Disney has released the first trailer for their new film about a key point in the studio’s history, chronicling the relentless effort by Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) to acquire the rights to Mary Poppins, and the resistance by author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to the notion. Saving Mr. Banks tells not only that story, but also the story of Travers herself and the events of her own life that inspired the creation of her famous nanny. In her books, Mary Poppins is, like Travers herself, a considerably less sweet and charming personality than the winsome figure played by Julie Andrews; she’s tough, unsentimental, and not given to indulgence of herself or anyone else.
Frankly, I’m surprised that Disney would actually make this movie, since it’s a well-established matter of record that Travers hated what Disney did to her story, to the point that her will specified that her other books could not only never be sold to Disney, they could never be sold to any American movie studio. She was completely soured on Hollywood, feeling that Disney was just one example of an entire industry and city that did not and never would understand her or treat her work the way she felt it should be treated. That Disney is acknowledging that criticism and taking an even slightly mildly critical look at one of their own classic films, and even hinting at a slightly critical view of their own founder, is really amazing. I really hope the film isn’t a whitewash, and from the trailer, it looks like it may not be.