Saturday, 24 May 2014


Saving Mr Banks tells the moving and true story of the encounter between Walt Disney and the creator of Mary Poppins, Mrs P. L. Travers. As a pastor I probably watched this movie different to most people.

I saw a very hurt lady have her heart carefully exposed by a very wise man. My ability to see this was made so much easier by the great script writing and editing. Actors normally get the credit for carrying a movie, and Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are two of the best, but this movie is particularly a tribute to its writers and editors. They have managed to go beyond the usual flash-back sequences and cleverly used selective scenes from Travers' childhood to help the viewer to increasingly understand why Mary Poppins is so important to Mrs Travers.

The movie is set in Australia, America and England. The mystery begins in Australia where Travers was born and grew up. We are then in 1961 where we learn that Walt Disney has tried for 20 years to buy the rights to Mary Poppins. 

This movie explores fatherhood. P. L. Travers is who she is, a highly creative yet bitter woman, because of the relationship she had with her father (played magnificently by Colin Farrell). She adored him. He was the one who ignited her imagination. But there is something about their relationship which has also caused her to withdraw. Fathers can not but help to have a profound influence on their daughters.

But this film is also about two other dads. The first of these is Walt Disney. The reason that he is relentless in securing the rights to Mary Poppins is because he made a father's promise to his daughters that he would one day bring their beloved "Mary" to the big screen.  The second of these fathers is Ralph, played by the great Paul Giamatti.  Ralph is assigned by Disney to be Travers' chauffeur. She is inconsiderate of him and rude to him for most of their interaction until a very touching moment when she learns that he is the father of a disabled daughter. From that point, there is a fond connection between them.

Things did not go well between Travers and Disney. She walked out of their negotiations and returned to England. It was then that Walt Disney learns that P. L. Travers is not "P. L. Travers". He flies immediately to London on the next flight after Mrs. Travers and this is the climatic moment of the movie. It is here that Walt Disney sounds far more like a pastor than a movie producer. In this scene between Disney and Travers, there are two fathers in the room. Disney shares the story of the interaction he had growing up with his merciless father and proves to Travers that he understands the vital connection between her father and Mary Poppins. He then puts it to her that she needs to let the pain of her past go. Walt Disney offers Travers a way to redeem her father by trusting him to tell her story of Mr Banks (the father in the Mary Poppins' story) well.

When the film has its world premiere in Hollywood, we see it through P. L. Travers eyes. We see her as a little girl deeply in love with her daddy. We see her losing her daddy. And we see Mary Poppins who came to her childhood home with the promise of saving her daddy. But on the screen we are taken into P. L. Travers imaginative world of make-believe where, unlike the real world, she is able to save her daddy. And thus, we are shown that the story of Mary Poppins is actually not about Mary Poppins - but about her daddy and his redemption.

Curiously, this very well told and moving story is described as a 'comedy' by the producers. Comedy? No. Drama with some humorous scenes? Yes.

Saving Mr Banks, Mr Walt Disney and Mr Walter Mitty - my online audio Movie review from a Christian perspective taken from my radio show -

Andrew Corbett

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