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Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

Mary Poppins (1964) movie poster Mary Poppins

Theatrical Release: August 29, 1964 (limited) / Running Time: 139 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Robert Stevenson / Writers: Bill Walsh, Don Da Gradi (screenplay); P.L. Travers (books)

Cast: Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins), Dick Van Dyke (Bert, Mr. Dawes Senior), David Tomlinson (Mr. George Banks), Glynis Johns (Mrs. Winifred Banks), Hermione Baddeley (Ellen), Reta Shaw (Mrs. Clara Brill), Karen Dotrice (Jane Banks), Matthew Garber (Michael Banks), Elsa Lanchester (Katie Nanna), Arthur Treacher (The Constable), Reginald Owen (Admiral Boom), Ed Wynn (Uncle Albert), Jane Darwell (The Bird Woman), Arthur Malet (Mr. Dawes Junior), James Logan (Citizen), Don Barclay (Mr. Binnacle), Alma Lawton (Mrs. Corry), Marjorie Eaton (Miss Persimmon), Marjorie Bennett (Miss Lark)

Songs: "Sister Suffragette", "The Life I Lead", "The Perfect Nanny", "A Spoonful of Sugar", "Jolly Holiday", "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", "Stay Awake", "I Love to Laugh", "Feed the Birds", "The Fidelity Fiduciary Bank", "Chim Chim Cher-ee", "Step in Time", "A Man Has Dreams", "Let's Go Fly a Kite"

Buy Mary Poppins from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy DVD + Digital Copy Instant Video
Past DVD Releases: 2-Disc 45th Anniversary Edition DVD 2-Disc 40th Anniversary Edition DVD Gold Classic Collection DVD Original DVD

Mary Poppins is widely considered one of the greatest family films of all time. Among films designated as such, this 1964 Disney musical differs in numerous ways. First off, it is a live-action film. Animation features in an extended central sequence, but the film primarily deals in our world. This world is occupied chiefly by humans;
talking animals are few, while friendly extraterrestrials, villains, and fantastical beings, apart from the magical titular nanny, are non-existent. The film bucks conventional thinking in terms of family film composition. It is set in the past and outside of America. The 139-minute runtime makes it nearly twice as long as the animated films of its time. There are concepts -- the women's suffrage moment, bank runs -- that will float right over the heads of young viewers. All of that makes it the rare family film that is decidedly more appreciated by adults than children.

More commonly, great family films are either esteemed equally by viewers of all ages or give children their greatest joy. The former scenario makes evergreen classics out of films like The Wizard of Oz and Toy Story. In the case of the latter, rosy memories arm young fans against the cynicism and criticism that comes with age; the cheerful nostalgia for one's youth may prompt a parent to overlook some flaws as they share their old childhood love with a new generation.

Mary Poppins follows a different path. It's clearly kid-appropriate fare whose enduring popularity and critical acclaim make it more or less must-see viewing for any child who derives and pleasure from watching movies. Viewed at a young age by those seasoned on modern entertainment, the film could easily be seen as overlong, sad, dark, confusing, scary, or dreary. Even given such labels, though, the film provides enough assorted magic (musical, visual, and dramatic) to capture even the most restless child's attention and to make a lasting impression. When that same child comes around to give the movie another viewing, presumably with more maturity and context, they will likely discover much of value they previously missed as well as being better able to appreciate the considerable artistry and innovation on display.

Michael (Matthew Garber) and Jane Banks (Karen Dotrice) are shocked to find the wind blowing in their umbrella-wielding new nanny. Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) is the only applicant to fill the Banks' nanny opening.

This week, Disney celebrates Mary Poppins' golden anniversary a year early. Despite the premature observation, the timing couldn't be better. This film, one of the studio's crown jewels, makes its Blu-ray debut at a time when the 7-year-old format seems as prominent as it will ever be.
It may not be close to rivaling sales at the height of the DVD boom, but Blu-ray combo packs are ubiquitous and players have become an affordable and logical addition or replacement to homes with increasingly commonplace high definition televisions. A year from now, the home video climate won't be terribly different and, frankly, a movie like Mary Poppins would sell incredibly well any year in which it is released two weeks before Christmas.

What makes this December the right December is Saving Mr. Banks, Disney's film dramatizing the creation of Mary Poppins, an experience marked by clashes between the studio and author P.L. Travers. The film, my finished full review of which I'm eager to share, has an excellent shot of becoming the first Disney-branded live action film to compete for the Academy Award for Best Picture since Mary Poppins. Though partly fictionalized and somewhat calculated for optimal prestige, Saving pulls the curtain back on the practically perfect film to reveal a production marked by tumult and uncertainty. Starring Emma Thompson as Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, it is a film that inspires, enhances, and rewards a fresh viewing of Mary Poppins.

As for Mary Poppins, I'm making a concerted effort not to gush at length about it. That's partly because I've already done that twice for the film's 40th and 45th Anniversary Edition DVDs. The other reason is because it's December, a month that finds me busy trying to stay afloat in a sea of holiday season discs and award contender screeners/screenings while hanging on to just enough sanity to enjoy the Christmas season I love. So, here goes my attempt at speedy synopsis and analysis.

In 1910 London, the Banks family can't seem to hold on to a nanny, as children Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) keep running off on whims. Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson), a hard-working banker, drafts a cold classified ad looking for a new nanny. The first, and thanks to a gust of wind, only respondent is Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews), a no-nonsense woman who's actually responding to the children's own rhyming job description. Mary Poppins gets the kids to clean up their home, take their medicine, and go to bed at a reasonable hour. She also treats them to the most excitement of their lives, bringing them on adventures with her multi-talented street artist friend Bert (Dick Van Dyke). In her brief time overseeing the children, Mary Poppins changes the Banks family's lives in extraordinary ways.

Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) and her friend Bert (Dick Van Dyke) are delighted to be waited on by penguins on their trip inside a chalk drawing.

As someone who has seen most of Disney's live action films, it's tough to dispute that Mary Poppins is the best of its kind. Others perhaps lend to more frequent or more focused revisitation. Others are more readily enjoyed by children. But Mary Poppins is pretty much a complete package, exemplifying Walt Disney's entertainment empire with its winning blend of music, magic, comedy, and heart. One moment, the film is whimsical and vivacious. Another, it's poignant and heartbreaking. It runs that emotional gamut, from chaotic opening to bittersweet ending, from spirited playfulness to sobering prioritization, without a false note, wrong turn, or forced transition.

Despite all the fussing that went on behind the scenes, Travers' imaginative children's novels lend perfectly to the Disney family film mold. The 1960s were a productive and lucrative decade for live action Disney films and this represents the finest hour of numerous repeat collaborators. They include Robert Stevenson, a man who directed many of Disney's best live-action classics (among them, Old Yeller, Darby O'Gill and the Little People, and That Darn Cat!); screenwriters Bill Walsh (The Shaggy Dog, The Love Bug) and Don DaGradi (who came over from animation layout and coloring after working on Lady and the Tramp's script).

It isn't possible to overstate the importance of the cast. In her first film role, Julie Andrews is perfectly at ease. Her Oscar win for Best Actress may have taken into account that she was passed up for My Fair Lady, with Audrey Hepburn filling the role Andrews originated in the long-running, Tony-winning Broadway musical. But Andrews' tour-de-force performance is one for the ages. (Not to mention, Poppins is superior to the otherwise more decorated Lady in just about every level.) Van Dyke gets some flak for his Cockney accent, but his charm carries the movie far (his make-up-aided disappearance in a secondary role also impresses heartily). Dotrice and Garber, whose film careers didn't extend much further than this, are the rare child actors who seem cute and vulnerable without trying. Though easy to take for granted, Tomlinson is kind of the soul of the picture, a fact that Saving promotes. Supporting parts, from the always lively Ed Wynn to the spunky Glynis Johns to future fish & chips franchiser Arthur Treacher as the constable, all add a little something special while remaining on the same page.

Winifred (Glynis Johns) and George Banks (David Tomlinson) find joy by flying kites with their children in the film's bittersweet ending.

Finally, one must mention the songs of Richard and Robert Sherman, brothers who have rightfully been celebrated in recent years. Their Mary Poppins compositions rank among the most delightful of their many contributions to Disney films and parks. Their two Oscar wins bring the film to a total of five, which is fewer than deserved of such a technical and cinematic feast nominated for 13, but more than any other individual Disney film has ever won.

And since you already know all about this and can consult my 40th and 45th Anniversary Edition DVD reviews for more on the film, I now invite you to read on specifically about this 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack.

Watch a clip from Mary Poppins:

Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.66:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English); Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled and Captioned
Release Date: December 10, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (1 BD-50 & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD + Digital Copy ($29.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video Previously released as 2-Disc 45th Anniversary Edition DVD (January 27, 2009), 2-Disc 40th Anniversary Edition DVD (December 14, 2004) Gold Classic Collection DVD (July 4, 2000) and Original DVD (March 25, 1998)

VIDEO and AUDIO

For many, the main attraction of this release will be the feature presentation, Mary Poppins' first in 1080p. The 1.66:1 transfer does not disappoint in the slightest. Mary Poppins still looks like a 1960s film, but without the age or limitations. The picture stays clean, sharp, and vibrant at all times, but never looks overly scrubbed or digitally enhanced.
Basically, it should delight both purists and those simply wanting the best picture quality possible. The delightful video leaves no perceptible room for improvement on this format. The probably inevitable only disappointment to the presentation is that the improved visuals make it easier to spot the seams on effects shots, dummies used for various stunts, and the edge of the bald cap Van Dyke wears as Mr. Dawes Sr. Bonus points: the Blu-ray even retains the Buena Vista logo the film with which the film originally opened.

The film's original English soundtrack is presented in three different ways. The default is a 7.1 DTS-HD master audio mix, which most will opt for and appreciate. Others may object to the extreme way in which the recordings are reworked to spread the soundfield. But the sound is as crisp, clear, and full as it's ever been. Those wanting something more faithful to original theatrical exhibition may choose to listen to the Dolby 2.0 Surround mix. Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks are also supplied in English, French, and Spanish.

Jason Schwartzman chats with Richard Sherman, the man he portrays in "Saving Mr. Banks." Mary-oke presents song lyrics to "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and three other songs in creative fashion.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

This Blu-ray doesn't add much in the way of bonus features, but it does manage to retain most of the supplemental slate that made Mary Poppins one of Disney's most loaded two-disc DVD sets.

The most significant addition is "Becoming Mr. Sherman" (14:01, HD), a conversation between Jason Schwartzman and Richard Sherman, the songwriter he portrays in Saving Mr. Banks.
Schwartzman expresses interest and admiration in Sherman, who in turn voices his appreciation for the film, among whose subjects he is the only survivor. Though promotional and more pertinent to Saving, whose release it also should accompany, there is evident value in this featurette, which tackily concludes with a trailer for Saving.

The other new inclusion is Mary-oke, a variation on the old sing-along consisting of creative shorts that animate song lyrics. Four songs are treated to this format (7:58): "Spoonful of Sugar", "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", "Step in Time", and "Chim Chim Cher-ee." Though they are animated in full high definition, these shorts only feature Dolby 2.0 surround sound. Comparable to the feature introduced on The Muppet Movie, these shorts are not, however, incorporated into a Disney Intermission feature during paused playback of the movie.

Watch a clip from "Mary-oke":

Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins) and Gavin Lee (Bert) talk Broadway's "Mary Poppins" at the famed Sardi's. This "Step in Time" performance still serves to promote the traveling versions of the closed Broadway musical from which it hails.

The remaining extras, recycled from DVD, fall under the header Classic Bonus Features and are presented in standard definition.

First, Disney on Broadway houses the 2009 documentary "Mary Poppins From Page to Stage" (48:06), which serves to promote the recently closed Broadway show with surprisingly substantial insight from the people behind it. There's a conversation between the show's leads and producer Thomas Schumacher at the famed restaurant Sardi's and plenty of behind-the-scenes looks and comments from the likes of Cameron Mackintosh and Richard Sherman.

The same section also gives us a professionally filmed presentation of the stage musical's "Step in Time" (7:08) sequence, introduced by composer George Stiles.

Karen Dotrice is among the cast members looking back at the film in a 2004 making-of documentary. Dick Van Dyke, Julie Andrews, and Walt Disney are interviewed at Mary Poppins' Gala World Premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theater.

Backstage Disney holds the bulk of content, starting with 2004's "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins" (50:46), a comprehensive 2004 documentary hosted by Dick Van Dyke. Covering all pertinent bases from securing the book rights and casting to the visual effects, singing and dancing to the big glitzy premiere, it gathers reflections from an assortment of cast members, the Sherman Brothers, crew members, historians, and contemporary Disney filmmakers. The piece benefits from the use of production photos and an assortment of archival video.

"The Gala World Premiere" (17:45) preserves footage from the film's lavish debut at Grauman's Chinese Theater. Cast members and celebrity guests' red carpet arrivals and staged interviews are presented mostly in color with radio audio from the event.

Resurfacing from the 40th Anniversary Edition DVD, "The Gala World Premiere Party" (6:23) serves up more from the premiere with guests sharing their enthusiastic reactions to the just-screened film in radio audio set to unsynchronized color footage from earlier in the night.

"Jolly Holiday" doesn't look all that jolly before the animation is added. Trailers from over the years celebrate "Mary Poppins" as Walt Disney's greatest achievement.

"The Movie Magic of Mary Poppins" (7:05) celebrates the film's visual effects, talking audio-animatronics, stop-motion, and sodium nitrate in an early 21st century, kid-oriented fashion.

Also back after a 45th Anniversary DVD absence, two "Deconstruction of a Scene" featurettes deconstruct the visual effects of scenes. "Jolly Holiday" (13:03) and "Step in Time" (4:52) are treated to comparisons between the black soundstage footage and the finished product with animation added. They're not terribly exciting, but this content has its value.

A brief Dick Van Dyke make-up test (1:07) shows the actor trying out his aged look as Mr. Dawes, Sr. with commentary on it.

A rare and wonderful Publicity section holds a teaser (2:54) and trailer (4:14) from the original 1964 release, Julie Andrews' video greeting (0:39) regretfully turning down appearing at the film's local US premieres from the set of Hawaii, two 30-second TV spots, and three reissue trailers from 1966 (1:02) and 1973 (1:12 & 1:02). A "Play All" option would have been nice.

A nearly 70-year-old Julie Andrews and a nearly 80-year-old Dick Van Dyke enjoy "A Magical Musical Reunion" in 2004. We get a look at what the deleted song "Chimpanzoo" would have offered.

The Music & More section opens with 2004's "A Magical Musical Reunion" (17:19) which assembles Andrews, Van Dyke, and Richard Sherman around a piano for warm retrospection and some singing of songs used and unused in the film.

Also there is the short deleted song "Chimpanzoo" (1:38), written for Mary Poppins, which Sherman sings and plays on piano while storyboards and concept art give us a taste of what this animal-filled zoo sequence might have looked like.

Disney Song Selection provides access to eight songs from the movie with plain song lyric subtitles above them. "Play All" (32:55) gives you an all-musical version of the film, while there is also the option to watch the entire movie and have the same lyric subtitles play over these songs and the ones oddly not listed in this section.

Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) leads two new youths into a chalk drawing in "The Cat That Looked at a King." You'll have to pop in the DVD to watch the movie with Poppins Pop-Up Fun Facts over it.

The partly animated 2004 short The Cat That Looked at a King (9:52) adapts another P.L. Travers story, with Julie Andrews briefly reprising her role as Mary Poppins. She takes two kids inside a chalk drawing where a cat outsmarts an arrogant king who thinks he knows everything with riddles. Cheaply produced as this was, it really ought to have made the leap to high definition.

Finally, we get 2004's audio commentary featuring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke; actress Karen Dotrice and songwriter Richard Sherman; and songwriter Robert Sherman. That's how the five were recorded,
but the three separate sessions are capably melded, with the actors and Richard doing the bulk of the talking. They're all audibly enamored with the film in this funny, exciting track, which also includes scattered archival clips from Andrews, Van Dyke, Walt Disney, director Robert Stevenson, and conductor Irwin Kostal. Fascinating stories emerge from all, and Andrews and Van Dyke's upbeat reflections are especially sweet.

It's no news that, since adopting Blu-ray, Disney has increasingly been treating DVD like a second-class product. That continues again here, with the new DVD -- which is also sold separately but no longer as a 2-disc set -- only includes Disney's Song Selection, the audio commentary, and "Poppins Pop-Up Fun Facts." The lattermost, a recycled DVD exclusive, dispenses with facts relating to what's onscreen in a pretty graphic subtitle track.

The discs open with trailers for Saving Mr. Banks (of course) and The Jungle Book: Diamond Edition, followed by an applicable Pinocchio anti-smoking spot. The menus' Sneak Peeks listing add ads for Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Parks, Broadway's The Lion King, and The Pirate Fairy, before repeating the others.

WHAT'S MISSING?

Unsurprisingly but disappointingly, the Blu-ray loses substantial art galleries (for both the Broadway play and the film), and an MP3 of Broadway's "Step in Time." It also fails to convert "Poppins Pop-Up Fun Facts", which stay a DVD-exclusive.

Previously dropped and not resurfacing from the 40th Anniversary Edition DVD is the set-top game "I Love to Laugh."

Included on the film's Gold Collection DVD and none since then are a trivia game, a slightly different trailer, the mostly superseded 1964 featurette "Hollywood Goes to a Premiere", and, most significantly, the 17-minute 1997 making-of piece "Practically Perfect in Every Way: The Magic Behind the Masterpiece", hosted by a mustachioed Dick Van Dyke.

Extras found on the film's laserdiscs but never since include "Jolly Holiday" storyboards and an isolated score.

Finally, though the file is on the Blu-ray, there doesn't seem to be any easy way to access "A Musical Journey with Richard Sherman" (20:50), which takes us on a fun virtual tour of the film's settings while telling us all about numbers and melodies that were penned for the film, a number of which didn't make it into the final product. In addition to Sherman's information, we get some great behind-the-scenes footage here. The piece concludes with the "Chimpanzoo", which is available from its own menu listing.

The Blu-ray's main menu has Mary Poppins sitting on a cloud above an animated matte painting of 1910 London. Whereas the recycled DVD main menu places her above cartoonish kites.

MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's menu sees Mary Poppins touching up her makeup sitting on a cloud while an instrumental of "Feed the Birds" plays. The DVD's comparable main menu is recycled from the 45th Anniversary DVD. The Blu-ray remembers where unfinished playback left off but does not resume.

Sadly, the set does not include a movie ticket for Saving Mr. Banks, as logical a tie-in as that would seem to be. Topped by an embossed, reflective slipcover (that assigns one spine to Mary and the other to Bert), the side-snapped blue keepcase holds the two plainly-labeled discs along with a Disney Movie Club ad and a booklet with your combination Disney Movie Rewards/digital copy code.

Mary Poppins (or a dummy standing in for her) comes flying over to Number 17 on London's Cherry Tree Lane.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Mary Poppins remains a landmark film whose great ambition yielded dazzling results and whose music, visuals, characters, and story stand among cinema's finest. Few will need encouragement to acquire a film of this caliber on every format it's released. Though it doesn't offer much in the way of new bonus features, Disney's slightly premature 50th anniversary Blu-ray combo pack still triumphs on a fantastic feature presentation and a strong collection of recycled DVD extras. Repeat buyers, meanwhile, may want to hold on to one of the two-disc DVD editions, each of which has bonus materials contents that fail to make the cut here.

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Blu-ray Combo / New DVD + Digital Copy / Instant Video / 45th Anniversary DVD /
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Related Reviews:
Julie Andrews: The Princess Diaries The Sound of Music | Dick Van Dyke: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Never a Dull Moment
David Tomlinson: Bedknobs and Broomsticks The Love Bug | Dotrice & Garber: The Three Lives of Thomasina The Gnome-Mobile
1960s on Blu-ray: Oliver! Babes in Toyland The Sword in the Stone Funny Girl Gypsy Mad Monster Party
Musicals on Blu-ray: The Little Mermaid The Muppet Christmas Carol Pete's Dragon Annie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Newsies
Directed by Robert Stevenson: Old Yeller Darby O'Gill and the Little People That Darn Cat! | Written by Don DaGradi: Lady and the Tramp
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story Sing Along Songs: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - I Love to Laugh

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Reviewed December 11, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1964 Buena Vista and 2013 Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.
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