When Mary Poppins (1964) was being written, the lead role was offered to Julie Andrews by Walt Disney himself. Andrews told Disney that she was pregnant and couldn't do the movie. Disney wanted Andrews so much that he postponed the production in order to accommodate Andrews' pregnancy. When this movie was announced, the history repeated as Emily Blunt was also pregnant and the movie was postponed to accommodate her pregnancy.
Julie Andrews turned down a proposed cameo appearance as the balloon lady, fearing that it would be too distracting. Julie said, "this is Emily's show, and I really want it to be Emily's show." Quite poetically, the balloon lady part went to Angela Lansbury, who had been considered for the role of 'Mary Poppins' in the original film before Julie Andrews was cast.
At the age of 93 at the time of the movie's release, Angela Lansbury is the oldest female actor ever to appear in a Disney film. She is just two months older than the oldest male actor in a Disney film, Dick Van Dyke.
For the fantastic scenes where Mary Poppins takes the Banks children on extraordinary adventures, director Rob Marshall decided to use the traditional style of hand-drawn animation, as he wanted the audience to regain the nostalgia of the first film. More than 70 animators - some of whom were even retired! - were recruited to design and create the animated sequences for 16 months.
Julie Andrews, who portrayed the titular character in Mary Poppins (1964), endorsed the casting of Emily Blunt as her successor, calling it a "wonderful" casting decision. Blunt said it was "lovely" to receive Andrews' stamp of approval, and actually cried tears of joy when she found out about Andrews' reaction.
It was director Rob Marshall's intention, right from the beginning, to use hand-drawn animation for the film's animation sequences. This was due to his love for hand-drawn animation and also to pay homage to the first film. The Disney executives, on the other hand, initially wanted the film to have computer animation for its animated sequences, which infuriated Marshall. He then fought hard to convince the Disney executives to let him use hand-drawn animation, and he also argued why it would be the right choice to use for the film. Ultimately, the Disney executives gave in and allowed Marshall to use hand-drawn animation for the film.
In the scene where Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) is in the attic, there is a box of toy blocks with letters on them. This is both a clear nod to the first Mary Poppins movie in which they feature, and the blocks also subtly spell out 'Poppins'.
At the very end of the film, when Jack rides away on his bike - blink and you will miss it - the original chalk painting from the first movie that Mary Poppins, Michael, and Jane jumped into is on the ground behind Jack's bike.
Mr. Dawes begins to tell the Banks children the joke about a "man with a wooden leg named Smith." He stops himself before actually telling it though, and with good reason: in the original film, his father died laughing at the punchline.
Author P.L. Travers was very critical of the first film, especially the music and animation. However, towards the end of her life, she authorized the creation of a stage production by Sir Cameron Mackintosh and Walt Disney Theatrical based on the film and her novels, with the stipulation that no one involved in the creation of the film (particularly the Sherman brothers) be involved, and even included these requirements in her will. Although she passed away in 1996, the play successfully debuted in 2004. Largely as a result of this reconciliation, Walt Disney Studios was able to restart negotiations with Travers' estate, which resulted in authorization for this film.
Emily Blunt dove into P.L. Travers' books, and found out that the character is remarkably different from Walt Disney's vision and Julie Andrews' characterization in the first movie, so Blunt's interpretation will be closer to the books.
Karen Dotrice, who played Jane Banks in the original movie, has a cameo in this film (as "Elegant Woman"). Matthew Garber, the actor who played Michael Banks in the original film, died in 1977 at age 21. Glynis Johns who played the children's mother Mrs. Banks is the only other original cast member alongside Julie Andrews not to make a cameo. Johns has long been retired (since 1999) and at present is ninety-five.
The construction of Topsy's shop lasted 7 months, it is the most complex decoration of the film. Set designer Gordon Sim and his team scoured antique shops and flea markets in England to find objects to incorporate into the decor. A total of 538 were harvested, along with other items designed by the team or otherwise acquired. All these elements were then bolted and fastened to the ceiling of a true reversed decor, which was then returned. It took 26 weeks to create the scenery of the abandoned park that houses the biggest number of the film and 18 weeks for the Alley Cherry. A total of 8 film sets from the Shepperton studios were used.
Development on a sequel to Mary Poppins had long been gestating in development hell since the release of the 1964 film. Walt Disney attempted to produce a sequel a year subsequent to the film's release, but was rejected by author P. L. Travers, who had openly dismissed Disney's film adaptation. In the late 1980s, then-chairman of Walt Disney Studios Jeffrey Katzenberg and vice-president of live-action production Martin Kaplan approached Travers with the idea of a sequel set years after the first film, with the Banks children now as adults and an older Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews reprising the role. Travers again rejected the proposed concept with the exception of Andrews' return. The studio shortly abandoned the effort.
In the book 'Mary Poppins Comes Back,' Mary Poppins' cousin Topsy is male, and the reason for his world being upside down every second week is because his mother wanted a girl, which meant he was 'backwards from the beginning.'
The film's biggest singing and dancing number, "Trip a Little Light Fantastic," took two weeks to film, sometimes with up to 50 dancers on screen at the same time. The exteriors of this eight-minute sequence were filmed at Middle Temple in London to enjoy its cobbled streets, arcades, and famous passages. The stage set consisted of five different levels, including a three-story fountain, a bridge, a greenhouse, and 25 hybrid electric and gas streetlights. Five cameras were used to capture the scale of the scene including a fixed camera, two cranes, an aerial camera, and a camera mounted on a traveling dolly. Twenty-eight street lamps equipped with a rotating base and sections adapted to the dance movements were specially created for the number, as well as 18 ladders made of metal, rubber, and balsa. The team also bought 100 BMX that were later aged.
Although the original setting of the first three Mary Poppins novels was the 1930s, Walt Disney changed this to the turn of the century for Mary Poppins (1964). This film, set roughly twenty-five years after the the first, restores the 1930s setting.
Julie Walters (Ellen) has admittedly been confused for original Mary Poppins performer Julie Andrews throughout her entire career. She has even gone on to sign her autograph and quote "Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious" to strangers, in fear of embarrassing people excited to meet Andrews.
The orchestral tracks and vocals were pre-recorded with a full 82-piece symphony orchestra conducted by Paul Gemignani (a regular at musicals as he worked on Into the Woods and Sweeney Todd) at AIR Lyndhurst Studio in Hampstead. Rob Marshall wanted to make sure that the sung passages were seamlessly integrated into the film, so he again recorded the actors' voices on the set to capture the energy of the live.
Like the original, this film includes a sequence combining live-action and traditional hand-drawn animation. The animation sequence was supervised by Jim Capobianco and Ken Duncan. Over 70 animation artists specializing in hand-drawn 2D animation from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, and other animation studios were recruited for the sequence. The animated drawings were created using pencil and paper and scanned onto the computer to be digitally inked & painted. Character designer James Woods and animator James Baxter also helped redesign the penguins from the first film. All of the hand-drawn animation was created by Duncan's animation studio, Duncan Studio, in Pasadena, California.
Angela Lansbury, who was a possible candidate for the title role of the original film, previously starred in Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) (adapted from the popular children's book by Mary Norton), which was an earlier attempt by Disney to replicate the successful formula of Mary Poppins (1964). David Tomlinson starred in both films; in Mary Poppins, he played George Banks, the father of Michael and Jane.
In the Banks children's nursery, there are pictures of people and dandelions just above the fireplace. This is likely an homage to the fourth book in the Mary Poppins series called Mary Poppins in the Park, where the flying nanny and the Banks children have a tea party with people who live beneath the dandelions.
The working title, "Mary Poppins Returns," is also the reference to the title of the second Mary Poppins book, "Mary Poppins Comes Back," released in 1935. Elements from that book were already adapted in the original Mary Poppins (1964), including the scene with the measurement of Jane and Michael, flying kites in the park, the scene with the merry-go-round, etc.
In the song 'A Cover is Not the Book,' the verses about Nellie Rubina and the King and the Dirty Rascal reference characters from 'Mary Poppins Comes Back' that were not featured in either of the films.
In the original book, only Jane Banks is transported into the Royal Doulton Bowl, and the entire episode was much darker. Instead of a world of talking animals she meets a 19th century family that tries to force her to become one of them, before Mary Poppins rescues her.
In the first film, Miss Lark had a dog named Andrew. In this film she apparently has a new dog named Willoughby. In the first Mary Poppins book, Willoughby was a stray dog that Andrew befriended and asked Miss Lark to adopt, with Mary Poppins translating for him.
Mary Poppins originated in P.L. Travers' eponymous book published in 1934. Over the next 50 years, she wrote seven other books, including The Return of Mary Poppins, The Good Ideas by Mary Poppins, and Mary Poppins on a Walk.
The songwriters have created for the Luminomagifantastic (VO) vocal and litany number a jargon specific to street lamp lighters nicknamed the "leery speak" ("leery" is an old Scottish word for this craft ), sort of cockney slang.
It was chosen by both the National Board of Review and American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of 2018 and received numerous award nominations, including four at the 76th Golden Globe Awards (including for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy), nine at the 24th Critics' Choice Awards, and a SAG Award nomination for Blunt at the 25th Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Unlike Mary Poppins (1964), this film (or all its live-action footage) was shot in the story's indigenous English setting with natural outdoors; the 1964 original was an entirely indoors film (i.e., even outdoor scenes were shot in the Disney Studio sound stages in Burbank. Similarly, at the same time the 1964 original was being filmed in Burbank, the other 1912-English set musical My Fair Lady (1964) was being filmed in the sound stages of rival Warner Brothers Studio in nearby Glendale. So the close-knit band of "English-type" Hollywood bit players (who played "English" extras) was doubly busy during that summer-fall season of 1963). Some of the post-production work for this new film, however, was done in Hollywood.
Angela Lansbury's character, described as "the balloon lady," asks Michael Banks whether he remembers what it is like to be a child. In Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), also adapted from a popular children's book, Lansbury's character, the apprentice witch Eglantine Price, shared lessons about leaving childhood behind and struggling with "the age of not believing." Therefore, Lansbury's character in the 2018 sequel could be interpreted as a nod to the 1971 film, often considered a sister film to Mary Poppins (1964), or, had the period setting permitted, perhaps even the same character.
Of the 448 original costumes made for the film, Topsy, Mary Poppins' capricious cousin, took the most time out of the costume department: eight people spent five weeks printing and hand painting the design on the front fabric to make six identical versions.
The character Cousin Topsy, (Meryl Streep), is asked where she got that accent, to which she replied "It's a long story." She used the same Polish accent she learned for Sophie's Choice (1982), a long story at 2 hours, 30 minutes playing time.
For this sequel, Rob Marshall imagined an original story by combining elements from different works. With David Magee and John DeLuca, he designed a story in London during the Great Depression of the mid-1930s (the era of PL Travers' books), 25 years after the events of the first film. Whereas the characters of Jane and Michael Banks remain children throughout the books of P.L. Travers, Rob Marshall has made the choice to present them as adults.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Dick Van Dyke was offered four options for his dance scene, each with a varying degree of difficulty. He insisted on performing the hardest dance routine and refused any help from fellow cast members while filming the scene.
At age 93, Dick Van Dyke, who played Bert and Mr. Dawes' Sr. in the original Mary Poppins (1964), returns to portray Mr. Dawes, Jr., the retired president of the bank, which is now run by his nephew, played by Colin Firth.