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Robert Stevenson
Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber, Elsa Lanchester, Arthur Treacher
Writing Credits:
P.L. Travers (books), Bill Walsh, Don DaGradi

It's supercalifragilistic- expialidocious!

Experience the extraordinary animation, dazzling special effects, and award-winning music of Walt Disney's Mary Poppins in this fully restored and remastered 2-Disc 40th Anniversary Edition!

Join the "practically perfect" Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) for a "Jolly Holiday" as she magically turns every chore into a game and every day into a whimsical adventure. Along the way you'll be enchanted by unforgettable characters such as the multitalented chimney sweep Bert (Dick Van Dyke). Unpack Mary's magical carpetbag full of bonus features, including an all-new animated short, games, and a never-before-heard deleted song. You won't need "A Spoonful Of Sugar" to love every moment of this timeless Disney classic!

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$102.300 million.

Rated G

Widescreen 1.66:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0 Theatrical Mix
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 139 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 1/27/2009

Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Actors Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, and Karen Dotrice plus Composers Richard and Robert Sherman
• Disney’s Song Selection
Poppins Pop-Up Fun Facts
• Sneak Peeks
Disc Two
• “Mary Poppins: From Page to Stage” Featurette
• “Step In Time” Musical Number from Mary Poppins On Broadway
• Bob Crowley’s Design Gallery
• “Supercalifragilistic-
expealidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins” Documentary
• “Movie Magic” Featurette
• “Deconstruction of a Scene” Featurettes
• Dick Van Dyke Makeup Test
• “Gala World Premiere” Footage
• Publicity Materials
• Still Art Galleries
• Deleted Song
• “Reunion with Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Richard Sherman” Featurette
• “A Musical Journey with Richard Sherman” Featurette
• “The Cat That Looked at a King” Short


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Mary Poppins: 45th Anniversary Edition (1964)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 19, 2009)

Despite my affection for Disney films, I hadn't intended to check out Mary Poppins on DVD. That's because my interests are largely limited to the studio's animated offerings. When I was a kid, I enjoyed their live-action pictures such as Freaky Friday and The Apple Dumpling Gang, but I maintained little continued interest in those films as an adult.

Poppins straddles the live-action and animated realms since it features some significant use of cartoons, but it remains much more firmly in the former category. I suppose it seems somewhat illogical that I enjoy Disney's animated films but dislike their live-action counterparts, as both cover many similar topics. A lot of them stick to fantasy kinds of stories, so why would I like one but not the other?

The answer stems partially from the fact I'm just plain screwy, but I think it's also because a lot of the live-action films just seem cheap and somewhat crude. They lack the artistry and the sophistication of many Disney animated movies and clearly were rarely regarded as anything "special" in the eyes of the studio.

Those factors should recede in the case of Mary Poppins, which unquestionably stands as the jewel of the Disney live-action films. It wasn't the first, but it was the most successful and the most ambitious, at least until Who Framed Roger Rabbit arrived 24 years later. Poppins was the first Disney film of any sort to be nominated for Best Picture. Fully-animated movies would have to wait until 1991's Beauty and the Beast for their initial - and so far only - recognition in that category. Overall, Poppins garnered a stunning 13 Oscar nominations that year and won five, including a Best Actress prize for Julie Andrews in her motion picture debut as the title character.

That's an auspicious legacy, and one that I'm honestly not sure Poppins deserves. It's a fairly fun film, to be sure, but I don't think it even remotely approaches the pleasures found in even some of the lesser animated offerings. It tops a few of the weaker titles like Robin Hood or The Aristocats, but there are many more Disney animated films I'd rather watch than Poppins, and the list of those that are inferior to it is quite small.

To be frank, my feelings may reflect my bias against musicals. Although I loved the format as a kid, I long ago developed an antipathy toward the genre. This may seem inconsistent considering my affection for Disney's animated films, most of which indeed follow many of the constructs of the musical format. I recognize this oddity and feel the best explanation comes from the lack of human participants in the cartoon features. The inherent unrealism that comes with the system of musicals seems more acceptable in what is completely a fantasy world, as the animation makes the films devoid of any truly realistic components.

It turns out that Poppins was created in a completely fabricated environment, as the whole film was shot indoors at Disney's California studios. Also, it clearly is a product of fantasy. However, the fact that it features human characters who are supposed to be somewhat believable as real people takes it from the completely fictional world of cartoons and locates it in our environs. No matter how tangential this connection may be, it still exists.

Another reason why I think I can enjoy musicals as cartoons but not as live-action films stems from the fact that most animated pictures don't pour on the songs too heavily, whereas Poppins comes packed with tunes. Indeed, very little plot or character development exists in the film. Almost everything seems contrived as an excuse for a lavish production number. That's great if you enjoy that kind of material, but if you don't, then you're left in the cold.

Maybe I'm just an old curmudgeon for knocking Mary Poppins, as it has been so warmly embraced by such a wide audience. To be honest, I did enjoy the film to a mild degree; I just didn't like it a whole lot. I felt the story in which mysterious and magical nanny Mary comes and sets straight a dysfunctional family in early 20th century London sacrificed too much development for the sake of the song and dance routines.

Initially we’re supposed to believe that the Banks children - Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) - are insufferable wild things who have tormented a slew of nannies past the point of no return. Never do we get any sense of this from the kids themselves. They put up the mildest of opposition to Mary once she's on the scene, but not enough to mark them as brats, and soon they’re in the palm of her hand.

The story then vaguely takes on the other big problem in the household, stiff and uninvolved father George (David Tomlinson). He's the typical white-collar Brit so wonderfully lampooned by Monty Python, and we clearly see that his distance from the kids is a problem. Of course, it's solved by the end of the film, but what about the mother, Winifred (Glynis Johns)? She seems just as unconcerned about the children's needs and desires as is George. She's always running about promoting suffrage for women and appears perfectly content to let a staff of domestics run the household and raise her kids.

Obviously, Poppins won't survive on its story, so it has to live or die based on the quality of the performances and the many musical numbers. The cast fall into the “positive” category, as most are quite charming. I don't know if Andrews deserved an Oscar for her work in the title role, but she's fairly convincing in what must have been a tough part. Not only was it her first film, but she also had to interact with a variety of special effects elements, and that’s always tough. Personally, I think the work done by actors in effects-intensive movies is underrated; no one takes them seriously, so they don't recognize how difficult it must be to interact with blue screens and non-existent creatures.

Still, while Andrews is more than solid in the role, I just don't see her work as Oscar-worthy. I suppose it is nice to see recognition given to an actress in an unusual role - something the Academy did more frequently back in the old days - but Mary often seems like a supporting player in her own movie. So many other elements appear in this mishmash of songs and fantasy that her part feels somewhat incidental. Also, we see absolutely no development of the role. Mary starts as an authoritarian though oddly anarchic taskmistress and stays that way through the end.

Speaking of which, am I the only one who couldn't understand why everyone was so nuts about her? All the characters are simply mad about Mary, but she seems rather cold and distant most of the time. She's cute, to be sure, but she appears pretty stiff and disapproving.

In any case, the other actors are perfectly fine, with the possible exception of Dick Van Dyke as jack-of-all-trades and de facto narrator Bert. Van Dyke shows a wonderful physical presence in the role as he sings and dances with terrific gusto. Really, he blows away Andrews' reserved presence in the many scenes they share. However, the problem of that accent remains. Many Americans have trouble discerning the accuracy of British accents, but I don't think even the most ignorant toddlers bought Van Dyke's horrible attempt at a Cockney tone. Oh my, is it terrible! The voice sounds so bad it almost ruins the character. Van Dyke's physical talents are strong enough to make him acceptable, but this seems inadequate. With a more believable accent, Bert could have been a much more captivating character.

Between the weak plot and the generally good performances, my opinion of Poppins would seem stuck as a draw, but the reason I ultimately found it mildly entertaining stems from the musical numbers. On their own, they seem good, even for someone who dislikes the format. They demonstrate some real creativity and can become quite delightful. However, the sheer number of them overwhelmed me, as it feels like almost no time passes in the film without yet another big production number.

I felt the same way as I watched Oliver!, another hugely successful musical from the era. I like Poppins much more than I care for that clunker, but the two share the same insane preponderance of production numbers. While these tunes clearly maintain a strong attraction for some, I don't think they should ever exist in the place of more direct exposition and character development. The story can move along through songs, but they usually don't attempt much in the way of this kind of motion. Showtunes normally occur to liven up the action and give the audience what they want.

Unfortunately this means that the plot often comes to a complete standstill as the actors sing and dance. Musicals clearly work by different rules, as anything that doesn't forward the plot in a standard movie is regarded as taboo. When you see deleted scenes on DVDs, the director often states that he really liked the material itself but that it didn't advance the story so it had to go.

If musicals followed that routine, there'd be nothing left to them, so I can accept the alteration of the normal plot-driven system. However, there can be too much of a good thing, and I think Poppins falls into that category. I suppose fans of musical numbers will love the material in this film, and even I must acknowledge that those scenes are very well-produced. I just wish there had either been fewer of them or the ones we found took less time.

Running time is one of the main criticisms leveled at Poppins. 139 minutes is rather excessive for a kids' movie. I think the length would be just fine if we got more variety within the film. As it stands, the picture does drag due to all of the musical numbers.

Despite my many criticisms, I have to say that I often found Mary Poppins to be a fun and enjoyable film. It possessed enough charm and magic to make it watchable even for a bitter old man like myself. However, I honestly expected more from it than that. While it's something I'll likely screen again someday, I don't think it competes with most of Disney's animated films, most of which I prefer to this movie.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus A

Mary Poppins appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Much of the movie impressed, but it lost points due to some mild flaws.

The main problem stemmed from edge haloes. Moderate haloes popped up throughout the film. Sometimes the composited images caused similar interference, but it seemed that most of the problems emanated from old-fashioned edge enhancement. The picture looked alittle soft at times. Sharpness usually appeared pretty solidly defined, but some wider images came across as a tad soft and blurry. The lack of delineation never became extreme, but I thought the movie could have been crisper if it’d lost the edge enhancement.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, at least. In addition, print flaws were largely absent. I noticed a few minor specks, but otherwise this was a clean presentation.

Colors seemed somewhat erratic, though I wasn’t sure how much of that I could blame on the transfer. Most hues came across well, with some nicely vivid reds and yellows at times. However, at times skin tones looked muddled; in one scene, they’d appear accurate, but another might make them somewhat brown while yet another would turn them a little anemic. I felt the majority of the colors represented the original photography, though. Due to the form of film stock and the challenges of the photographic trickery, these colors seemed to reproduce the source material fairly well, even with the variations.

Black levels were very good, with deep and rich tones. Shadow detail also seemed fine, with images that looked appropriately opaque without excessive heaviness. At times Poppins looked good enough to merit “A”-level consideration, but the problems with softness and edge enhancement were prominent enough to cause me to drop my grade to a “B”.

For a film of its era, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Mary Poppins succeeded well. The movie originally came with a stereo track - also featured here - and this remix didn't do a lot to alter that configuration. Nonetheless, it added a little spark.

The soundfield remained mostly monaural except for the music, which spread moderately to all five channels. With so many production numbers, the songs dominated Poppins and the extra breadth provided from the 5.1 track helped make them more involving. The most significant use of the side/rear channels occurred in scenes with Admiral Boom. His explosions and their aftermath brought the various speakers to life in a brief but convincing manner. Toward the end of the flick, as a fireworks barrage flew, the blasts and zooms did a good job of zipping past us and even displayed some split surround usage. Otherwise, a little ambient sound like wind came from the side/rears, but the effects and dialogue stayed centered.

The quality of the music was also a strong point. The tapes definitely showed their age - you won't mistake the recording for a recent one - but the songs seemed acceptably bright and crisp, and some instruments present moderate bass as well. Dialogue appeared slightly flat but was intelligible and clear. Effects were also a bit thin and wan but they maintain reasonable levels of accuracy and seemed clean, with occasional use of the lower range as well. Ultimately, this was a pretty strong soundtrack that appeared effectively vivid despite the film's advancing age.

How did the picture and audio of this new Poppins compare with those of the prior 40th Anniversary release? In terms of visuals, I thought the pair offered virtual clones of each other. They looked identical to me, with all the same strengths and weaknesses.

The audio was a different story. The 40th Anniversary disc featured an “Enhanced Home Theater Track” that seemed somewhat boomy and artificial. It appeared to add bass and reverb to make it more “involving”. It didn’t work. This disc’s 5.1 track wasn’t a radical improvement, but I thought it seemed truer to the source material, as it offered clearer, more concise audio.

This 45th Anniversary set offers the same extras as the 40th Anniversary release as well as some new ones. I’ll mark 45th Anniversary exclusives with an asterisk. If you fail to see a star, then the component already popped up on the 40th Anniversary package.

On DVD One, we open with an audio commentary from actors Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Karen Dotrice along with composers Robert and Richard Sherman. Actually, the piece expands past that roster and becomes somewhat complex. Here’s the rundown: Andrews and Van Dyke sat together for their own running, screen-specific chat, while Dotrice and Richard Sherman did the same at a slightly later time. Robert Sherman presents remarks recorded on his own in London, and we also get some archival tapes of Walt Disney, director Robert Stevenson, and conductor/music supervisor Irwin Kostal.

Before I listened to this commentary, I feared it’d be little more than mushy nostalgia. Happily, I was wrong. Sure, we get some of the old “wasn’t that great!” but mostly we learn a lot of fun tidbits about the movie. The commentary goes into subjects like casting and actor interaction, the development of the songs, working with all the various visual effects, and technical issues. In addition, we get many fun anecdotes as well.

The women really carry the day here, as they present the best information. Dotrice proves especially interesting as she provides her view from the perspective of a then-child. The archival clips also add a nice sense of history. I really like this very entertaining and illuminating commentary.

In addition, we get a feature called Poppins Pop-Up Fun Facts. This subtitle commentary goes into subjects such as the origins of the story and its path to the screen, changes between text and movie, the author’s influence over the proceedings, sets and locations, the cast and crew, characters and their development, visual effects and animation, the songs and music, choreography, and the movie’s reception. Lots of good tidbits pop up in this efficient and informative piece. It covers the material succinctly and adds to our appreciation of the material. We even learn that Van Dyke literally paid to play the elder Dawes! It’s a fun track.

“Music & More” provides Disney’s Song Selection. This basically acts as an alternate form of chapter menu. It lets you jump to any of the film’s eight song performances, and it also allows you to show on-screen lyrics.

As the disc opens, it presents a mix of ads. We find clips for Pinocchio, Up, SpaceBuddies and The Secret of the Magic Gourd. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with promos for Bolt, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Monsters, Inc. and Oliver & Company.

DVD One features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.

When we hit DVD Two, the main attraction comes from a new documentary called Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins. As usual, it mixes movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. In this 50-minute and 44-second program, we hear from Andrews, Van Dyke, Dotrice, Richard Sherman, Robert Sherman, author/film historian Brian Sibley, Disney animator Andreas Deja, author Valerie Lawson, cameraman Bob Broughton, artist/sculptor Blaine Gibson, visual effects artist Peter Ellenshaw, costume designer and design consultant Tony Walton, Disney producer Don Hahn, animator Frank Thomas, choreographers Dee Dee Wood and Mark Breaux, and actor Glynis Johns.

The project follows the movie’s path to the screen and Walt Disney’s involvement, the development of the script and the influence of author PL Travers, casting, technical concerns and effects, choreography, songs and music, reactions to the final result, and various anecdotes. A fair amount of the information appears in the supplements on DVD One, so anticipate more than a smidgen of repeated material. Nonetheless, the show summarizes the production pretty well. The addition of archival bits like tapes of author Travers and raw pre-effects footage helps. Overall, the show presents a tight and enjoyable recap of the flick’s creation.

The documentary appears under the “Backstage Disney” domain with many other elements. A featurette called Movie Magic fills seven minutes and five seconds. It gives us a Disney Channel kid-oriented look at the flick’s effects. It’s not a bad clip, but it doesn’t tell us much we don’t hear in the other programs.

Under the title Deconstruction of a Scene, the next area breaks down two sequences: “Jolly Holiday” (13 minutes, three seconds) and “Step In Time” (4:52). Both of these depict raw photographic elements with other rough components and combine them to demonstrate how the filmmakers worked the effects. We already saw a lot of this in the documentary, but it’s nice to get it all in one place as well.

Next comes a short 67-second Dick Van Dyke Makeup Test. The actor narrates as we see stills and footage of Van Dyke in old age makeup as the senior Dawes. The section presents fun shots, and Van Dyke’s remarks add a little bit of useful information.

Two elements connected to The Gala World Premiere appear. We get “The Red Carpet” (17 minutes, 43 seconds) and “The Party” (6:24). The former shows the events in front of the theater at the Hollywood debut of Poppins, while the latter gives us images from the subsequent celebration. Both are quite entertaining, though “Carpet” gives us the more intriguing of the pair.

Within the “Publicity” domain, we mostly find a collection of trailers. Both the original teaser and theatrical promos appear along with one from 1966 and two from 1973. A 38-second Julie Andrews Premiere Greeting apparently was intended for regional debuts of the film; it’s an unusual clip in which she regretfully declines invitations to come to those premieres. Two original TV spots finish this area.

For the final “Backstage Disney” component, we find a collection of Still Art Galleries. This area includes 11 of these: “Visual Development” (36 frames), “Story Development” (18), “Peter Ellenshaw Paintings” (12), “Recording Sessions” (9), “Walt & Friends” (9), “The Premiere” (10), “Costumes and Makeup” (35), “Behind-the-Scenes” (78), “Publicity” (14), “Memorabilia” (21), and “Cast Photos” (18). Despite the title, this domain doesn’t offer all that much art. Mostly we see pictures taken at various venues along with ads and merchandise. It’s a fine collection of materials that can be fun to see.

One deleted song appears. We find a 91-second clip for “Chimpanzoo”. No film footage shows up; instead, we hear Richard Sherman perform the tune while we look at storyboards. This offers a nice historical component, but it doesn’t seem like the song was a bad loss.

Two featurettes come under the “Music and More” banner. A Magical Musical Reunion partners Andrews, Van Dyke and Richard Sherman in a 17-minute and 18-second piece. They all sit around a piano while they chat and Sherman occasionally plays music. We learn a little about the inspiration for some songs, the working process between the Sherman brothers, sets, choreography, and impressions of Walt. The general emphasis here is on anecdotal fun. The three reminisce and go over fun little experiences during the making of the film. It’s a lively and charming romp down memory lane.

Next we see A Musical Journey with Richard Sherman. It fills 19 minutes and 13 seconds as the composer chats about a mix of subjects. He lets us know about modified and unused concepts, and he also discusses techniques used to bring about the songs. We also see some outtakes and raw footage along with basic audio tracks. Robert Sherman pops up for a few remarks, but Richard dominates the program. By this point, I should be fed up of Sherman’s comments, but he pulls out some good new notes in this brisk and informative program. Its emphasis on the nuts and bolts of the musical elements makes it different and enjoyable.

A new short based on the writings of PL Travers, The Cat That Looked at a King goes for nine minutes and 52 seconds. I wouldn’t call it a great cartoon, but it provides some fun. It’s also cool since this is probably the closest we’ll ever come to seeing Andrews play Poppins again.

All of the new extras come under the banner of “Disney on Broadway”. A featurette called *Mary Poppins: From Page to Stage runs 48 minutes, four seconds and provides remarks from Richard Sherman, producer/Disney Theatrical Productions president Thomas Schumacher, producer Cameron Mackintosh, composer George Stiles, lyricist Anthony Drewe, scenic and costume designer Bob Crowley, and actors Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee. “Page” focuses entirely on the stage production. It looks at various aspects of that show’s creation and gives us a good look at it.

This means that we learn a fair amount about the stage musical, and I’m happy that the program doesn’t just act as a promotional piece. “Page” offers a reasonably deep glimpse of the issues that affected the adaptation, so it’s not just fluff. However, I don’t know how much it’ll do for movie fans who don’t care about the stage show. If you’re curious about the stage version, it’s a nice overview.

For a sample of the new show, we get the *“Step In Time” Musical Number from Mary Poppins On Broadway. It lasts seven minutes, eight seconds and indeed offers what the title implies: after an intro from Stiles, we see an entire segment from the stage show. It gives potential viewers a decent teaser. (If desired, you can also download an MP3 of this tune.)

*Bob Crowley’s Design Gallery starts with a 14-second intro from the designer. From there, it splits into four still domains: “Costume Designs” (33 stills), “Set Designs” (6), “Concept Art” (13) and “Set Models” (16). We find a nice collection of Crowley’s work here.

Does this 45th Poppins lose anything from the 40th Anniversary DVD? Not much. It drops a minor set-top trivia game; otherwise, everything from the earlier disc reappears here.

I found Mary Poppins to offer a moderately entertaining and fun experience, and it's a film that's maintained a very strong following for many decades. However, it just didn't do a whole lot for me; I thought it was too long and it featured far too many musical numbers.

The DVD itself is pretty positive. Both picture and audio are quite nice for the most part, and the collection of extras adds a lot of great material. Mary Poppins will never be one of my favorites, but its legions of fans will be fairly pleased with this release.

This becomes the best Poppins to date, but does it deserve a double-dip from fans who own the 40th Anniversary disc? I’d say yes, but only if they’re unhappy with the older DVD’s audio. The new one provides a superior soundtrack. It also adds some Broadway-oriented supplements; they’re reasonably interesting but not worth a new purchase.

To rate this film visit 40th Anniversary Edition review of MARY POPPINS

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main