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Top 10 Fascinating Things You Didn't Know About Mary Poppins

VO: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher
We know one thing for sure - it’s practically perfect in every way! Welcome to MsMojo and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Facts You Didn't Know About “Mary Poppins.” For this list, we’re looking at interesting tidbits about both the movie and books! Did you know that it was initially VERY successful? Though it was created on a modest budget of $4-6 million, “Mary Poppins” proved to be a hugely successful project for Disney, bringing in $31 million in the US alone. The equivalent in today’s dollars would be over $250 million!
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We know one thing for sure - it’s practically perfect in every way! Welcome to MsMojo and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Facts You Didn't Know About “Mary Poppins.”


For this list, we’re looking at interesting tidbits about both the movie and books.


#10: It Was Initially VERY Successful

Though it was created on a modest budget of $4-6 million, “Mary Poppins” proved to be a hugely successful project for Disney, bringing in $31 million in the US alone. The equivalent in today’s dollars would be over $250 million, reportedly helping to fund what would become Walt Disney World. It was also a critical darling, nominated for 13 Oscars, including Best Picture - the only Disney film ever to receive the honor during Walt’s life. Holding a perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and spawning both a hit musical, as well as a 2018 sequel, it’s safe to say that “Mary Poppins” had all the makings of a hit from the beginning - with a spoonful of sugar added for good measure.


#9: The Author Hated the Movie

If you happened to see 2013’s “Saving Mr. Banks”, you’re probably aware of the fact that Walt Disney had quite a contentious relationship with the author of “Mary Poppins”, P.L. Travers. While this big screen adaptation of the real-life story has a somewhat happy ending, Travers’ relationship with Disney and its adaptation of her work was always rather dicey. She didn’t like the songs or the animation, two things which make the movie the classic it is today. In fact, she initially wasn’t even invited to the premiere of the film.


#8: Mr. Banks Also Voiced Several Characters

David Tomlinson gave an unforgettable performance as the Banks family patriarch, perfectly towing the line between stern and silly. But while he wasn’t playing George Banks, he was lending his voice to several characters throughout the film, including a Penguin Waiter, some racetrack steward and a jockey who loses out to Mary Poppins in the race. But perhaps most notably, he gave life to Mary Poppins’ parrot umbrella - though we think Mary might have liked it much more if he hadn’t spoken at all.


#7: The Book Was Taken off the Shelves in San Francisco

Many books written around the time that “Mary Poppins” was published have been retroactively derided because of racist undertones that are hard for modern readers to digest. San Francisco libraries actually banned the book in the 1980s because of a passage where the famous nanny and her charges travel to the “four points of the compass”. The descriptions of the people they meet there are by our current standards undeniably racist. The author actually amended those sections for later printings, having the characters meet animals rather than people.



#6: Dick Van Dyke Wasn't a Dancer

Aside from Julie Andrews of course, Dick Van Dyke is undeniably the most standout performer in “Mary Poppins”. His dance numbers in particular are visually mesmerizing and memorable even all these years later. In fact though, Van Dyke was not a trained dancer, and had only very recently picked up the skill when he starred in the Broadway production of “Bye Bye Birdie”. When he received that role, he told the show’s director that he couldn’t actually dance, but clearly they managed to teach him a thing or two!


#5: There Were Tons of Deleted Songs

Turning “Mary Poppins” into a musical may have been controversial with the book’s author, but in the end we can’t imagine it any other way. What you may not know however is that the writing duo actually penned many more songs that didn’t make the final cut of the film. A total of approximately 30 songs were written, such as “The Chimpanzoo.” In fact, many songs were written for “Mary Poppins” but later saw the light of day in later Disney projects, such as “The Beautiful Briny” a very memorable sequence from another Disney/David Tomlinson collaboration, “Bedknobs and Broomsticks.”


#4: There Were Many Book to Movie Changes

In any adaptation of a book for the big screen, changes have to be made in the interest of time and comprehensiveness. “Mary Poppins” is no exception, though there were also some artistic alterations made on top of the usual cutting of scenes. Mary herself is much softer in the films, and more palatable for a wide audience. In the book, the Banks family was bigger, with Michael and Jane having twin siblings who never made it onto the silver screen. And the character of Bert? The version we’ve come to love in the film is actually a combination of characters from the book, the Matchman and the Sweep.


#3: Someone Is to Blame for That Cockney Accent

For years, even the biggest fans of the film have derided Dick Van Dyke’s accent in “Mary Poppins.” Van Dyke is, of course, American, and even he has called it the “most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema” and made a formal apology for it. The actor has come to his own defence though, saying that the vocal coach that was hired for him was actually Irish, which wasn’t very helpful. Van Dyke even went as far as saying that “he didn't do an accent any better than I did.” Ouch!


#2: That Nonsense Word Has a Complicated Past

If there’s one word you remember from this movie it’s undoubtedly "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". But have you ever wondered about its origins? The Sherman Brothers have told a variety of stories over the years about how they came up with it, but the most consistent one is that they heard a similar word at their summer camp and adapted it for the film. In fact, over the years there has been a surprising amount of controversy over the word, with Disney actually being sued for their use of it in the popular musical, but ultimately that didn’t hold water.


Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:


Matthew Garber Was Paid Extra for Scenes from Great Heights


The Polio Vaccine Inspired "A Spoonful of Sugar"


#1: Julie Andrews Almost Didn’t Take the Role

Around the time Julie Andrews was looking to break into the film scene, Walt Disney came to see her in a production of “Camelot” looking to cast her in “Mary Poppins.” Andrews had lost out on a major role when Audrey Hepburn was cast as Eliza Doolittle in the film version of “My Fair Lady,” despite the fact that Andrews had originated the Broadway role. On top of that, Andrews was pregnant when she was approached to play Mary, but the producers agreed that they would wait until after she had given birth to begin filming. Ultimately, had Andrews played Eliza, she probably wouldn’t have been able to play the beloved nanny!

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