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