What the Mary Poppins Author Really Thought of the Original Movie

The film adaptation of Mary Poppins, and the new Mary Poppins Returns, honor her characters but create worlds of their own. So, just what did author P.L. Travers think of the beloved original?

Mary Poppins - 1964Disney/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

If you ever tried to say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” or tried a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down, chances are, your childhood was inspired by the beloved fictional nanny. However, not everyone loved the exuberant Disney movie musical. Although the 1964 film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke was critically acclaimed and a box office smash, the book’s author P. L. Travers (Pamela Lyndon Travers) wasn’t a fan of the flick. Don’t miss these 15 impressive words you can learn from Disney songs.

Travers didn’t try to be diplomatic in her dislike of Disney’s Mary Poppins movie. She did not like the movie’s animated sequences or its glamorization of the title character, stating that it loses the point because Disney turned her into a very pretty girl, according to the Telegraph. In fact, she was so upset, Travers wept through the entire premiere screening. Variety reported that, in responding to questions about the film not long after its release, she said, “I would have preferred that ‘Mary Poppins’ should be filmed by the British because, well, never mind, let’s not go into that.”

The struggle between Travers and Walt Disney was so dramatic that it was chronicled in 2013’s Saving Mr. Banks. However, since that was a Disney movie, as well, some have criticized it for being biased and unfairly portraying the author’s side of things. Smithsonian Magazine revealed that Travers did notoriously object to the Mary Poppins movie being a musical, and she must have bristled as her suggestions as a consultant on the original movie were largely ignored.

With Mary Poppins Returns, the 2018 sequel film, in theaters, speculation about what Travers, who died in 1996, would have thought of this adaptation is mixed. Newsweek muses that Travers may have liked this film because the screenwriter, David Magee, was truer to the complex nature of the Mary Poppins character. Magee explained that he was a fan of the original books and its version of Mary, who is “a little more of a taskmaster, a little more willing to deny [that magic] was happening.” On the other hand, given the fact that star Emily Blunt is also very pretty and Travers disliked every adaptation of her work that was made when she was living, it’s impossible to know for sure.

Travers was certainly not opposed to sequels, though. She wrote seven sequels to her original Mary Poppins novel, publishing the last, Mary Poppins and the House Next Door, in 1988 when she was nearly 90. And, as Mary Poppins Returns finds its way into the hearts of audiences and captures Oscar buzz along with four Golden Globe nominations, even more viewers are sure to fall in love with the magical world that P.L. Travers created. That is a strong tribute to the power of the author’s words and characters that will continue to have a life of their own no matter how many film adaptations are made. Next, check out the children’s books every adult should re-read.

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Robin Raven
Robin Raven is a travel writer and journalist who often focuses on vegan and animal rights topics. Her work has appeared in Grok Nation, The Huffington Post, Hello Giggles, USAToday.com, and dozens of other publications.