Mary Poppins has been making audiences smile for more than 50 years. Released on August 27th, 1964, the film’s enduring legacy is one of pure happiness. Amazingly, as the reboot trend has taken hold in Hollywood, Mary Poppins has remained immune. Instead of rebooting the beloved musical, Disney chose instead to make a long-awaited sequel. In 2018, audiences got to see Mary Poppins Returns, which replaced Julie Andrews with Emily Blunt and brought smiles to a whole new generation. How much do you know about one of Disney’s most beloved films? Here are some amazing facts to bring a practically perfect smile to your face!
You won’t believe why Julie Andrews almost turned down the role!
Walt Disney Spent 20 Years Buying The Rights To The Book
Walt Disney originally was inspired to turn Mary Poppins into a movie in the 1940s. He spent the next 20 years convincing the author of the book, P.L. Travers, to sell him the rights. Because the book was his daughter’s favorite, he refused to give up.
Travers finally sold Disney the rights in 1961, after she hit dire straights financially. Once Disney got the green light, he worked fast to turn his daughter’s favorite book into one of his most famous movies. Three years later, Mary Poppins was released to incredible commercial and critical success.
One Actor Refuses To Talk To British People Because Of His Role
Dick Van Dyke played Bert in the film and used one of the worst fake British accents of all-time. He’s joked since the movie came out, “I don’t talk to British people anymore because they just make a mess of me.”
Luckily for Van Dyke, his accent didn’t ruin his career. He was even nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in Mary Poppins! In 2018, he returned to the franchise that destroyed his reputation in England, using the same cockney accent as before.
Up next, find out how the book’s author felt about the movie.
P.L. Travers Hated The Movie
Perhaps unsurprisingly, P.L. Travers hated the film adaptation of her beloved children’s book. There’s a reason she refused to give Walt Disney the rights for 20 years! After she saw the movie for the first time, she was quoted saying, “Oh God, what have they done?”
Travers didn’t just hate one thing about the movie; she hated everything about the movie. Some of her biggest complaints were the songs, the time period being changed, the Banks’ house, Dick Van Dyke, and Mary Poppins being pretty.
There Was A Lawsuit Over “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”
When Mary Poppins came out, Disney was quickly sued over the use of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” The movie’s songwriters, the Sherman Brothers, said they came up with the word themselves. Barney Young and Gloria Park, who had written the song “Supercalafajaistickespeealadojus” disagreed and filed suit for $12 million.
Young and Parker lost the lawsuit when it was ruled in court that some variation of the made up word had been around for decades. True to the ruling, the Sherman Brothers changed their story on how they come up with the word as well, saying they learned it at summer camp in the ’30s.
Coming up, learn how it almost became a part of Disneyland!
It Was Almost A Ride At Disneyland
As Mary Poppins became of the most popular movies of its era, Disney planned to open a themed ride for it at Disneyland. The new ride would have been built instead of the Peter Pan ride that is still at the park today.
So what happened? Roy O. Disney decided to cancel the project when he decided that both West Coast and East Coast Disney Parks (Disney World was being built) needed to have the same rides. He hated the idea of West Coast park goers having a difference experience than East Coast ones.
Mary Poppins Won Five Oscars
Mary Poppins was nominated for 13 Academy Awards in 1965 and walked away with five statuettes. While it didn’t win best picture, an honor that went to My Fair Lady, it did win for Best Actress (Julie Andrews) and Best Original Song.
Disney had never experienced such incredible award success, and arguably hasn’t since. The company still managed to break barriers though. In 1992, Beauty and the Beast became the first and only animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture.
The Songs Were Written Before Disney Owned The Book’s Rights
While Walt Disney was busy convincing P.L. Travers to let him turn Mary Poppins into a movie, he had the Sherman Brothers begin writing the music. Disney was so confident in his abilities to purchase the rights, he never even told the songwriters he didn’t own them at the time.
The Sherman Brothers spent the next three years working on the songs for Mary Poppins, completely unaware that the movie wasn’t in production. Luckily for all parties involved, everything worked out perfectly. Well, everyone except for Travers…
Next, learn what almost stopped Julie Andrews from taking the role!
Julie Andrews Almost Turned Down The Role
At the same time Walt Disney was wooing Julie Andrews to play the title character, she was contemplating taking the lead role in My Fair Lady. Either decision would have been a good one. My Fair Lady did beat Mary Poppins for Best Picture at the Oscars, after all.
The choice was made easy for Andrews when Warner Brothers decided to cast Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady instead. When Andrews beat Hepburn for Best Actress at the Oscars she made sure to make a mention of it.
The Dancing Robin Was The First Audio Animatronic Ever Used
At one point in Mary Poppins, a bird sings a song with Julie Andrews. The song was “Spoonful of Sugar,” and the bird was not real. The mechanical bird used in the scene is considered by experts to be the first use of audio-animatronics in any movie.
To create the bird, Walt Disney formed WED Enterprises, which would be renamed the Manufacturing and Production Organization (MAPO). The acronym was decided on as a clever nod to MAry POppins. If you look at the company logo, you can even see the famous nanny flying around!
Matthew Garber’s Fear Of Heights Paid Off
Matthew Garber played Michael Banks in the film, and thanks to his fear of heights, he was able to earn a little extra money. On top of his salary, the actor was paid ten extra cents for every take that was needed to film the “I Love to Laugh” sequence.
The scene sees Garber’s character lifted into the air and left floating while he performs the song. The scene mirrors another scene for one of the chapters of the book titled “Laughing Gas.”
P.L. Travers Didn’t Want The Film Released
P.L. Travers was so upset after seeing the film for the first time that she demanded Disney not release it. She wanted the film to undergo more editing, and she wanted the song “Jolly Holiday” removed. Walt Disney ignored her request and opened the film in New York two days later.
Disney also denied the author’s request to attend the film’s premiere in the United States. She was in the area at the time and requested tickets. The studio claimed they felt it would be easier for her to wait until the London Premiere.
The Movie Paid For Walt Disney World
Without the incredible success of Mary Poppins it’s possible that there would not be Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. With the money Walt Disney made from the movie, he bought the 27,500 acres of land his Florida resort sits on.
Can you imagine a world without Walt Disney World? The theme park was opened in 1971, seven years after the release of Mary Poppins and 16 years after the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Most recently, Walt Disney World opened up Toy Story Land in 2018.
Still ahead, find out just how massively popular the soundtrack was!
The Soundtrack Outsold The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night
The soundtrack to Mary Poppins spent 14 weeks atop the Billboard album sales chart. To maintain its position, the record had to ward off the likes of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night album, as well as releases from Elvis and The Rolling Stones.
To fit all of its songs in one package, many songs had to be shortened from their movie versions. That didn’t stop the record-buying masses from buying as many copies as possible.
Disney Tried To Make A Sequel In The ’80s
In the 1980s, Disney attempted to make a sequel to Mary Poppins. The new film, which would have been called Mary Poppins Comes Back, would have brought one major player back into the fold; P.L. Travers. When the studio started developing the idea, they asked Travers to write the script.
Everything was moving ahead smoothly when Disney underwent management changes. The sequel was canceled as a result and Travers never got to see her vision of Mary Poppins hit the big screen. It wouldn’t be the last time she would be involved with the franchise, though.
Travers Was Heavily Involved In The Stage Version
In the ’90s, Cameron Macintosh began developing a new stage version of Mary Poppins. When he approached P.L. Travers for the stage rights, she agreed under a few strict stipulations. First off, the play needed to follow the story of her book and be told in the original time period.
Travers also demanded that only British writers be involved in the creation of the play. As much as Macintosh was willing to bend, he was not willing to break on the music, and had several songs written for the show in the style of the Sherman Brothers.
Julie Andrews And Van Dyke Were Not Disney’s First Choices
When it came to casting Mary Poppins, Walt Disney wasn’t originally interested in casting Julie Andrews or Dick Van Dyke. He had his eyes on much bigger targets; Angela Lansbury and Carey Grant. Disney didn’t get his way, although there is nod to his original casting in Mary Poppins Returns.
Angela Lansbury, who is still alive today, was asked to play the role of The Balloon Lady in the long anticipated sequel. In a way, everything has come full circle for Walt Disney in one of the most heartwarming ways possible.
A Birthday Flash Mob For A Legend
For Dick Van Dyke’s 90th birthday party, a flash mob surprised him in Los Angeles, showing up to perform a song from Mary Poppins. Van Dyke was so thrilled he joined the mob in celebrating his life, proving he might be older, but he’s not any slower.
The group dressed as chimney sweeps for their performance at The Grove in the city of angels. They performed “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” before Van Dyke joined them for “Let’s Go Fly A Kite.” His wife, Arlene Silver, helped set up the incredible birthday surprise.
“A Spoonful Of Sugar” Was Inspired By The Polio Vaccine
In a strange turn of events, the Sherman Brothers came up with the idea for the song “A Spoonful of Sugar” thanks to the polio vaccine. They came home to their families to learn that the kids had taken the vaccine on top of sugar cubes, making it painless and delicious.
The song became necessary when Julie Andrews rejected a song called “The Eyes of Love” which was written just for her. She hated it and it was replaced with the new sugary sweet track.
Disney’s Favorite Song Was “Feed The Birds”
Walt Disney’s favorite song from Mary Poppins was “Feed the Birds.” He loved the song so much he reportedly would call up Richard Sherman every Friday to play the song for him. Sherman performed the song one last time at a Disney dedication ceremony at Disneyland.
Disney may have liked “Feed the Birds” best, but the Academy disagreed. It was the song “Chim Chim Cher-ee” that won the Oscar for Best Original Song. The film was also given the statuette for Best Original Score.
Julie Andrews Almost Got Fired
After accepting the title role, Julie Andrews found out she was pregnant. As happy as she was, she feared she would lose the role because of it. Disney wasn’t scared off. He halted production and even felt he needed to convince her to want to keep the role.
In order to sway Andrews to stay on board, he gave her a personal tour of Disneyland. He then hired her husband, Tony Walton, to design all the costumes for the movie. Once he cast her, he knew she was too perfect to let go.