mileage, of late. Hot on the chimney-top stomping heels of a hit Broadway translation, the Walt Disney Co is putting semi-biopic Saving Mr. Banks onto the slate for next year. Yesterday marked the start of production on the 60s period piece, which will chronicle Walt Disney‘s 20-year odyssey to obtain the screen rights to P.L. Travers‘ books and character, focusing on the tension between the author and the company’s founder during the making of the classic film. In the author’s corner is the immeasurable Emma Thompson, and in Disney’s, none other than Tom Hanks. Paul Giamatti, Colin Farrell, and Jason Schwartzman round out the cast, though IMDB has no listing yet for who’s on deck to play Julie Andrews.
Travers, like many authors, sought ironclad control over her material, and was notoriously reluctant to let Disney take a crack at the beloved character. Disney, for his part, had a strong motivation to seek out adaptation rights, having promised his daughters he would work on Poppins years before. According to Disney press, the film deals primarily with the two creators during Travers’ stay in California for pre-production, highlighting Travers’ connection to her father, the inspiration for the story’s Mr. Banks, through flashbacks.
Despite the rocky start, Mary Poppins went on to win 5 Oscars, including statuettes for original score and song, and has remained a classic staple of many a childhood. Its success at the box office also allowed for much of the 1967 Disneyland expansion, and for transportation upgrades at Walt Disney World (not to mention a wonderful but contextually bizarre adaptation of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, an attempt by Disney Co. to recreate Poppins‘ sucess). To capture authenticity, the production is shooting in Los Angeles, in and around Disney Studios in Burbank, and at the theme park in Anaheim. (One imagines a little bit of movie magic will be needed to erase locations’ more modern trappings.)
Though pre-shooting buzz has taken to describing Travers as ‘prickly’ and ‘prim’, only viewing will see how even a portrayal she gets in the no-doubt family-aimed film. Don’t expect hard-hitting exposé or dirt digging here, especially given Disney’s tight hold over their namesake’s image. Surprisingly, given his status as enduring cultural icon, this will be the first time that Walt Disney has been portrayed in a dramatic movie role. Hanks seems like an agreeable choice for a first fictitious Walt, and, let’s not lie, we’ll watch Emma Thompson do pretty much anything.
According to Disney reps, the film is set for release sometime in 2013.
(via Disney Blog.)