Saving Mr. Banks – Fact or Fiction?

If you have seen the latest offering from Disney, Saving Mr. Banks, you may be wondering how much of the film is fact and how much is fiction.

Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) and her work with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) to turn her children’s book Mary Poppins into a film. Travers was very reluctant to let Disney anywhere near her beloved book, and the film showcases Disney’s struggles with Travers.

It appears that screenwriter Kelly Marcel did slightly alter some of the events for the script. After all, Saving Mr. Banks is a Disney film, and as such, it is slightly more sugar-coated than the truth is.

Here are five facts that Saving Mr. Banks altered or left out.

Warning: Spoilers are contained below!

Disney already owned the rights to Mary Poppins:

As seen in Saving Mr. Banks, P.L. Travers did have script approval, but her tormenting of Walt Disney to refuse him the film rights if Mary Poppins isn’t made exactly to her liking is false. Travers was very adamant that the film include no animation. However, Disney already owned the rights to Mary Poppins when Travers arrived in LA.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite didn’t win Travers round:

Instead, it was Feed the Birds. Although Travers was hard to please, she was reportedly said to have liked Feed the Birds when she first heard it. Disney also was a fan of the song, with it being his favourite song from all of his films. Disney would often ask Robert and Richard Sherman, who wrote the music for Mary Poppins, to play the song for him when he was feeling down, and it was also played at his funeral.

The Sherman brothers felt the brunt of Travers wrath:

Disney did not stay around to become friendly with Travers, and instead left the Sherman brothers to deal with Travers and her demands. The scene where Disney and Travers visit Disneyland together is completely fictionalised.

The conversation between Travers and Disney:

Towards the end of the film, when Disney visits Travers in her London home after she has refused the rights to Mary Poppins, we hear Disney tell a story about the trouble he had with his father. This mutual conversation about the issues both Travers and Disney had with their fathers finally convinces Travers to sign over the rights to Mary Poppins. Although this conversation didn’t happen, everything that Disney said about his troubled childhood is true.

Travers did cry at the premiere, but not with tears of joy:

In the film, we see Travers finally cry tears of sadness during the film’s premiere when Mr. Banks is facing losing his job at the bank, and finally tears of joy when the films ends and Travers has finally begun to let go of the sadness from her childhood. However, although Travers did cry during the film’s premiere, they were tears of sadness at how Disney had ruined her beloved book. At the after-party, Travers reportedly hunted down Disney, and told him that the animated sequences in the film defiantly had to be cut. Disney is reported to have calmly responded ‘Pamela, the ship has sailed.’

There are many facts in Saving Mr. Banks that are true, such as Travers having script approval, and her demand that all of the conversations be taped when discussing the film. But, there are also many facts about Travers personal life that are left out, such as the fact that she adopted a son when she was 40, who she had a strained relationship with after he meet his twin brother when he was 17 in a pub, and didn’t know he had a twin or that he was adopted.

Travers reportedly didn’t watch Mary Poppins for twenty years after the premiere, but when she did, she had slightly softened her view on the film, saying that she enjoyed certain sequences (although probably not the animated ones!) and that she liked Julie Andrews playing the role of Mary Poppins.

Although not an entirely true story, Saving Mr. Banks is a film that, although softened, shows P.L. Travers and Walt Disney both fighting to do what they think is best. Although we don’t know what Travers would have made of Saving Mr. Banks, it is likely that perhaps she wouldn’t be too keen on how altered the story is from the truth! Regardless of this, it is still a lovely film addition to the Disney collection, with Emma Thompson doing an excellent job at portraying the demanding P.L. Travers.

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About writingsuzanne

Film Lover
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