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Walt Disney Studios has provided us with a series of ‘fun facts’ regarding their upcoming film, Saving Mr. Banks (limited release December 13, wide release December 20, 2013). Admittedly they start out a bit slow with nothing really new to add to the mix, but as you go through the list, there’s sure to be a fact or two that will impress — especially the roles that the Walt Disney Studios Archive and Walt Disney Family Museum too on with aiding the production of the historical dramedy.
SAVING MR. BANKS FUN FACTS
- Walt Disney began his quest to get the rights to P.L. Travers’ book Mary Poppins in the early 1940s. Although it took nearly 20 years to obtain the rights, when Mary Poppins was finally made, it won five of its 13 Academy Award® nominations: Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Best Effects, Best Film Editing, Original Score and Original Song. Among the nominations were Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film also won a technical Oscar® for Petro Vlahos, Wadsworth Pohl and Ub Iwerks for conception and perfection of techniques of color traveling matte composite cinematography.
- Richard and Robert Sherman composed the original score and wrote the 1964 Oscar®-winning song ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee.’ They are portrayed in the film by Jason Schwartzman (Richard) and B.J. Novak (Robert).
- Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers’ father, Travers Goff, was a banker and is the basis for the Mary Poppins story’s patriarch, Mr. Banks — the character in the book whom the famous fictional nanny comes to aid.
- Saving Mr. Banks is the first feature-length, theatrical drama to depict the iconic entrepreneur Walt Disney, with two-time Academy Award® winner Tom Hanks stepping into the major role.
- In order to achieve an authentic look for her portrayal of Mary Poppins author, P. L. Travers, Emma Thompson chose to have her own hair permed in tight curls for the film and did not don a wig. Tom Hanks also grew his own mustache to match Walt Disney’s.
- Actor Jason Schwartzman, at 32, is the same age as his character, songwriter Richard Sherman, was when this story takes place in 1961; and, actor B.J. Novak, at 34, is the same age as his character, sibling songwriter Robert Sherman, was at the time.
- Saving Mr. Banks marks the first time that stepbrothers John (director of photography) and actor Jason Schwartzman (playing composer Richard Sherman) have ever worked together. The offspring of industry lawyer and producer Jack Schwartzman, Jason’s mom is Oscar®-nominated actress Talia Shire, making Shire John’s stepmom (and making both guys nephews of Francis Ford Coppola).
- Playing an extra in the film was Leigh Anne Tuohy, the heroine of the book and movie The Blind Side, coincidentally directed by John Lee Hancock. In Saving Mr. Banks, she plays a Disneyland visitor who asks Walt Disney for his autograph just after the arrival of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers.
- Saving Mr. Banks filmed entirely in the Los Angeles area (with a one day exception in London), with key locations that included Disneyland in Anaheim, TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly called Grauman’s Chinese Theatre) in Hollywood — where the 1964 premiere of Mary Poppins took place, the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank (which opened in 1940 and where the 1964 movie filmed in its entirety) and the 10,000 acre Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley (which doubled for the film’s early 20th-century Australian landscape).
- Saving Mr. Banks was only the third feature film to ever shoot scenes at Disneyland. The last feature to film at the park was Tom Hanks’ directorial debut, That Thing You Do, with only one other film before that to shoot inside the 58-year-old theme park — Norman Jewison’s 1962 directorial debut, 40 Pounds of Trouble.
- The Walt Disney Studios’ lot is home to one of Los Angeles’ largest sound stages (Stage 2), now christened the ‘Julie Andrews Stage’ because the 31,200 square foot building housed much of the filming of Mary Poppins in 1963.
- Director John Lee Hancock needed a vast landscape of rolling hills and shrubbery to duplicate the remote Australian outback of a century ago. Veteran location manager Andrew Ullman found sites at the 10,000-acre Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, Calif., that were so impressive that young Australian actress Annie Buckley’s father, Dean, thought he was actually back in his homeland.
- During casting trips to Australia, director John Lee Hancock and producer Alison Owen went to Maryborough, Queensland, to get a firsthand look at where P.L. Travers had once lived as a child.
- The filmmakers were able to access a wonderful resource in making Saving Mr. Banks: The Walt Disney Family Museum in The Presidio of San Francisco. Opened in October 2009, the museum was co-founded by Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, and grandson, Walter E.D. Miller, and is owned and operated by the nonprofit Walt Disney Family Foundation. The 40,000 square foot exhibition facility features the newest technology and historic materials and artifacts to bring Disney’s achievements to life.
- Before filming the Australian flashback scenes, actor Colin Farrell, who plays P.L. Travers’ father, realized he would not get a chance to meet the other cast members who populated the 1961 portion of the story. Since Farrell admired the work of his fellow cast members, he hosted a dinner at his Hollywood home that included a screening of Mary Poppins as well. About 25 people showed up and had a fun evening getting to know each other and watching the timeless film.
- In the film, P.L. Travers, played by Emma Thompson, opens her hotel suite door in Beverly Hills to find her room cluttered with Disney memorabilia (courtesy of set decorator Susan Benjamin, who stuffed the suite with everything from a six-foot stuffed Mickey Mouse to balloons). Disney’s current president of production, veteran filmmaker and executive Sean Bailey, was inspired to turn the tables on Emma Thompson. He decorated Thompson’s hotel room in Los Angeles with as much Disney memorabilia as he could fit into her room. About a week later, Bailey received a note of thanks from Thompson, in which she asked if they had a video camera planted somewhere in her suite to capture her reaction!
- Before production began, director John Lee Hancock brought some of the cast over to the legendary Capitol Records Building, at the famous crossroads of Hollywood and Vine, to pre-record tracks of some of the Sherman Brothers’ songs from Mary Poppins. The session was for playback purposes on those days when production staged the scenes with the Sherman Brothers and screenwriter DaGradi singing for P.L. Travers. The group spent a fun-filled afternoon in one of the Capitol sound studios singing snippets of such songs featured in Saving Mr. Banks as ‘A Spoonful of Sugar,’ ‘Feed the Birds,’ ‘Fidelity Fiduciary Bank’ and ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite.’
- Richard Sherman, who with his brother Robert, wrote the now-classic songs for Mary Poppins, was a consultant on Saving Mr. Banks and his insights into the era and his engaging anecdotes were highly regarded by cast and crew alike. He recalls that Walt Disney was very fond of the song ‘Feed the Birds,’ which apparently touched him with its message that it doesn’t take much to give love. Disney would call the Sherman Brothers up and ask them to come play the song, so they would go to Disney’s office and play it for him. It became a regular almost-every-Friday ritual.
- As the 150 or so cast-and-crew members gathered around when production wound down in the Rehearsal Studio set, Richard Sherman, unbeknownst to most everyone gathered, took a seat at the piano and began playing ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite,’ asking everyone there to join in a sing-a-long. Instantaneously, dozens grabbed their cell phones and began recording this spontaneous music video — a once-in-a-lifetime moment in the presence of a living legend.
- The Walt Disney Archives provided the actors and production team with more than six hours of audio recordings from story meetings between P.L. Travers and the original Mary Poppins creative team. In the recordings, taped at the insistence of Travers between April 5 and 10, 1961, we hear the author share her strong opinions and suggestions with the Disney staff: songwriters Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, writer Don DaGradi, and story department head Bill Dover (who also served as Travers’ host during her visit).
- Saving Mr. Banks co-writer Kelly Marcel, director John Lee Hancock, and actors Jason Schwartzman (Richard Sherman), B.J. Novak (Robert Sherman) and Bradley Whitford (Don DaGradi) made visits to the Walt Disney Archives in early 2012, several months before filming Saving Mr. Banks. The actors and Archives team discussed the relationship between Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers and the Disney staff, pored over photographs of the Disney Legends the actors would portray and watched footage from the production of Mary Poppins.
- After acquiring the script for Saving Mr. Banks, the Disney Studio referenced 500 pages of documents from the development of Mary Poppins — from drafts of film treatments and scripts to correspondence between key players in the production of the film.
- In order to match Richard Sherman’s unique style of playing piano, Jason Schwartzman was provided with close-up footage of Richard’s hands playing the keys of Walt Disney’s office piano — the same instrument on which the Sherman Brothers played ‘Feed the Birds’ for Disney a half-century earlier. Schwartzman also spent countless hours at Richard Sherman’s house learning the proper techniques and enjoying the company of the venerable composer.
- In order to visually recreate the Disney Studio lot, Disneyland® Park, and the Mary Poppins premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre as they appeared in the early 1960s, the Saving Mr. Banks production team examined more than 500 photographs from the Disney Photo Library collection (part of the Walt Disney Archives), including images of Studio building hallways and offices, Disneyland storefront windows and aerial photography.
- The Saving Mr. Banks art department was invited to ‘D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum,’ where Walt Disney’s actual formal office furnishings were on display. The art department team measured and photographed original objects and furniture pieces from the office for reproduction, including Walt Disney’s desk, side tables and shelf units. The Archives staff even provided era-appropriate signage from the Disney Studio’s Animation Building, which the art department referenced when recreating the building hallways.
- In the Archives, the Saving Mr. Banks art department studied detailed photographs of Walt Disney’s formal and working offices as they appeared in the late 1960s, when Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith took measurements and a detailed inventory of the historic offices.
- The Walt Disney Archives digitized more than 150 pieces of ephemera, including era-appropriate Disneyland souvenir guides, postcards, posters, merchandise catalogs, memo paper and premiere invitations for use by the filmmakers.
- 124 pieces of artwork created between 1961 and 1964, including storyboard sketches, concept paintings, set drawings, costume designs and promotional art, were shared with the Saving Mr. Banks production team.
- The Archives supplied actor Tom Hanks with reference footage of Walt Disney, including a 1963 interview with Fletcher Markle for the Canadian Broadcast Company. The interview is arguably one of the most accurate depictions of Walt Disney describing his work and philosophy.
- The Walt Disney Archives was on hand seven days a week to answer questions from filmmakers and actors. Questions included, ‘What soft drink companies had placement deals at Disneyland in 1961?;’ ‘What was the orientation of dining and shopping locations along Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland?;’ and ‘On what date did Walt Disney appear in the television show, “An Adventure in the Magic Kingdom”?’
- Some of the Disney Academy Awards® were loaned from the display at Walt Disney World® Resort to adorn the set of Walt Disney’s office in Saving Mr. Banks.
Disney presents Saving Mr. Banks, directed by John Lee Hancock, produced by Alison Owen, Ian Collie and Philip Steuer, and screenplay written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. Executive producers are Paul Trijbits, Christine Langan, Andrew Mason and Troy Lum. The film will release in U.S. theaters on December 13, 2013, limited, and open wide on December 20, 2013.