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So just how far did the "Saving Mr. Banks" production team go when it
came to replicating the look & the feel of a early 1960s version of Walt
Disney Studios and Disneyland Park?
Pretty darned far. Or so says Becky Cline, the Director of the Walt Disney
"When the Studio brought Kelly Marcel's script for
'Saving Mr. Banks' in February of 2012, it was all over the news out here. And
as soon as Disney officially acquired the project, the filmmakers then reached
out to the Archives and said 'We'd love to have your help on this because we
want to make sure that this film is as accurate as possible,' " Cline
explained. "They then gave us a copy of Kelly's screenplay to review --
which is a wonderful, wonderful story, by the way. But there were a few factual
errors. She didn't know Walt Disney quite as well as she did P.L. Travers. So
we sat down with Ms. Marcel and John Lee Hancock and then went over the script
Now it's important to note here that -- when the Walt Disney Archives was
giving its notes to Marcel and Hancock -- they didn't ask that any changes be
made to this script in order in an effort to preserve and/or protect the image
of the Company's founder. But -- rather -- Becky and her team at the Archives
were only interested in making sure that this film was as accurate as possible.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved
"Look, on a project like this, when you're trying to tell the story of the
making of the movie version of 'Mary Poppins' in just two hours of screen time,
there's going to be some artistic license. And we here at the Archives can understand
and respect that. But at the same time, the Walt Disney Company has some of the
most passionate & knowledgeable fans on the planet. And if Hancock
accidentally got something wrong on 'Saving Mr. Banks,' the fans would then let
us know about that," Cline continued. "So those were the sort of
notes that we gave Kelly & John. That this item wouldn't be in the
background of that shot because it's from a film that Walt Disney Productions
hadn't yet put into production by 1962. And when the filmmakers would say
'Well, who would know that ?,' I'd just have to laugh and say 'Oh, our fans
But the upside of having this sort of input from the Walt Disney Archives is
that -- when it came time to actually shoot "Saving Mr. Banks" --
John Lee Hancock and his production team then had access to a wealth of
material that would make their making-of-"Mary-Poppins" movie seem
that much more authentic.
"We gave them the 'Mary Poppins' story meeting
recordings, all 39 hours of them. So that Hancock and Marcel could then
actually sit down and listen to how P. L. Travers interacted with the Sherman
Brothers & Don Dagradi," Cline said. "And when it came time to
dress the set for the story meeting scenes in 'Saving Mr. Banks,' we were then
able to provide them with copies of the actual drawings that had been pinned up
on the walls of that room at the Studio at the time of those meetings. We were
even able to provide the filmmakers with reproductions of the right style of
letterhead for that period in the Studio's history. So that all of the memos
that you'll see over the course of this movie will look authentic as well."
Walt Disney's real office on display during
the "Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives" exhibit that D23
presented at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
And to give Hancock and his "Saving Mr. Banks" production team
credit, in their quest to make sure that this upcoming Walt Disney Pictures
release was as accurate as possible, they took everything that Becky offered
and then asked for more. Take -- for instance -- Walt Disney's office.
"As you might expect, there are a number of scenes in
'Saving Mr. Banks' that are set inside of Walt Disney's office. And when John
Lee Hancock called and asked for our help in recreating this space ... Well, we
had just put Walt's actual office on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential
Library as part of D23's 'Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives' exhibit,"
Cline said. "Hancock asked if they could go up to Simi
Valley and see Walt's office. We said 'Of course.' So the
filmmakers then went up to the Ronald Reagan Library and took all sorts of
measurements and lots of very detailed pictures. With the end result being that
the office you see in 'Saving Mr. Banks' is an amazing reproduction. Mind you,
they had to cheat things a little for camera angles. So it's not exactly Walt's
office. But it sure does look like it."
Speaking of reproductions ... A sharp eyed JHM fan earlier
this week sent me a note saying that -- while he was watching "Saving Mr.
Banks" -- he thought that he had spied a few of the Courvoisier Miniatures
that he owned in this Walt Disney Pictures release. So I gave Ron Stark of S/R
Labs a quick call to confirm. And yes, four of the studio replicas that Ron and
his talented artists have produced over the past few years are featured in this
Image courtesy of Disney's
Animation Research Library. All rights reserved
And speaking of talented artists ... When it came time in
"Saving Mr. Banks" to recreate that moment where P.L. Travers watches
Walt on a black & white television hosting his "Wonderful World of
Color" television show, Hancock & Co. decided that they needed some
new 2D animation of Tinker Bell which could then look 50 years old. Which is
why the "Saving Mr. Banks" production team reached out to Dave
Bossert (i.e., the talented gentlemen who heads up Walt Disney Animation
Studios' Special Projects office). And Dave then roped in modern animation
master Mark Henn. And Mark then served up just what John was looking for: some
brand-new hand-drawn animation of Tinker Bell that looked like it had be done
by Disney artists & animators back in the late 1950s / early 1960s.
Mind you, the irony of this whole situation is that -- given
the mission of the Walt Disney Archives (i.e., to preserve & protect the
heritage of this nearly 90 year-old entertainment company for future
generations) -- once production & promotion of "Saving Mr. Banks"
officially wraps, many of the props & costumes that Becky & her team
consulted on for this film were be
collected and stashed away in one of the Company's many on-site storage
So the upside of Cline & her team doing that was -- in
50 years time -- when Walt Disney Pictures is preparing to shoot
"Persuading Mr. Hanks" (which will be this feature-length motion
picture about this minute-long phone call between Bob Iger & Tom Hanks back
in early 2012. During which Disney's CEO asked that Academy Award-winner to
come play the company's founder in "Saving Mr. Banks") the team
that's then in charge of Walt Disney Archives can offer those future filmmakers
a choice. They can use Walt's original office or go with that highly detailed
duplicate which was created for this highly acclaimed John Lee Hancock movie.
(L to R) Bob Iger, Tom Hanks, Emma
Thompson, Colin Farrell, Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke singing "Let's Go
Fly a Kite" at the on-the-lot premiere of "Saving Mr. Banks."
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Sooo ... Who do you suppose they'll wind up hiring to play Bob Iger?
Nice piece, Jim. IMO, SMB was one of the best Disney films in some time on a number of levels.
Actually, the one area that I had a problem with in this movie was in the recreation of Disneyland proper. Other than the letters over the turnstiles and attraction posters in front of the train station, nothing else was altered. The only disappointing aspect of this film for me.
Well Main Street did not have brick sidewalks at the time. And when Disney and Travers are on the carousel, we see the newer Fantasyland in the background, not the same Medieval/circusl themed Fantasyland from the 50s and 60s.
I noticed that stuff, too. But let's be real here, folks - this was a film made on a relatively modest budget, not a $200 million+ summer blockbuster. There was no way they were going to spend the money on either real-world or CGI modifications to make Disneyland look absolutely accurate to 1962. From most of the comments and reviews I've seen, the only people who noticed that Disneyland wasn't accurately portrayed were... well, Disney dweebs like us, and it's not like we're staying away from the film in droves because of it.