Walt Disney’s daughters once beg him to make a movie of their favourite book, P. L. Travers’s “Mary Poppins” about a magical strict nurse who always comes to rescue of the Banks family when they are in need for her and looks after their children.
It takes Disney 20 years to persuade Pamela Travers to accept the idea. The humorless snobbish author keeps refusing to hand in her beloved work to the Hollywood machine which will make a musical of it. But for the lack of money Ms. Travers unwillingly agrees and goes to Los Angeles.
Assisted by a team of the talented screenwriter, songwriters, etc., Disney tries to please her with bright ideas, images and merry tunes that later will gain the Oscar prize. For a long time the writer remains immovable. Ms. Travers hates the animation included in the film and demands that it should be cut out. She considers actress Julie Andrews too pretty and lively to be Mary Poppins, is against certain American words and phrases and newly made up words; dislikes some songs and so on.
It is only when Disney tells Ms. Travers about his own difficult love for his father, that he discovers the roots of understanding the characters of the book. With the help of flashbacks, we see Pamela as an eight-year old child. Her family settle in a shabby house in a remote place in Australia. Her father, Travers Goff, is an irresponsible dreamer and independent idealist, an unsuccessful bank clerk and a heavy drinker. He views the life in poverty as a great adventure and the girl is the only one who’s excited about it. She loves him dearly. However, she looks forward to Aunt Ellie’s arrival. She hopes the aunt will help like a fairy and bring order and discipline to the household. But the aunt’s a bit late. Goff dies soon.
Very slowly Pamela begins to like the production. The film ends with her weeping at the premiere where she comes uninvited due to her earlier objections and attacks. But are these happy tears of gratitude for Disney who understood that Mary Poppins is to save Mr. Banks?
Though “Saving Mr. Banks” is generally historically accurate, the writer later confessed in an interview that the screen version had made her cry out of disapproval and anger. Though she “learned to live with it” and even thought it a good film on its own level, it was not very like her books. In her last will, she ordered that Mary Poppins and any more of her books would not be ever touched by anyone from Disney’s team again.