(Editor’s note: This article uses affiliate links. If you click on a link and it takes you to an Amazon page, you may purchase the book or song there. It won’t cost you any more than going directly to Amazon, and it will help our blog prosper. Thank you.) According to Robert Sherman, as recounted in “The Musical World of Walt Disney,” Walt Disney’s favorite song was the ballad “Feed the Birds.” Walt would invite the Sherman Brothers to his office for a scotch and a chat, then he would ask Richard Sherman to play the song that he would later call “the most beautiful song written for me.”
Mary Poppins sings “Feed the Birds” to the children as she puts them to bed, the evening before they are supposed to go with their father to the bank.
Penguins are funny creatures. As my wife says they often look like they are running to hug you. My second favorite penguins are from the movie “Mary Poppins, and that’s where I got the idea as a penguin for my creativity mascot. Those penguins deliver fun, service and a dance-off with Dick Van Dyke before it was a thing. (Who would win in a dance off: the Mary Poppins penguins or Starlord?) From there, it was a short step to our stuffed penguins.
There is only a small group of penguins in the Galapagos Islands that live north of the equator in the wild. All of the other wild penguins in the world live south of the equator. Of the 18 or 19 species penguins in the world, New Zealand is home to three: the korora, the hoiho, and the tawaki. Knowing that, we, of course, are going to schedule some time to try to find some penguins in the wild. (We hear they are smelly, but we don’t care. They just look like fun to hang around near!)
Winds in the east\ Mist comin’ in\ Like something’s a
brewin’\ About to begin\ Can’t put me finger\ On what lies in store\ I’ll write
an extra article\ If I get five more (patreon members)…
One-man band, poet, chalk artist, chimney sweep… Bert has a
lot of jobs in “Mary Poppins” and he does them with style. Anyone who can go up
on the rooftops and step in time or chase a cartoon fox through his own drawing
has a flexibility of thinking that allows him to be more creative. Flexibility
in thinking is one of the four key categories that are measured when scientists
We have eight days left in our Patreon promotion. For every
five people that join at any level before August 1, I will write an additional
creativity article. I already have one ready to go for August 14: “’Popeye,’
criticism, and creativity.” If I did the next one on “Mary Poppins,” my Patreon
will be popping!
Join our Patreon today and let’s see how many articles on creativity I can write in a month! (I could probably do a whole series on “Mary Poppins.” The Sherman Brothers, the animation/live action, Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke… That’s even without considering the sequel.)
When Pamela Travers confronted Walt Disney about changes she
wanted to see in “Mary Poppins” after the film premiered, Walt Disney said, “Pamela,
that ship has sailed.” It was one of Walt’s frustration with film. Once it was
done, he could change it or tinker with it to make it better. It’s part of the
reason he created Disneyland; it gave him something he could change and
improve. You would think that the company’s live action – or in ‘the Lion King’s”
case, CGI animated – films would allow them to improve on the story.
You’d be wrong. Jon Favreau’s self-proclaimed live action “Lion
King” does nothing to improve up on the original and eliminates some of the
best parts of the 1994 classic. Was there nothing the filmmakers thought they
could improve upon?
The elimination of Ed the hyena who communicated through
laughter is one large change. It was Ed’s change from bumbling fool to evil,
backstabber that was the most frightening change in the original.
The “Be Prepared” sequence lacks the emotional impact that
the Jeremy Irons number had. The visuals and message in the original are
staggeringly relevant and scary. It may have been the best song in the movie.
Favreau’s animals are limited to the things that animals can
do. This necessitated a huge change to the visuals for the “I Just Can’t Wait
to Be King” number. There’s no Hula dancing meerkat, and staff-wielding Rafiki
is only revealed in a lackluster moment of no import. Rafiki pulls the staff
out of a hiding place in the tree and says, “My old friend.” There’s no connection
to this staff in the film, so this statement doesn’t serve a purpose, except as
fulfilling fan expectations. Seriously, you don’t need any fan appreciation
because it’s ALL fan appreciation.
I can respect that Favreau wanted to make these animals photo-realistic;
it’s something Disney tried to do with Bambi in 1940. But in doing so, Favreau
eliminated a lot of what makes the 1994 version a standout film. In fact, this
new version doesn’t even do justice to the stage play, which was truly
something new and fresh when it debuted – and it’s still a work of art.
The last battle between Scar and Simba has less drama than an
episode of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” where the lions’ strength would be
on full display. Here, it comes off as “Man, this would be powerful if they
were real lions in the wild; instead, it’s artificially enhanced by sound
In the past Disney released their animated films in the theater every seven years so new children could become acquainted with them. That worked for the new “Aladdin.” There were enough changes that it was clear the movie was released for the next generation. “The Lion King” just seems like it was developed because the original made a billion dollars. For those who love the originals, the 2019 version plays like “Phantom Menace” without a new plot line.
The original “Mary Poppins” is a ground-breaking cinematic achievement that is as magical today as it was in 1964. There’s no way a sequel could match it, and if this is the reason some people don’t like “Mary Poppins Returns,” they’re missing out on a story that this world, at this time, desperately needs and will probably fail to hear. “Mary Poppins Returns” isn’t about saving the children or saving the father; it’s about saving ourselves.
“Mary Poppins Returns” is similar to the 1964 “Mary Poppins” that it’s a sequel to. There are songs, hand-drawn animation combined with live action, a bunch of working-class men doing dancing in the most preposterous of ways, a female character fighting for a cause, a weird relation who’s facing an impossible affliction and a father whose situation has caused him to forget all of the things he learned as a child when Mary Poppins was his nanny.
From a time before the film was released, it was clear:
Emily Blunt is no Julie Andrews.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is no Dick Van Dyke.
Meryl Streep is no Ed Wynn, but you might not
recognize her either.
Marc Shaiman is no Sherman Brothers.
I should probably repeat that last statement. There isn’t a
tune that I was humming at the end of the movie. “Mary Poppins” gave us “A Spoonful
of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” “Feed
the Birds,” “Step in Time,” and “Chim-Chim-Cheree,” which won the academy
award. “Mary Poppins Returns” gives us…
Whatever you’re doing this Christmas, go see “Mary Poppins Returns.”
It’s grown up a little while keeping most of its innocence intact. (The “Book
by It’s Cover” Sequence is a bawdy vaudeville style song.)
On a visceral level, the new “Lion King” trailer strikes all the right notes. The sunrise, the building crescendo, James Earl Jones, the beginning of the stampede scene as James Earl Jones talks about his demise, and the African Call that is the original movie’s signature. It inspires goosebumps and causes the heart to speed up. Remember! Let’s face it. People are going to see this remake, and they are going to love it. That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems with the idea of it.
Same Old Stories
Disney has gone into their film vault, dragging their beloved animated classics into the light and exposing them to live-action remake status. Some may point to 1996’s “101 Dalmatians” with Glenn Close as the first successful live action remake. It was successful enough, and possibly sold enough toys, to inspire a sequel. However, 2014’s “Maleficent,” with Angelina Jolie who was born for the role, started the current era of live action adaptations. It was followed by “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and Christopher Robin.” With one movie released every year. “Dumbo,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King” and “Lady and the Tramp” are on the docket for 2019.
That’s four live action adaptations in a single year. Those aren’t new stories; they are recycled stories that required less creativity to make and provided more stability for the financial side of the ledger. People may say they want new stories; they don’t. They want properties they know they are going to enjoy, especially when they are spending $15 a ticket. If people wanted new stories, “Kubo and the Two Strings” would’ve been a box office hit. And from the looks of it, “The Lion King” is going to give the audience what it wants. The trailer shots are ripped straight from the animated film. This isn’t a remake or remodeling; it’s a straight up rerelease.
Sequels and Remakes
The Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars film factories are releasing, or distributing, 12 films next year, including “Glass,” a sequel to “Unbreakable,” and “Split.” Of those 12, only “Artemis Fowl,” the DisneyNature release “Penguins” and, possibly, the Marvel production “Captain Marvel” are not sequels or remakes. Giving “Captain Marvel” the benefit of the doubt, the same universe doesn’t necessarily make a sequel or prequel in this case, only 25 percent of Disney’s 2019 releases are new stories. That’s bad for writers and people who are creating new ideas. And let’s face it, “Penguins” is more like a public service, which I’m totally going to go see because, uh, PENGUINS! (Shameless plug: Come on, my website is “penguinate”and my wife makes stuffed penguins, which you should buy!)
Not Live Action
“The Lion King” is being lumped in with Disney’s live action remakes of animated films, but it isn’t live action. No matter how beautifully rendered, the characters are computer animated. At least in “The Jungle Book,” Mowgli was a real actor on screen. (Props to Neel Sethi who had to act against the green screen.) “The Lion King” is computer generated images that, at least as far as the trailer is concerned, will match the animated classic in every way. Fire up the computer and redo every Disney Classic that way; maybe, it will allow Disney to extend the copyright, again, of “Steamboat Willie” before it expires in 2024.
Disneyland and Mary
There’s a story that at the end of the premier of the original “Mary Poppins,” P.L. Travers had some suggestions for making the film better. Walt looked at her and said something to the effect of “Pamela, that ship has sailed.”
One of the many reasons that Disneyland exists is because Walt wanted something he could change. Once the movie was done, there wasn’t any going back and redoing it to make it better. That ship has sailed, except now, The Walt Disney Company is remaking the films. They just aren’t making them necessarily better.
Where’s the Creativity?
The original “Lion King” made just under $1 billion dollars worldwide in 1997. It was the highest grossing animated film of all time (not adjusted for inflation) and remained at the top of the list until “Toy Story 3.” The new “Lion King” might not live up to the original, even if Disney gets it right – whatever that may mean. Maybe only die-hard fans will see it a second time, but judging by the Twitterverse… God, Disney’s going to make some cash, and that’s bad for creativity. (See Pixar.) Why take a risk when you can take a known commodity, change its medium slightly, and make a boatload of money?
Want More Creativity?
If you want more creativity in the world, I urge you to find several independent authors and artists and support them. Give up one movie this year and use that money to pledge $1 a month to someone on Patreon. Go to a comic convention and find an artist in Artist Alley; buy something from them. I’d love for it to be me. Mostly, I’d love for us to get more original stories out there. We all have a story to tell, but they need to be supported financially in order to get heard.