Saving Mr. Banks: A Spoonful of Memories to Help the Meaning go Down! (Part 2)

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Saving Mr. Banks:

A Spoonful of Memories to Help the Meaning go Down! (Part 2)

 

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.

Related: Saving Mr. Banks Practically Perfect Preview

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!).

Saving Mr. Banks: A Spoonful of Memories to Help the Meaning go Down! (Part 1)

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Saving Mr. Banks:
A Spoonful of Memories to Help
the Meaning go Down!  (Part 1)

 Hey, everyone! I invited my sister-in-law to share her thoughts on Saving Mr. Banks after a fabulous phone conversation. I was excited about what she said and was eager to know more of her thoughts. Read on and let us know your take!

As a mother of a toddler, you can imagine that my trips to the movie theater are not frequent. However when my mom had a visit with my son last week, my husband and I were able to scamper off and see Saving Mr. Banks. I was so excited to see the film as Mary Poppins was a special movie to me in my childhood, as it probably was too with many of you! I remember going to my Grandma Doris’ house on Fridays, Grandpa Bill making his special spaghetti sauce, watching a movie (95% of the time it was Mary Poppins, likely putting me in the running for the world record title holder of “Most Views by a Little Girl of the Film, Mary Poppins“), and in the morning, my special Grandma Doris magically making pancakes in whatever shape I desired (flowers, princesses, etc.). So needless to say, watching Saving Mr. Banks and hearing the cast Sherman brothers sing these magical songs and discuss the iconic script in the rehearsal room brought me back in a very raw way to the memories of my childhood. But that is to be expected, I suppose, as I knew what the basis of the story line was before the film was turned on. However, I was surprised as I watched the film with what I felt the creators, script writers, actors, and director, were really communicating in this apparent art of storytelling. The art of storytelling generally is first to entertain, but also to teach lessons—lessons of both past events, warnings of potential future mistakes, and often even a general moral guideline. Was this film’s purpose merely to tell the audience of a historical event, or was the intent to use this story as a jumping off point to discuss something more?

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What first really caught my attention about this movie and its intent for a deeper level meaning was a conversation between P.L. Travers and her assigned Disney driver, Ralph, at the beginning of the film. As Ralph picks Mrs. Travers up for the second or third time they say:

“Look! You brought the sun out again,” says Ralph with a smile.
“…I would much rather be responsible for the rain than the sun,” replies Mrs. Travers.
“Why?” asks the driver.
“Because the rain brings life,” she says.
“So does the sun,” replies Ralph confidently.

This scene just about sucked all the air out of the theater for me. Its weight cannot be overstated because it mirrors perfectly the relationship between Walt Disney and P.L. Travers and the entire journey that we are about to embark on as the audience.

Before the film began we, the audience, know about Disney and his own character consumed with dreaming and living his life as the glass-half-full kind of guy. And Ralph here, an informal Walt Disney representative, values the sun because you blossom in the sun. He values it so much that he can’t even comprehend that rain may in fact have blessings of its own. And with his headquarters in sunny Los Angeles, California, the sun absolutely represents Walt Disney’s perspective and ideal of creating a perfect, clean-garbage-cans kind of world as the best way to better the life of society, a kind of, dream-relentlessly-for-the-wonderful-world-you-could-have-for-yourself idea. In the princess movies that Walt Disney helped to create, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or Cinderella, Disney shows how an already wonderful, already good character dreams of a faraway place that is better than their present reality.

Related: Saving Mr. Banks Practically Perfect Preview

On the other side of this sidewalk drawing is Mrs. Travers. Ever the realist, she identifies most with the rain and cannot think of why the sun can even compare to its usefulness. Rain, I think she would argue, must be had as it nourishes us and washes away the coverup to reveal truth about our present circumstance, reality. As we progress through the film, we see more and more of her character come out to match this meteorologic classification. We see her become very upset with Disney and his studios when she sees Mary Poppins and even other characters associated with dreams and hope and OMGoodness, Pixie Dust. And Travers rants explaining what will children actually learn in order to survive their imperfect and difficult world? Wouldn’t it be much better to teach them a grounded version of order? This explains why she did not want the Bank’s house to be aristocratic, what kind of regular or relatable problems do they have to overcome? she would probably think. Though Travers has an imagination, she uses her art of writing more as a fable—happy on the surface, but a little darker in its depth as if to say, “Careful! Don’t end up here!” And we see this very clearly in Mary Poppins. When the kids get out of control or run away or question whether their father loves them, they are corrected and taught lessons so that those undesirable behaviors don’t return.

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Disucussing P.L.Travers character brings me to my next point which is, why are there so many blog posts and opinions about the film circling around the question was Saving Mr. Banks too hard on Travers? Every time I Google something about this film I see this topic being debated and discussed. And I have to turn my head sideways and ask, really? I find it very interesting that our society sees Travers unwillingness to change the characters she has createded as a flaw. Even Walt Disney in the film sees her struggle and admits that at one time he too had considered selling Mickey, but knew that it would kill him emotionally to lose those rights. And here is P.L. Travers in that similar situation seemingly without another option. I will not deny that Travers was depicted as rather blut, and probably rude, person. But actually, in further reading about her character she was like that. When I watched the actors in their movie press conference at the Beverly Hills Hotel on YouTube, Emma Thompson tells about interviewing Travers’ friends for the roll and the friends reporting that Travers would be nice to them one day, and short with them the next. And while some of the historical accuracy of the film is debated, that part of her character is not. But regardless of this, P.L.Travers closely resembles a loved, American hero: Shrek. (I know you just read that and think, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” but hear me out.)

In case you have been living under a rock like Patrick Star in Sponge Bob Square Pants, Shrek is the main character in a Mike Meyers film who is an ogre living in the Land of Fairy Tale Creatures. He isolates himself and doesn’t fit into what values the mainstream society has. And in talking with a beloved donkey, who is desperately trying to understand this ogre, the conversation leads itself to the complex layers of the ogre’s character. Shrek says of himself that “Ogres are like onions” because firstly, they have layers. The donkey in response to this turns his nose up to a stinky, undesirable vegetable and asks why don’t you identify with cake or parfaits? Everyone likes cakes or parfaits and they have layers. Shrek gives and emphatic, “NO! Ogres are like onions” because secondly, they are not out to please people or conform into something that everyone will like. Ogres are simply true to themselves and Mrs. Travers is no different. She is not someone everyone likes, but she has depth, complexity, and reasons behind her choices. As Americans we salute Shrek for his independent thinking, coarseness, and unwillingness to be anything but himself. Do we not owe the same right to Mrs. Travers?

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In the end, I believe both Disney and Travers are using their creative abilities to, what did that  Saving Mr. Banks quote from the beginning of this post say again??? … “to bring life.” They are using two separate tools to bring life, or in other words, to help their audience have a better life than they are currently living in. Disney wants you to day dream in the glorious, warm sun of a better world. Travers wants you to use the rain and wash away the things that clutter up the truth about our circumstances and to refresh ourselves. And really, we need both dreams and reality to help us along our path in life. Without dreaming, we have no compass. Without reality, we have no map.

What memorable aspects of your life have required hefty doses of both dreaming and reality to get you there? A career choice? A dream vacation? Maybe you are a dreamer and someone else close to you is a realist and both of you work together to accomplish great things like Disney and Travers? Or vise versa?

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!). If you read the title of this post, you will know that this is just part one of some of Chelsea’s thoughts on this movie. Stay tuned if you want to see what she believes this film is saying about storytelling and the human condition.

Saving Mr. Banks Practically Perfect Preview

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Saving Mr. Banks Practically Perfect Preview

I always get so excited when the Disney Parks Blog has a meet-up and when I saw their announcement for the “Saving Mr. Banks Practically Perfect Preview” – I wanted to be a part of it so badly!! Needless to say, our RSVP for the event was accepted and the preview was this past weekend! We checked in at the front entrance of Disney’s Hollywood Studios promptly at 8:00 p.m. and headed straight for the Premiere Theater. I didn’t even know there was a theater back there! So special! Magic is always popping up where you’d least expect it at Walt Disney World!

We arrived just a bit early and got all checked in with time to stop and take in all the glory of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. If you haven’t seen this epic display of twinkling and sparkling lights, well…you’ve just got to do it! It’s the most breathtaking display of Christmas lights you’ll probably ever see!

Anywhoo…I have been ridiculously excited to see “Saving Mr. Banks” since I first saw the previews for it months ago. I absolutely love movies that tell the back stories of other movies. Think how “Monster’s University” told the back story of “Monster’s, Inc.” – just love it! Mary Poppins happens to be one of my all-time favorite childhood movies. So excited!!

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As we entered the theater, I saw some familiar faces of the Disney Parks Blog and took a few moments to catch up with them. It’s always so fun that everyone is so personable and friendly! There were cute little red and white striped boxes of popcorn and drinks available, so we all grabbed some and took our seats.

Until now, the back story of how P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins” made it to the big screen has been untold. Emma Thompson did a fantastic job of portraying the uncompromising author of her beloved, magical nanny with absolutely no intention of releasing the rights to her story.

As Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, pulls out all the stops to woo Travers to grant him the rights to her story, she becomes increasingly unwilling to budge. She even stated that “Mary Poppins DOES NOT SING” as the Sherman Brothers come up with catchy tunes to tell the story and present them to her. We watched quietly and got teary-eyed, over and over as this remarkable story was told. What I found especially enjoyable was watching Walt as he studied Travers and ultimately figured out a way to reach her. He was an amazing man, as we all know, and if you are a fan of Walt Disney, you will absolutely love this movie as I did.

We had a big treat waiting for us after the preview, in Disney Parks Blog meet-up style! There were two fabulous photo opportunities where we could take pictures with Mary Poppins and one of the beloved penguins and a second with Bert and a couple of the chimney sweeps! The Characters mingled with us as we waited in line to see them keeping us entertained all the while. My daughter even danced with a penguin!

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Even though I want to tell you ALL the details about this incredible film, I’m not going to spoil it for you. You simply must go see “Saving Mr. Banks” for yourself on December 20, 2013 when it opens in theaters everywhere! You’ll just love it!

Be sure to check out the following Social Media channels to stay up-to-date!

Saving Mr. Banks on Facebook

Walt Disney Pictures on Twitter

Love the First Movie Poster for Saving Mr. Banks!!

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For those of you who haven’t seen the new trailer for the film, I thought I’d tuck that in too! I’m insanely excited for this movie!!

For those of you wondering what the movie is about, here is the official boilerplate:

Two-time Academy Award®–winner Emma Thompson and fellow double Oscar®-winner Tom Hanks topline Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” inspired by the extraordinary, untold backstory of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen.

When Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins,” he made them a promise—one that he didn’t realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney’s plans for the adaptation.

For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn’t budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp.

It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history.

Disney presents “Saving Mr. Banks,” directed by John Lee Hancock, produced by Alison Owen, Ian Collie and Philip Steuer, and written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. Executive producers are Paul Trijbits, Andrew Mason, Troy Lum and Christine Langan.

Web and mobile site: http://www.disney.com/savingmrbanks

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SAVING MR. BANKS opens in theaters limited on December 13, 2013 and opens wide on December 20, 2013!