Welcome back! A while ago I posted the first part of this blog post regarding the character differences of Walt Disney as a dreamer and P.L Travers as a realist in the movie Saving Mr. Banks. I blogged about how these two characters, though different on the surface, really are both trying to use their creative abilities to bring about a better life for the rest of us. However, not only are these characters using their personal talents to bring a better life for us, but in the film they both use the memories of their childhood to enhance their own lives, and maybe ours too in the process…
With these two polar characters in hand, I am genuinely touched by their similar reactions to difficult childhood situations. While Walt Disney and P.L Travers do not see eye to eye on everything, they both agree wholeheartedly in the respect each one has for their parents, especially their fathers. And the respect that is given to these fathers as we learn more about them in the progress of the film, leads us as the audience to develop respect towards these men as well, despite obvious flaws they possess. I find it thought provoking, that both characters choose to love their fathers, despite their poor, selfish choices that impact the members of their family. Walt Disney says in the film that his father treated him and his brother harshly and exhausted them with work for his own gain, and arguably risked their lives to do it. However, Disney says that despite his father’s actions, “I believe my father was a loving man.” I personally don’t know that having gone through the childhood that Disney went through, if I would have felt that same way towards my father. But, I do believe that through this perspective, the film makers are advocating that we look at all people as genuine–having both good and bad in them, instead of just bad or just good.
I think that P.L Travers’ love for her father and mother, though recognizing they also have flaws continues to develop this perspective. We see Travers father as loving and caring, but also an alcoholic who keeps choosing to put drink in front of his professional priorities, which greatly impacts his family. Because of the pressure Travers mother has at home, taking care of the children and maintaining a household and difficulties in her marriage due to choices her husband makes, leads her to mental breakdowns. As we see parallels in the story from Travers’ parents to Mr. and Mrs. Banks develop, we also see Travers stand up for her characters explaining that they are not bad people, though her Mary Poppins fans may not always understand the characters motives. Travers, like Disney, does not deny that her characters (perhaps purposefully) and parents have flaws, but chooses to love them and focus on the positive characteristics of them anyway.
Even Travers and Disney themselves are depicted in this same theme; they are viewed as people with both good and bad. The filmmakers do not idolize them as people above the rest of us mere mortals, but we are exposed to their flaws and shortcomings in the film too. Travers we see as rude and inconsiderate of others feelings, and Disney, we see with a smoking habit he is ashamed of and his continual questioning of how to properly handle building this proverbial bridge with Travers. Walking into this film, I guess I expected to see an unwavering, lovable, perfect Walt Disney; so to see any seemingly imperfect characteristic was rather a surprise for me. But walking away from the film I find that the imperfect character portrayal actually speaks louder and more becoming than the perfect person would. I think I fell in love with both protagonists all the more.
There is so much to this film, I feel as though this blog post can hardly do it justice on both topics I have mentioned as well as topics that I won’t touch here. And therefore it makes sense that the internet is erupting with blog posts and television networks have specials all rotating around this film. Personally, when I walked out of the theater my brain resembled the Absent-Minded Professor’s flubber let loose in the gymnasium. My thoughts did not shut off.
But, going back to the concept of storytelling that I opened the first post with. I mentioned that storytelling is an art form that is supposed to entertain us with a story of an event, maybe not exactly with perfect historical accuracy (think, the fish that got away was “this big!”) and also, teach us something. Saving Mr. Banks is the storytelling of not only the making of Mary Poppins, but also examines the moral of how we should view other people. We all have people we have loved that have let us down or broken our hearts as well as heroes we look up to and could not ever dream they posses imperfect qualities. I think that the main underlying theme in this film is to teach the audience to remember that we are all different, some may be from the sunny-dreamers camp and others from the raining-realists camp, but we are all genuinely human having both good and bad characteristics in ourselves. Maybe even Mary Poppins, who was only practically perfect in every way. ;)
“I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.”–Walt Disney
Chelsea Mathews is a stay-at-home momma of two year old, Eldon and five year old, Oscar the Dog. In her “spare” time , she is a part time ballet teacher and enjoys sewing, organizing, and starting projects. Chelsea lives in Poulsbo, WA, just outside of Seattle (Go Seahawks!).