More Mr. Banks

It’s January 2nd 2014 and I’m sure most have already seen the wonderful Disney motion picture “Saving Mr. Banks.” I’ve been eager to write more about this film since hearing the comments of so many “experts” who were not at the Walt Disney Studio in 1961. Clearly, those of us who shared the Mary Poppins adventure back in the sixties are few in number. At the recent premiere on the Disney studio lot, there were at least four of us. Dick Van Dyke, Julie Andrews, Richard Sherman and myself.

Actually, most of the comments about the film have been positive and film goers have found the motion picture a moving, emotional experience. However, I doubted anyone wept as much as I did in a private screening earlier last year. Then again, the film resonated with me in a very personal way. For most, this story was an account of events that took place many years ago. It was almost like viewing a history film. However for myself, the things that took place back in 1961 felt like yesterday. It’s difficult to explain what I felt that afternoon in the practically empty Disney theater.

I’ve heard from friends and fans who have said they would have liked to have seen more of the sixties Disney studio. They would have enjoyed a visit to the Mary Poppins set on stage 2, or visited with Milt or Frank as they prepared their animation. They would have liked a visit to Walt’s office where the Sherman Brothers would play the song, “Feed the Birds.” That was included in the movie, of course. Just not in Walt’s office where he kept a piano. Finally, one fan even wanted a final scene where the Old Maestro tells the fussy English lady that, “That ship has sailed.” A comment attributed to Walt Disney when Travers requested a few changes after the premiere of the film at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

Then there were all the scenes filmed that were not used in the movie. This is all part of movie making of course. Many scenes end up on the “cutting room floor.” One such scene filmed was Walt Disney having a final conversation with P.L. Travers before chauffeur, Paul Giamatti drives her limo off the Disney studio lot leaving a befuddled Walt Disney standing in front of the Animation Building. There were many more scenes you didn’t see in “Saving Mr. Banks.” Perhaps we’ll talk about them one day.

Early last year, I had the pleasure of watching scenes from the film with Richard Sherman and remembering the events of 1961. I’m still amazed how well behaved Robert and Richard were since Travers was such a pain in the butt. I truly admired the Sherman Brothers for showing such patience and restraint. You should have heard some of the ridiculous demands Pamela Travers continued to make in meetings that seem to go on forever. On occasion, Walt would walk down the hallway to see how things were going on. He never stayed long, however. The boss had already told Bill Dover and Don DaGradi they would have to baby sit Travers for two weeks. Hardly the most pleasant job at the Disney studio in 1961. By the way, I was able to point out Don DaGradi’s office to Tom Hanks while filming. I thought it might be helpful to the actor to actually know the location where these events took place.

If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing “Saving Mr. Banks,” please know that the film you’re seeing is pretty darn close to the events that took place back at the Walt Disney Studio in 1961. Certainly, artistic license was taken on occasion. After all, this is a dramatization not a documentary. But, take it from me, the movie is the real deal. And, if you insist on viewing this motion picture as a “Disney fabrication,” I hope you’ll explain what happened to me at that Disney afternoon screening last year. Please explain why a phony, contrived story continued to bring tears to my eyes.