Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Mary Poppins

US live-action/Animated Movie (1964). Disney. Dir Robert Stevenson. Spfx Peter Ellenshaw, Eustace Lycett, Robert A Mattey. Anim dir Hamilton S Luske. Screenplay Don DaGradi, Bill Walsh. Based on the Mary Poppins series by P L Travers. Starring Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins), Karen Dotrice (Jane), Matthew Garber (Michael), David Tomlinson (Mr Banks), Dick Van Dyke (Bert/Chairman of the Board), Ed Wynn (Uncle Albert). 139 mins. Colour.

London, 1910, and the Banks children, Jane and Michael, are so naughty that their nanny walks out. Mr Banks advertises for a replacement; they devise a "better" advertisement, but this he throws on the fire. The scraps of paper, borne skywards, reach the magical Mary Poppins, who routs all other applicants and gets the job. Soon they love her: she uses Magic to transform even the dullest chores into games. When they meet her friend Bert, a pavement artist and chimneysweep, she takes them into a Landscape he has chalked, and all four cavort among Toons. Another day they visit Poppins's Uncle Albert, whose laughter causes literal levitation. Banks complains all this fun is bad for the children but soon after, on being sacked, realizes he has been an unaffectionate father and mends his ways. Poppins, her work done, departs.

MP gained five Oscars, including that for Special Visual Effects: the two animation/live-action sequences were astonishingly sophisticated for their time. While the image of Poppins floating through the air beneath her umbrella has become iconic (> Icons), some of the rest today seems rebarbative rather than genial, as epitomized by Van Dyke's gratingly inadequate version of a Cockney accent. Reportedly, difficulties of negotiation with Travers, refreshingly unimpressed by Disney's reputation, prevented sequels. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.