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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Robert Stevenson
Cast:
Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber, Elsa Lanchester, Arthur Treacher
Writing Credits:
P.L. Travers (books), Bill Walsh, Don DaGradi

Tagline:
It's supercalifragilistic
-expialidocious!

Synopsis:
Released from the Disney Vault in celebration of its 50th Anniversary, this beloved classic shines like never before on Blu-ray with an all-new digital restoration. Winner of five Academy Awards(R), including Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Best Song (“Chim Chim Cher-ee”) and Best Visual Effects, Mary Poppins is a movie experience your family will enjoy over and over again.

Join the "practically perfect" Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) for a "Jolly Holiday" as she magically turns every chore into a game and every day into a whimsical adventure. Along the way you'll be enchanted by unforgettable characters such as the multitalented chimney sweep Bert (Dick Van Dyke). Unpack Mary's magical carpetbag full of bonus features, including an all-new animated short, games, and a never-before-heard deleted song. You won't need "A Spoonful Of Sugar" to love every moment of this timeless Disney classic!

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$102.300 million.

MPAA:
Rated G

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French

Runtime: 139 min.
Price:$39.99
Release Date: 12/10/2013

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Actors Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, and Karen Dotrice plus Composers Richard and Robert Sherman
• “Mary Poppins: From Page to Stage” Featurette
• “Step In Time” Musical Number from Mary Poppins On Broadway
• “Supercalifragilistic-
expealidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins” Documentary
• “Gala World Premiere” Footage
• “The Gala World Premiere Party” Footage
• “Movie Magic” Featurette
• “Deconstruction of a Scene” Featurettes
• Dick Van Dyke Makeup Test
• Publicity Materials
• “Reunion with Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Richard Sherman” Featurette
• Deleted Song: “Chimpanzoo”
• Disney Song Selection
• “The Cat That Looked at a King” Short
• “Becoming Mr. Sherman” Featurette
• “Mary-Oke”
• Sneak Peeks
• DVD Copy


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition [Blu-Ray] (1964)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 4, 2013)

Though 1964’s Mary Poppins straddles the live-action and animated realms, it remains much more firmly in the former category. I suppose it seems somewhat illogical that I enjoy Disney's animated films but usually dislike their live-action counterparts, as both cover many similar topics. A lot of them stick to fantasy kinds of stories, so why would I like one but not the other?

The answer stems partially from the fact I'm just plain screwy, but I think it's also because a lot of the live-action films just seem cheap and somewhat crude. They lack the artistry and the sophistication of many Disney animated movies and clearly were rarely regarded as anything "special" in the eyes of the studio.

Those factors should recede in the case of Mary Poppins, which unquestionably stands as the jewel of the Disney live-action films. It wasn't the first, but it was the most successful and the most ambitious, at least until Who Framed Roger Rabbit arrived 24 years later. Poppins was the first Disney film of any sort to be nominated for Best Picture, whereas fully-animated movies would have to wait until 1991's Beauty and the Beast for their initial recognition in that category. Overall, Poppins garnered a stunning 13 Oscar nominations that year and won five, including a Best Actress prize for Julie Andrews in her motion picture debut as the title character.

That's an auspicious legacy, and one that I'm honestly not sure Poppins deserves. It's a fairly fun film, to be sure, but I don't think it even remotely approaches the pleasures found in even some of the lesser animated offerings. It tops a few of the weaker titles like Robin Hood or The Aristocats, but there are many more Disney animated films I'd rather watch than Poppins, and the list of those that are inferior to it is quite small.

To be frank, my feelings may reflect my bias against musicals. Although I loved the format as a kid, I long ago developed an antipathy toward the genre. This may seem inconsistent considering my affection for Disney's animated films, most of which indeed follow many of the constructs of the musical format.

I recognize this oddity and feel the best explanation comes from the lack of human participants in the cartoon features. The inherent “unrealism” that comes with the format of musicals seems more acceptable in what is completely a fantasy world, as the animation makes the films devoid of any truly realistic components.

It turns out that Poppins was created in a completely fabricated environment, as the whole film was shot indoors at Disney's California studios. Also, its story clearly is a product of fantasy.

However, the fact that it features human characters who are supposed to be somewhat believable as real people takes it from the totally fictional world of cartoons and locates it in our environs. No matter how tangential this connection may be, it still exists.

Another reason why I think I can enjoy musicals as cartoons but not as live-action films stems from the fact that most animated pictures don't pour on the songs too heavily, whereas Poppins comes packed with tunes. Indeed, very little plot or character development exists in the film. Almost everything seems contrived as an excuse for a lavish production number. That's great if you enjoy that kind of material, but if you don't, then you're left in the cold.

Maybe I'm just an old curmudgeon for knocking Mary Poppins, as it has been so warmly embraced by such a wide audience. To be honest, I do enjoy the film to a mild degree; I just don't like it a whole lot. I feel the story in which mysterious and magical nanny Mary comes and sets straight a dysfunctional family in early 20th century London sacrifices too much development for the sake of those song and dance routines.

Initially we’re supposed to believe that the Banks children - Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) - are insufferable wild things who have tormented a slew of nannies past the point of no return. Never do we get any sense of this from the kids themselves. They put up the mildest of opposition to Mary once she's on the scene, but not enough to mark them as brats, and soon they’re in the palm of her hand.

The story then vaguely takes on the other big problem in the household, stiff and uninvolved father George (David Tomlinson). He's the typical white-collar Brit so wonderfully lampooned by Monty Python, and we clearly see that his distance from the kids is a problem. Of course, it's solved by the end of the film, but what about the mother, Winifred (Glynis Johns)? She seems just as unconcerned about the children's needs and desires as is George. She's always running about promoting suffrage for women and appears perfectly content to let a staff of domestics run the household and raise her kids.

Obviously, Poppins won't survive on its story, so it has to live or die based on the quality of the performances and the many musical numbers. The cast falls into the “positive” category, as most are quite charming.

I don't know if Andrews deserved an Oscar for her work in the title role, but she's fairly convincing in what must have been a tough part. Not only was it her first film, but she also had to interact with a variety of special effects elements, and that’s always tough. Personally, I think the work done by actors in effects-intensive movies is underrated; no one takes them seriously, so they don't recognize how difficult it must be to interact with green screens and non-existent creatures.

Still, while Andrews is more than solid in the role, I just don't see her work as Oscar-worthy. I suppose it is nice to see recognition given to an actress in an unusual role - something the Academy did more frequently back in the old days - but Mary often seems like a supporting player in her own movie. So many other elements appear in this mishmash of songs and fantasy that her part feels somewhat incidental. Also, we see absolutely no development of the role. Mary starts as an authoritarian though oddly anarchic taskmistress and stays that way through the end.

Speaking of which, am I the only one who can't understand why everyone is so nuts about her? All the characters are simply mad about Mary, but she seems rather cold and distant most of the time. She's cute, to be sure, but she appears pretty stiff and disapproving.

In any case, the other actors are perfectly fine, with the possible exception of Dick Van Dyke as jack-of-all-trades and de facto narrator Bert. Van Dyke shows a wonderful physical presence in the role as he sings and dances with terrific gusto. Really, he blows away Andrews' reserved demeanor in the many scenes they share.

However, one problem remains: Van Dyke’s attempt at a British voice. Many Americans have trouble discerning the accuracy of British accents, but I don't think even the most ignorant toddlers bought Van Dyke's horrible attempt at a Cockney tone. Oh my, is it terrible! The voice sounds so bad it almost ruins the character. Van Dyke's physical talents are strong enough to make him acceptable, but this seems inadequate. With a more believable accent, Bert could have been a much more captivating character.

Between the weak plot and the generally good performances, my opinion of Poppins would seem stuck as a draw, but the reason I ultimately find it mildly entertaining stems from the musical numbers. On their own, they seem good, even for someone who dislikes the format. They demonstrate some real creativity and can become quite delightful. However, the sheer number of them overwhelms me, as it feels like almost no time passes in the film without yet another big production number.

I felt the same way as I watched Oliver!, another hugely successful musical from the era. I like Poppins much more than I care for that clunker, but the two share the same insane preponderance of production numbers.

While these tunes clearly maintain a strong attraction for some, I don't think they should ever exist in the place of more direct exposition and character development. The stories can move along through songs, but they usually don't attempt much in that vein. Showtunes normally occur to liven up the action and give the audience what they want.

Unfortunately this means that the plot often comes to a complete standstill as the actors sing and dance. Musicals clearly work by different rules, as anything that doesn't forward the plot in a standard movie is regarded as taboo. When you see deleted scenes on a DVD or a Blu-ray, the director often states that he really liked the material itself but that it didn't advance the story so it had to go.

If musicals followed that routine, there'd be nothing left to them, so I can accept the alteration of the normal plot-driven system. However, there can be too much of a good thing, and I think Poppins falls into that category. I suppose fans of musical numbers will love the material in this film, and even I must acknowledge that those scenes are very well-produced. I just wish there had either been fewer of them or the ones we find took less time.

Running time is one of the main criticisms leveled at Poppins, as 139 minutes is rather excessive for a kids' movie. I think the length would be just fine if we got more variety within the film, but as it stands, the picture does drag due to all of the musical numbers.

Despite my criticisms, I have to say that I often find Mary Poppins to be a fun and enjoyable film. It possesses enough charm and magic to make it watchable even for a bitter old man like myself. However, I honestly expect more from it than that. While it's something I'll likely screen again someday, I don't think it competes with most of Disney's animated films, most of which I prefer to this movie.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus A

Mary Poppins appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with an eminently pleasing presentation.

Sharpness usually appeared solidly defined; some wider images came across as a tad soft, but those instances appeared to relate to the source elements, as they almost always connected to scenes heavy steeped in visual effects. Overall accuracy looked strong, as the minor instances of softness didn’t distract.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and edge enhancement wasn’t an issue; whatever haloes I saw connected to the original photographic elements. I suspected no egregious digital noise reduction, as the movie came with natural grain, and it lacked any signs of specks, marks or other defects.

I felt the colors represented the original photography. Due to the form of film stock and the challenges of the photographic trickery, these hues seemed to reproduce the source material well; even with some variations, the tones tended to appear peppy and full. Black levels were good, with deep and rich tones. Shadow detail also seemed fine, with images that looked appropriately opaque without excessive heaviness. Even with the inevitable “flaws” related to the complex photography, I thought this was an impressive transfer.

For a film of its era, the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack of Mary Poppins succeeded well. The movie originally came with a stereo track – absent here, unfortunately - and this remix didn't do a lot to alter that configuration. Nonetheless, it added a little spark.

The soundfield remained mostly monaural except for the music, which spread moderately to all the channels. With so many production numbers, the songs dominated Poppins and the extra breadth provided from the 7.1 track helped make them more involving. Stereo spread in the front appeared vivid, and the other channels added a little pizzazz as well.

The most significant use of the side/rear channels occurred in scenes with Admiral Boom. His explosions and their aftermath brought the various speakers to life in a brief but convincing manner. Toward the end of the flick, as a fireworks barrage flew, the blasts and zooms did a good job of zipping past us and even displayed some split surround usage. Otherwise, a little ambient sound like wind came from the side/rears, but the effects and dialogue stayed largely centered.

The quality of the music was also a strong point. The tapes definitely showed their age - you won't mistake the recording for a recent one - but the songs seemed acceptably bright and crisp, and some instruments present moderate bass as well.

Dialogue appeared slightly flat but was intelligible and clear. Effects were also a bit thin at times but they maintained reasonable levels of accuracy and seemed clean, with occasional use of the lower range as well. Ultimately, this was a pretty strong soundtrack that appeared vivid despite the film's advancing age.

How did the Blu-ray compare with the45th Anniversary release? Audio was warmer and more natural, and the image appeared tighter, cleaner and more dynamic. This became a solid step up in quality.

The Blu-ray mixes new and old extras, and we open with an audio commentary from actors Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Karen Dotrice as well as with composers Robert and Richard Sherman. Actually, the piece expands past that roster and becomes somewhat complex. Here’s the rundown: Andrews and Van Dyke sat together for their own running, screen-specific chat, while Dotrice and Richard Sherman did the same at a slightly later time. Robert Sherman presents remarks recorded on his own in London, and we also get some archival tapes of Walt Disney, director Robert Stevenson, and conductor/music supervisor Irwin Kostal.

Before I listened to this commentary, I feared it’d be little more than mushy nostalgia. Happily, I was wrong. Sure, we get some of the old “wasn’t that great!” but mostly we learn a lot of fun tidbits about the movie. The commentary goes into subjects like casting and actor interaction, the development of the songs, working with all the various visual effects, and technical issues. In addition, we get many fun anecdotes as well.

The women really carry the day here, as they present the best information. Dotrice proves especially interesting as she provides her view from the perspective of a then-child. The archival clips also add a nice sense of history. I really like this entertaining and illuminating commentary.

“Music & More” provides Disney’s Song Selection. This basically acts as an alternate form of chapter menu. It lets you jump to any of the film’s eight song performances, and it also allows you to show on-screen lyrics.

Next comes a documentary called Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins. As usual, it mixes movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. In this 50-minute and 46-second program, we hear from Andrews, Van Dyke, Dotrice, Richard Sherman, Robert Sherman, author/film historian Brian Sibley, Disney animator Andreas Deja, author Valerie Lawson, cameraman Bob Broughton, artist/sculptor Blaine Gibson, visual effects artist Peter Ellenshaw, costume designer and design consultant Tony Walton, Disney producer Don Hahn, animator Frank Thomas, choreographers Dee Dee Wood and Mark Breaux, and actor Glynis Johns.

The project follows the movie’s path to the screen and Walt Disney’s involvement, the development of the script and the influence of author PL Travers, casting, technical concerns and effects, choreography, songs and music, reactions to the final result, and various anecdotes. The show summarizes the production pretty well. The addition of archival bits like tapes of author Travers and raw pre-effects footage helps. Overall, the show presents a tight and enjoyable recap of the flick’s creation.

A featurette called Movie Magic fills seven minutes and five seconds. It gives us a Disney Channel kid-oriented look at the flick’s effects. It’s not a bad clip, but it doesn’t tell us much we don’t hear in the other programs.

Under the title Deconstruction of a Scene, the next area breaks down two sequences: “Jolly Holiday” (13 minutes, three seconds) and “Step In Time” (4:52). Both of these depict raw photographic elements with other rough components and combine them to demonstrate how the filmmakers worked the effects. We already saw a lot of this in the documentary, but it’s nice to get it all in one place as well.

Next comes a one-minute, seven-second Dick Van Dyke Makeup Test. The actor narrates as we see stills and footage of Van Dyke in old age makeup as the senior Dawes. The section presents fun shots, and Van Dyke’s remarks add a little bit of useful information.

Two elements connected to The Gala World Premiere appear. We get “The Red Carpet” (17 minutes, 45 seconds) and “The Party” (6:23). The former shows the events in front of the theater at the Hollywood debut of Poppins, while the latter gives us images from the subsequent celebration. Both are quite entertaining, though “Carpet” gives us the more intriguing of the pair.

Within the “Publicity” domain, we mostly find a collection of trailers. Both the original teaser and theatrical promos appear along with one from 1966 and two from 1973. A 39-second Julie Andrews Premiere Greeting apparently was intended for regional debuts of the film; it’s an unusual clip in which she regretfully declines invitations to come to those events. Two original TV spots finish this area.

One deleted song appears, as we find a one-minute, 38-second clip for “Chimpanzoo”. No film footage shows up; instead, we hear Richard Sherman perform the tune while we look at storyboards. This offers a nice historical component, but it doesn’t seem like the song was a bad loss.

Two featurettes come under the “Music and More” banner. A Magical Musical Reunion partners Andrews, Van Dyke and Richard Sherman in a 17-minute and 19-second piece. They all sit around a piano while they chat and Sherman occasionally plays music. We learn a little about the inspiration for some songs, the working process between the Sherman brothers, sets, choreography, and impressions of Walt.

The general emphasis here is on anecdotal fun. The three reminisce and go over fun little experiences during the making of the film. It’s a lively and charming romp down memory lane.

Next we see A Musical Journey with Richard Sherman. It fills 19 minutes and 13 seconds as the composer chats about a mix of subjects. He lets us know about modified and unused concepts, and he also discusses techniques used to bring about the songs. We also see some outtakes and raw footage along with basic audio tracks. Robert Sherman pops up for a few remarks, but Richard dominates the program. By this point, I should be fed up of Sherman’s comments, but he pulls out some good new notes in this brisk and informative program. Its emphasis on the nuts and bolts of the musical elements makes it different and enjoyable.

A short based on the writings of PL Travers, The Cat That Looked at a King goes for nine minutes and 52 seconds. I wouldn’t call it a great cartoon, but it provides some fun. It’s also cool since this is probably the closest we’ll ever come to seeing Andrews play Poppins again.

All of the new extras come under the banner of “Disney on Broadway”. A featurette called Mary Poppins: From Page to Stage runs 48 minutes, six seconds and provides remarks from Richard Sherman, producer/Disney Theatrical Productions president Thomas Schumacher, producer Cameron Mackintosh, composer George Stiles, lyricist Anthony Drewe, scenic and costume designer Bob Crowley, and actors Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee. “Page” focuses entirely on the stage production. It looks at various aspects of that show’s creation and gives us a good look at it.

This means that we learn a fair amount about the stage musical, and I’m happy that the program doesn’t just act as a promotional piece. “Page” offers a reasonably deep glimpse of the issues that affected the adaptation, so it’s not just fluff. However, I don’t know how much it’ll do for movie fans who don’t care about the stage show. If you’re curious about the stage version, it’s a nice overview.

For a sample of the new show, we get the “Step In Time” Musical Number from Mary Poppins On Broadway. It lasts seven minutes, eight seconds and indeed offers what the title implies: after an intro from Stiles, we see an entire segment from the stage show. It gives potential viewers a decent teaser.

Two new components appear here. Becoming Mr. Sherman goes for 14 minutes, one second and ties to the Saving Mr. Banks bio-film. It offers a chat between Richard Sherman and actor Jason Schwartzman, as they discuss Sherman’s experiences during the making of Poppins and Schwartzman’s take on the character. This is mostly a reflection on Sherman’s work, so don’t expect to learn much about the movie but that’s fine, as we’ll get those details when Banks comes out on Blu-ray. “Becoming” is a puffy piece but it’s still fun to see Sherman interact with his on-screen alter ego.

Mary-Oke allows you to sing along with four of the movie’s songs: “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, “Step In Time” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee”. Rather than present film clips, these offer animated lyrics and we can croon with them. Unlike standard Karaoke,”Mary-Oke” retains the original vocals, so you’ll sing with the characters. I’m not sure why we can’t do this already and just sing as the movie runs, but I guess the unique visuals offer some variety.

The disc opens with ads for Saving Mr. Banks and The Jungle Book. Sneak Peeks adds promos for The Lion King stage production, and The Pirate Fairy.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Poppins. It includes the audio commentary, the pop-up facts, and “Disney’s Song Selection”. Since the Blu-ray omits it, I’m glad to get “Pop-Up Fun Facts”, as it offers a lot of useful details.

I found Mary Poppins to offer a moderately entertaining and fun experience, and it's a film that's maintained a very strong following for many decades. However, it just doesn't do a whole lot for me; I think it’s too long and it features far too many musical numbers. The Blu-ray delivers strong picture and audio along with an informative collection of bonus materials. Disney brings us Mary Poppins in its finest home video incarnation to date.

To rate this film visit 40th Anniversary Edition review of MARY POPPINS

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main