When I was out in Los Angelos for the FROZEN event last month, I was treated to a private screening of Saving Mr. Banks and a tour of the Walt Disney Studios lot where many key scenes were filmed for the movie.
Inspired by true events, Saving Mr. Banks is the extraordinary, untold story of how Disney’s classic Mary Poppins made it to the big screen—and the testy relationship that the legendary Walt Disney had with author P.L. Travers that almost derailed it.
Fun Fact: Saving Mr. Banks was filmed entirely in the Los Angeles area, with key locations that included Disneyland in Anaheim, TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly called Grauman’s Chinese Theatre) in Hollywood (where the 1964 premiere of “Mary Poppins” took place), the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank (which opened in 1940 and where the 1964 movie filmed in its entirety) and the 10,000 acre Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley (which doubled for the film’s early 20th-century Australian landscape).
Our tour of the Walt Disney Studios lot, led by Jeffrey Epstein, started at Stage A. This was the same spot in Saving Mr. Banks where P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) was first introduced to the Sherman Brothers (B.J. Novak & Jason Schwartzman), songwriters for the film Mary Poppins.
Fun Fact: Actor Jason Schwartzman, at 32, is the same age as his character, songwriter Richard Sherman, was when this story takes place in 1961; and, actor B.J. Novak, at 34, is the same age as his character, sibling songwriter Robert Sherman, was at the time.
It should be noted that Mary Poppins was filmed entirely on the Walt Disney Studios lot in 1963, with the bulk of the movie shot on Sound Stage 2.
Fun Fact: The Walt Disney Studios’ lot is home to one of Los Angeles’ largest sound stages (Stage 2), now christened the “Julie Andrews Stage” because the 31,200 square foot building housed much of the filming of “Mary Poppins” in 1963.
There’s a touching scene in Saving Mr. Bank where P.L. Travers sits under this tree. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s a turning point in the movie.
Here are a few more photos from around the Walt Disney Studios lot (and another round of Fun Facts!).
Fun Fact: Saving Mr. Banks is the first feature-length, theatrical drama to depict the iconic entrepreneur Walt Disney, with two-time Academy Award® winner Tom Hanks (“Philadelphia,” “Forrest Gump”) stepping into the major role.
Fun Fact: Walt Disney was very fond of the song “Feed the Birds,” which apparently touched him with its message that it doesn’t take much to give love. Disney would call the Sherman Brothers up and ask them to come play the song, so they would go to Disney’s office and play it for him. It became a regular almost-every-Friday ritual.
Fun Fact: After acquiring the script for “Saving Mr. Banks,” the Disney Studio referenced 500 pages of documents from the development of “Mary Poppins”–from drafts of film treatments and scripts to correspondence between key players in the production of the film.
Fun Fact: The Walt Disney Archives digitized more than 150 pieces of ephemera, including era-appropriate Disneyland souvenir guides, postcards, posters, merchandise catalogs, memo paper and premiere invitations for use by the filmmakers.
Fun Fact: The Archives supplied actor Tom Hanks with reference footage of Walt Disney, including a 1963 interview with Fletcher Markle for the Canadian Broadcast Company. The interview is arguably one of the most accurate depictions of Walt Disney describing his work and philosophy.
And finally, here’s a cool photo of the cast and filmmakers from both Mary Poppins and Saving Mr. Banks in front of the Old Animation Building on the Walt Disney Studios lot.
We took a picture in the exact same spot after the tour … I’m standing in the same spot as Dick Van Dyke!
Saving Mr. Banks opens in theaters nationwide December 20, 2013!
Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary Edition is now available purchase.
Special thanks to Walt Disney Studios for inviting me to the #DisneyFrozenEvent. All opinions are my own.