Mary Poppins: 40th Anniversary Edition (1964)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Music Highlights-Disney's Song Selection
Audio Commentary-Composers And Cast
Informational Subtitles-Pop-Up Fun Facts
Deleted Scenes-Deleted Song - "Chimpanzoo"
Featurette-A Magical Musical Reunion
Featurette-A Musical Journey With Richard Sherman
Game-'I Love To Laugh'
Featurette-Deconstruction Of A Scene
Featurette-Dick Van Dyke Make-Up Test
Featurette-The Gala World Premiere
Short Film-The Cat That Looked At A Kng
|Year Of Production||1964|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Robert Stevenson|
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Dick Van Dyke
Richard M. Sherman
Robert B. Sherman
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Norwegian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Danish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.66:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.66:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Song Lyrics
Norwegian Song Lyrics
Danish Song Lyrics
Norwegian Audio Commentary
Danish Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The years of our childhood are inevitably those of our greatest impressionability. For that reason, one cannot underestimate the power of Walt Disney, and the studio that became an empire he created. Though many may be reluctant to admit it, now wearing their Ben Sherman jackets, strutting down Chapel St in Manolos or 'enjoying' a tofu salad amongst apparently trendy chrome and stainless steel decor, most of us can recall a time when the greatest thrill was setting aside an afternoon to take in Aladdin, The Jungle Book or doing one's very best to avoid bawling (or at least seen to be) when Bambi's mum died. Disney movies have assumed an important mantle - the par excellence in fun, immaculately produced, sometimes funny and basically uncontroversial family entertainment, sparing kids and worried parents of the profanity, violence and sexual innuendo (and more) that permeates much of today's movies. Turning to Mary Poppins, considered by many to be Walt Disney's piece de resistance, a film that as a child I must have watched countless times - as the depressing state of my VHS copy will attest - I was struck once more by just how good the Disney studio is at doing what it does.
People may be surprised to learn that the character of Mary Poppins was the invention of an Australian author, born in Maryborough, Queensland in the last year of the 19th century, who adopted the pseudonym P.L. Travers in creating the magical nanny. The excellent documentaries featured on the DVD that recount the making of the film detail Travers' repeated refusal to grant Disney the rights to the book. He eventually succeeded in winning her approval for a film after a seemingly inordinate amount of cajoling, but Travers was to later express her dislike for Disney's interpretation due to her belief that her beloved character had been coated in too much saccharine - a common, if somewhat moot point of criticism levelled at Disney films. Whatever the author's feelings, the film was extraordinarily well received, representing an unprecedented melding of comedy, drama, music, animation and special effects that has remained much beloved some forty years since its initial release.
For those who've been living under a rock - Mary Poppins is the story of two disobedient but lovable children, Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) whose parents seem never to have time to spend with them. Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson) is a rather stern banker who'd like to think of himself as the lord of his castle (as his Rex Harrison-esque performance in the opening part of the film suggests) but is in fact rather bumbling. Mrs. Banks (Glynis Johns) is a suffragette (Disney's idea, not Travers', whose story made the parents far more aloof and uncaring), fighting for the vote in one breath yet submitting meekly to her husband's pronouncements in the next. After the latest nanny storms off in a huff after the children's fourth disappearance in a week, the Banks household is in need of a replacement. Mr. Banks places an advertisement in The Times whilst the children's own rhyming notice is ripped up and placed in the fireplace, only to find its way into the gloved hands of the practically perfect Mary Poppins (the beautiful Julie Andrews in her film debut, who won an Academy Award for her role, having beaten Audrey Hepburn whose role of Eliza Doolittle Andrews had missed out on because of her status as an unknown in Hollywood at the time). Poppins arrives on the Banks' doorstep and the fun begins...
Dick Van Dyke, sporting, in his own self deprecating words, possibly the worst Cockney accent in history, stars as the multitalented Bert, actually a melding of a number of different characters in the book, who is equally at home doing (and dancing inside) pavement art as leaping across London's roofs as a chimneysweep. Together with the children, Mary Poppins and Bert explore the wonders about them, allowing the special effects wizards at Disney tremendous opportunity to display their obvious talents - with a floating dinner party, a horse race involving runaways from a merry-go-round and a smoke staircase leading over the burnished dusk skies of London. And the music! Just about every one of the songs is a classic - from the outrageous vaudeville fun of 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' to the quietly beautiful 'Feed the Birds" - apparently Walt Disney's favourite, showing Andrews' voice at its most pure and winsome.
Simply put, this film is a classic, easily taking its place amongst other great musicals of that era, including My Fair Lady and of course The Sound of Music and standing as perhaps the most apt testament to the warm-hearted genius of one of the great men of history, Walt Disney.
Thankfully, after two previous incarnations that failed to meet expectations, the film has finally been fully restored for this 40th Anniversary edition, and looks pretty fantastic. It is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, with 16x9 enhancement. Compared to previous releases, which featured a 1.78:1 presentation, we lose a tiny amount of information from the sides, and gain it on the top and bottom. I am not entirely sure which ratio was used in the original theatrical release, but would guess that it was 1.66:1. Due to overscan, many people will not even notice the bars on the side. Enough of the finicky stuff - the transfer is excellent.
Sharpness and shadow detail levels are generally very good, although (perhaps for artistic reasons) the transfer does look a little dark at times, and for this reason, clarity does suffer on occasion.
Colours are wonderful - rich, clean, vibrant and presented exactly as was needed for this film.
Compression related problems are scarce.
There is some aliasing but most disconcerting is the edge enhancement, which is quite prevalent.
Film artefacts have been almost completely wiped out.
Audio is also well presented, with four tracks to choose from. Two of them are foreign language tracks - Norwegian 5.1 and Danish 5.1, but the remaining two offer something interesting. Both are 5.1 Dolby Digital English tracks, but in addition to the standard track we have been provided with a Disney Enhanced Home Theatre Mix, which has enriched (but altered) the original sound mix. In truth there is not a huge difference between the two, but the enhanced track is definitely 'fuller'.
Audio sync is excellent.
Dialogue is crisp and clear.
There are no noticeable blemishes or dropouts.
The surrounds are engaged frequently, with some added oomph to firing cannons and the various musical numbers from the subwoofer. Not a show-stopping track but certainly as good as one would want for the film.
|Surround Channel Use|
Disney have pulled out all stops for this release, packing it with goodies.
First is an audio commentary with stars Andrews, Van Dyke and Dotrice and the musical gurus, brothers Richard and Robert Sherman. Recorded in three separate groups, that nonetheless fit well, this is a generally excellent track, with lots of information divulged from all participants with an acceptable amount of nostalgia. Also included are snippets from interviews with the great man himself, Walt Disney and other key creative figures in the making of the film.
Good to turn on in conjunction with the audio commentary is the Poppins Pop-Up Fun Facts which offers little text boxes of information quite different from that provided by the speakers, and a perfect complement.
I am slightly bemused that in a film so brimming with musical numbers that there is not much of the film left without them that the DVD producers have decided to pull them all out and allow people to access only them, but I suppose if you have a particular favourite it is nice to be able to instantaneously jump to it. It also features a 'play all' option.
Another song? You bet - the song Chimpanzoo is pleasant enough, if not an instant favourite, and it is nice to have it included as a deleted scene, having been cut from the film before it was even filmed (it was still only in storyboard form when the decision to not include it was made). Richard Sherman performs.
A Mary Poppins Musical Reunion runs a good seventeen minutes and includes Andrews, Van Dyke and Richard Sherman who reminisce about the music of the film, and have some fun with some off-the-cuff performances, with Sherman playing the piano.
At the risk of covering ground already trodden on, a second music flavoured feature is included, this one actually more informative than the 'musical reunion'. Richard Sherman hosts A Music Journey, a twenty minute piece that runs the gamut from describing the origins of the songs, the sieving of the good and the bad, and the eventual performing and recording of them for the film.
One has to hold back uncontrollable cringing when assessing the inane games Disney come up with for their DVDs - and this one, featuring the famous parrot is no different. The idea is to stop Uncle Albert rising to the roof by answering questions about selected Poppins objects. Kids might like it, although considering five year olds now seem to be able to perform joystick acrobatics akin to launching a NASA spacecraft, it is my guess that they'll be a little bored with this.
OK, we're done with the feathers, now for the meat. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins, is a fantastic fifty one minutes of insight, interviews and information on almost all aspects of the film's creation. It features all the major players who are still alive, who talk enthusiastically and candidly about the project. It is the high point of the extras collection.
The Movie Magic of Mary Poppins is a seven minute piece on the special effects used in the film. It is aimed squarely at children (a kid narrates) but nevertheless provides some interesting details about how movie magic was created before the age of computers (yes, there was such a time!).
Jolly Holiday and Step in Time, entitled appropriately as they deal with the musical sequences surrounding those songs, deconstruct the scenes, showing them at various stages of completion - with black screens, before the matte paintings were added, and during rehearsals. I am wary of such features, as they do seem to take a little bit of the shine off the 'movie magic', but for those who love the technical side of filmmaking, this is a must. They run thirteen minutes and seven minutes respectively.
Dick Van Dyke Makeup Test is a brief, one minute look at the actor preparing for his role as the senior Mr Dawes - the crusty bank manager. It features audio recollections of Van Dyke asking Disney if he could do this small part.
The Red Carpet and The Party feature recently discovered footage of the premiere of the film in 1964, at the famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and the after party. Expertly compiled, mixing newsreel footage as well as audio from radio broadcasts, it is fascinating to look at what has changed (and what hasn't) when it comes to Hollywood red carpet premieres. One thing that obviously hasn't changed is the stupidity of the interviewers they find to speak to the stars.
Trailers and Posters are all included in a veritable treasure trove of hundreds of still photos, from conceptual art to onset action, with all the various TV spots, interviews and theatrical trailers released to promote the film.
Finally, we have a new short film, The Cat That Looked at a King, produced for this DVD it seems, based on another Mary Poppins story by P.L. Travers and featuring the still-radiant Julie Andrews, once again doing magic with chalk drawings on the pavement. Running for almost ten minutes, and featuring the voice of the ever-dependable David Ogden Stiers, it is a nice little animated fable, well worth a look, even if it does seem a little too precious for its own good.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The only noticeable differences between this local release and its Region 1 counterpart concern a few extra promos for other Disney films (which I personally dislike) and more importantly, choice of audio tracks.
Compared to the Region 1 release, we miss out on:
Compared to our release, the Region 1 misses out on:
So it will all depend on your preference for language tracks, or whether you want the original stereo mix for the film. Personally, I would call it for Region 4, considering the inherent superiority of PAL as against NTSC.
An eternally charming musical.
The video is not perfect, but looks good.
The audio is well done.
The extras are wonderful.
|DVD||Yamaha DVR-S100, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||Yamaha DVR-S100 (built in)|
|Speakers||Yamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer|