In case you aren’t aware, Saving Mr. Banks is the true story of the struggle over the film rights for Mary Poppins a back-and-forth that lasted for over twenty years between Walt Disney and the book’s author, P.L. Travers.
Travers had resisted even selling the story to the studio for a long time, as the characters were very dear to her, but finally relented in the face of financial woes, on the condition that she could have final script approval. Disney had never granted that to anyone before, so the ensuing negotiations were a tangle of power plays, concessions, and erratic behavior, from both sides. Obviously, P.L. Travers did eventually sign off on Mary Poppins, because the movie did get made, but she was loudly and famously outspoken in her distaste for it for the rest of her life, until her death in 1996.
Sounds like a great story, right? Wouldn’t you want to see the movie version of that? Yeah probably, unless it was produced by Disney itself, as this film is. It’s just hard to imagine that they would be willing to paint Walt in anything but a favorable light, or that they’d be able to resist changing the story so that P.L. Travers ends up loving the film and wringing Walt Disney’s hand in thanks for elevating her silly little book. Suffice to say, I was worried.
But I shouldn’t have been, because to my shock, Disney seems to have painted a fairly honest portrait of themselves, and for proof, look no further than the true story.