Saving Mr. Banks is the story of P.L.Travers (real name Helen Geoff) the woman who wrote Mary Poppins and the culmination of her 20 year negotiation with Walt Disney to bring it to the big screen. Emma Thompson plays the dour and critical Travers who constantly criticizes and battles back and forth between the two song writers and script writer and even Mr. Disney himself played by Tom Hanks who try to make it into a musical with animated figures much to her adamant disagreement and disgust. She even objects to having Dick Van Dyke play the chimney sweep. Actor Paul Giamatti plays the uplifting, positive thinking limo driver for Mrs.Travers who has a handicapped daughter in a wheelchair he loves dearly. Mr. Banks refers to the head of the Banks household in Mary Poppins who Mary comes to be a nanny for.
The movie is actually two stories in one. One told in constant flashbacks of the young Helen Geoff growing up in the backlands of rural Australia in the early 1900’s and the other of her negotiating and bickering with the songwriters and script writer and Walt Disney. She is the daughter of a failing bank manager (played by Colin Farrell) who has an active imagination who later becomes an alcoholic and eventually dies from influenza. At one time Helen’s mother can’t take this hard living anymore and attempts suicide by walking into a local lake. Helen manages to save her by running after her and pulling her out. When Helen’s mother brings in her sister from the neighboring city to help cure her husband that’s when the image of Mary Poppins appears to Helen as she is dressed in high button shoes, wide brim hat and carried the famous umbrella with the carved eagle head and a carpet bag full of potions.
The movie provides an interesting insight in the creation of the songs in the Mary Poppins movie such as “A spoonful of sugar”. Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious” and “Go Fly a Kite.” Helen keeps interrupting the song writers making changes and eventually gives in to the songs.
Walt makes a bet with his team that he can get her on a ride at Disneyland and does. He takes her on the carrousel there. Today Mary Poppins stands by the carrousel there.
Tom Hanks is very convincing as Walt Disney even looking and sounding like him. At the end credits they show actual pictures of Disney with her and you can see the remarkable resemblances they went thru to create these personalities and they play recently released rare recordings of Travers meeting with Disney executives which I’ve included below. Of course as with any movie they take many liberties as to the real life situation which you can also read about below.
The real Helen Geoff died in1998 and age 93 and was so disgusted with what they did to her Mary Poppins that she forbade Disney from making any more movies of her character.