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Mary Poppins Returns

Penguins Walk The Red Carpet
Berliner Studio / BEImages
It's been forty years since Mary Poppins first premiered in Hollywood, and to mark the occasion (and the launch of the Mary Poppins: Special Edition DVD on December 14th) Buena Vista Home Entertainment held a 'Re-Premiere' for the film at the historic El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Boulevard complete with live penguins, chimney sweeps, and a band that played Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious more times than you would ever believe. In attendance, most of the surviving people involved with the making of Mary Poppins including: Karen Dotrice (who played the Jane Banks), Glynis Johns (Winifred), animator Ollie Johnston, designers Bill Justice and Xavier Atencio (the guy who wrote the song "Yo Ho - A Pirate's Life for Me"), choreographers Dee Dee Wood and Mark Breaux, composer Richard Sherman and of course Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews.

While time may have caught up with many of the people who worked on Mary Poppins (who might be affectionately referred to as 'The Wheel Chair Brigade') Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews were as lively and energetic as ever. Introducing the film Dick Van Dyke performed a trade mark dance step from the film and then turned to the audience and said 'I can't tell you how much that hurt'. After Dick Van Dyke's short introduction Julie Andrews, who is now age 69, took the stage. Andrews looked fantastic and she spoke at length about the impact of Walt Disney on her career, his child like enthusiasm and his willingness to give people their first shot in Hollywood.

"I was working on Broadway in Chamelot with Richard Burton and I was told that Walt was in the audience and wanted to come back to talk. I thought he was coming back just to say hello. Walt told me that he was working on putting together a film version of P.L. Travers' classic book Mary Poppins and that he'd like me to come out to Hollywood to 'take look' at some of the models and designs they had started to build for the film. I was pregnant at the time and told Walt I'd love to come out but couldn't. 'Alright then, we'll wait for you'. Walt always had a magic sparkle in his eye."


Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke
Berliner Studio / BEImages

Mary Poppins marked the film debut of Julie Andrews and the second film for Dick Van Dyke's. It also marked the first film for choreographers Dee Dee Wood and Mark Breaux (who would then go on to choreograph The Sound of Music and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). Wood and Breaux spoke fondly of Walt and how his confidence and enthusiasm gave a tremendous boost the them on their first film project.

"They built the Chimney Sweep set for us on the back lot and Walt Disney used to come and visit every single rehearsal and we were on that back lot for eight weeks rehearsing with Dick and the dancers. It was our first film. Walt gave us so much help." recalled Dee Dee Wood, "Walt said he wanted the Chimney Sweep scene to be like the chariot race in Ben Hur", remarked Mark Breaux .

With all the big blockbusters hitting DVD this holiday season, it's an interesting choice for Disney to bring back Mary Poppins onto DVD. But after watching the film again on the big screen it's easy to see why this film is as magical today as it was forty years ago. Mary Poppins is a wonderful blend of live action, animation, and musical filled with dozens of classics songs including 'A Spoon Full of Sugar', 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' and 'Let's Go Fly a Kite'. It was surprising during the re-premiere just how many people in the audience, both old and young sang along with the film, especially to the song 'Let's Go Fly a Kite'.

After the screening at a reception the Mary Poppins DVD was on display including a number of the special features. Some of the most notable features include: a new animated short "The Cat That Looked At A King" - based on Mary Poppins Opens The Door by P.L. Travers, A Deleted song "Chimpanzoo", extensive behind the scenes footage, and a musical reunion with Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and composer Richard Sherman.

- Geoffrey Kleinman

Buy Mary Poppins (on DVD 12/14)

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