Is nothing in filmdom sacred and exempt from the lure of franchising? Any hit film, whether live action or cartoon, today is sure to spawn a sequel as studios try to milk any moneymaker into a franchise for future money making. But, sequel mania has hit a new low when it leads to developing a follow-up film 50 years after a beloved blockbuster like Mary Poppins. P.L. Travers, who created the character and was long resistant to film adaptations of her books, must be turning in her grave.
Disney is making a new live-action musical about the further adventures of the cherished magical nanny who changes the lives of the dysfunctional Banks family at number 17 Cherry Tree Lane in London. The good news is that the studio is bringing back director Rob Marshall and producers John DeLuca and Marc Platt. The trio brought Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical, Into the Woods, to the big screen last year. Marshall also directed Chicago.
The studio is mercifully avoiding a remake of the 1964 classic with the practically perfect Poppins earning an Oscar for Julie Andrews. It mercifully spares audiences from a straight recast and comparison (Carrie Underwood in The Sound of Music is too fresh in everyone’s minds.).
The film will reportedly explore the nanny’s later adventures with the Banks family and will draw from tales in author P.L. Travers’ 1934-1988 children’s book series, which actually contained eight volumes. New songs are being created by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the team that worked on Hairspray and Smash.
However, this is also not Star Wars, with a next generation and Mary (i.e. Andrews) reflecting the intervening years in real time. The new Mary Poppins film is reportedly set 20 years later during the Depression.
That would make Mary Poppins in her 40s, which creates a whole new game of trying to cast the role. That makes her too young for Meryl Streep or Christine Baranski (who else over a certain age winds up in musicals these days). It also makes her older than several other names being tossed around on the Internet since the announcement (Anne Hathaway, Kristen Bell, Anna Kendrick, and Amanda Seyfried). Jane Banks would be in her late 20s, so that might work for some younger stars with perfect pitch, like Ariana Grande and Elizabeth Gillies.
Of course, this is not the first time the topic of Mary Poppins has been revisited. Disney did make Saving Mr. Banks about the making of the 1964 masterpiece and Travers’ uneasiness over many aspects of the original film.
There also was the Broadway/West End stage musical version of Mary Poppins in the 1990s. It had Travers’ permission under the stipulation that no one from the Disney movie could be involved. That musical version avoided direct comparison since the other was never on stage and it used some of the original songs, added onto them, and added several others.
Travers supposedly would not permit a second film to be made earlier (it would have taken way more than “a spoonful of sugar” to sweeten that deal). However, her estate has reportedly blessed the new project. So the mania to mine old material for a remake or sequel leads to a new Mary Poppins with cast and filming dates yet to be set. Hopefully, it will be Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Opinion by Dyanne Weiss
Entertainment Weekly: Exclusive: Disney developing new original musical featuring Mary Poppins; Rob Marshall to direct
Vanity Fair: Disney Is Making a New Mary Poppins Movie
Herald Sun: Five stars who should play Mary Poppins in the new Disney film
The Hollywood Reporter: New ‘Mary Poppins’ Movie in the Works from Disney
Photo public domain.