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Saving Mary Poppins

"I don't not explain because I'm too proud to explain, but because if I did explain, where would we be?" So the great P.L. Travers once remarked to an interviewer. And even if Travers' inadequate biographer characterized these words as "'Alice in Wonderland'-like nonsense," they amount to exactly the question I asked myself all through "Saving Mr. Banks," a new Disney film about the making of the film "Mary Poppins," based on the character Travers invented.

Walt Disney pursued the film rights to the Mary Poppins books (there are a total of seven) for over 15 years, a fact that's mentioned several times in "Saving Mr. Banks." The new movie depicts a visit Travers made to Hollywood in 1961 to negotiate with Disney and work as a consultant on the film with screenwriter Don DaGradi and screenwriter-composers the Sherman Brothers. Travers needed the money the film would bring, but felt fiercely proprietary toward her creation. She tried to micromanage the adaptation, making impractical and downright impossible demands, and Disney had to charm, coax and outmaneuver her to get the movie made.

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