UltimateDisney.com's Top 30 Live Action Disney Movies Countdown
1. Mary Poppins (1964)

Many people who know my feelings about Mary Poppins have asked me how many times I have seen the film. My answer? I've lost count. A more appropriate question would be, how many times have I purchased Mary Poppins? Well, that would be six. Twice on VHS, three times on Laserdisc, and once on DVD. Each new incarnation having better quality and/or more features. In December Disney is expected to release a 2-disc special edition with an all-new digital transfer in anamorphic widescreen. You can bet I will be in line to purchase Mary Poppins for yet a seventh time! Why all the obsession? Quite simply, Mary Poppins is my favorite movie of all time.

While most aficionados would consider Pinocchio to be Walt's masterpiece of animation, Mary Poppins is considered to be his masterpiece of live action. And deservedly so. The movie garnered Julie Andrews an academy award for her first film role, although speculation has it that she won by sentiment, as Jack Warner had passed on casting her in the lead role of My Fair Lady because she wasn't a big enough star. So the academy decided to stick it to him and give her the Oscar for the movie she was in.

Let's start with the music. All of the songs were composed by the Sherman Brothers and they are all classics and completely memorable. From the jaunty "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "Jolly Holiday" to the haunting "Chim Chim-cheree" or the lullaby "Stay Awake" or my personal favorite the mesmerizing and cathedral-like "Feed the Birds", every song has a place in the movie that works to further the story. Moving on to the look of the picture, the film was set in London in 1910 so where do you think it was filmed? At the Disney studios in Hollywood of course. All of the London backdrops were created on glass paintings by Matte-artist Peter Ellenshaw and they are simply gorgeous. The paintings give the whole movie an enchanting, storybook feel. The color schemes of the movie are very rich, from the bright and dazzling colors of the animated sequences, to the subdued foggy back alleys when the children are lost in the city. The special effects of this movie are legendary. The Disney studio was top-dog it effects during the sixties. If today's children who are used to cgi effects where anything is possible, are not be impressed with the special effects then that's a real shame. The effects in this movie were done the old-fashioned way, with camera tricks and optical processes. Just check out the sequence where Mary, Bert, Uncle Albert and the children are having a tea-party while floating near the ceiling. Not a single wire is visible! And of course the blend of live-action and animation is flawless (this was Disney's specialty). Okay, I'll concede that the audio-animatronic bird that sat on Mary's finger and sang looked like something out of Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, and the jerkiness of the marching toy-soldiers was obviously stop-motion photography, but that's just two little quibbles. Like Mary herself, the movie is practically perfect in every way.

-Mark Probst

Mary Poppins, the name brings to mind all the musical magic that I first saw with my family as a child. From Mrs. Banks being introduced to us in the Sister Suffragette song to Mr. Banks entering in The Life I Lead. Jan & Michael Banks write their own advertisement for a new nanny as they are the only ones that would know what they are looking for in The Prefect Nanny. We then get to meet Mary Poppins played by the Academy Awards Winner for the part, Julie Andrews. She even sings "A Spoonful of Sugar" with a Disney exclusive audio-animatronic bird whistling on her finger.

When it is time for the children's outing in the park Mary runs into her old friend Bert (played by another Disney legend Dick Van Dyke). The children get to take a trip to a country fair while Bert and Mary enjoy a Jolly Holiday being serenaded by a group of musical fair animals, and then sit down for cakes and tea served by a quartet of penguins that almost out dance Bert. Bert and Mary then meet up with the children for a ride on the Merry Go Round which helps lead to Mary celebrating her winning the races in the timeless "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

Ed Wynn teaches the children why I Love to Laugh by sharing a tea party with them on the ceiling, which everyone enjoys until Mr. Banks hear about it. Mary then talks Mr. Banks into taking the children to his office at the local bank for an outing with father. We then enjoy "Feed the Birds," which is said to have been one of Walt's favorite songs. Mr. Dawes Sr., Mr. Bank's boss, helps to try to teach the children why they should invest their money in The Fidelity Fiduciary Bank. Bert explains his job as a chimney sweep to the children in "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and then shows the children a whole new side of the city of London by dancing across the rooftops of London in a "Step in Time."

The movie then concludes with the family all together as they decide to "Let's Go Fly a Kite."

I will always love this movie for all the musical magic that has endured for 40 years.

-Jeff Schilling

"Winds in the East, mist coming in, like something is brewing, about to begin. Can't put me finger on what lies in store, but I feel what's to happen all happened before." Approximately 40 years after its' debut, now matter how many times I have viewed Mary Poppins, whether it is on the big screen or on the television screen, I never tire of watching with amazement and awe this spectacular 140 minute Jolly Holiday of movie magic that sails into my view. As the character, Mary Poppins, states in the motion picture, "a thing of beauty is a joy forever", and for my tuppence, Mary Poppins is the best live action film of all time.

Known by many as "Walt Disney's crowning achievement", this is a tale of the Banks family, set in the year, 1910, at the residence of 17 Cherry Tree Lane, London, England. George W. Banks (played with perfection by David Tomlinson) is the 2nd Vice President of the Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank. The life he leads at home is that of a stern disciplinarian and lord of his castle, who is as stingy with his finances as he is with his affections towards his family. Mr. Banks feels "A British bank is run with precision. A British home requires nothing less! Tradition, discipline and rules must be the tools. Without them, disorder...catastrophe...anarchy. In short you have a ghastly mess!". Winifred Banks (a dauntless performance by Glyins Johns), along with being a wife and mother, has focused most of her attention to serving as a suffragette, desiring most to cast off the shackles of a meek and subservient female role. Falling in the shadows of their parents' individual obsessions are Jane and Michael Banks (adoringly acted by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber). Jane (who is "rather inclined to giggles" and "doesn't put things away") and Michael (described as an "extremely stubborn and suspicious" boy) have a habit of getting into rambunctious antics, which often leaves a vacancy in the position of the children's nanny.

Blowing into their lives and the "choice position" of the Banks' nanny is the title character of Mary Poppins (played to Golden Globe and Oscar award-winning practical perfection by Julie Andrews), who has a knack for putting an element of fun in every job that must be done and making each day a new adventure. Later on in the film, we realize that Ms. Poppins' role was really not to raise the children but to teach the parents to be attentive and loving towards their family members. As Mary states in the movie, "sometimes a person, through no fault of his own, can't see past the end of his nose." Mary Poppins teaches a lesson in the responsibility and accountability of rearing your own children, that is as valid today as it was in 1910 or 1964. Serving as a friend and as a substitute attentive father figure for Jane & Michael is Bert (Dick Van Dyke in this Golden Globe nominated performance), a jack of all trades (chimney sweep, screener and one man band), who "does what (he) likes and likes what (he) do." Bert appears to be a happy man without the full-time employment that "grinds, grinds, grinds at that grindstone," in contrast to Mr. Banks, who although a financial success, does not appear to be able to relax and enjoy life outside of the world of the "cold heartless bank," where George is emotionally trapped inside "a cage surrounded by cold heartless money." It is through Bert & Mary's guidance that a character's emotional rebirth is encouraged. This is apparent in the ever-changing lyrics of the original song, The Life I Lead, to its musical transference in A British Bank to its' lyrical rebirth in A Man Has Dreams.

The manner is which this film encourages creativity through your imagination is obvious to many a "bloke." From jumping into the fantasy world of a sidewalk chalk painting to cleaning a room with the snap of a finger to riding carrousel horses down a race track & in a fox hunt to sliding up & across a staircase banister to a chorus of barnyard animals to dancing with penguin waiters or to turtle transportation, vivid dreams are supported.

Symbolism that happiness is "up in the atmosphere, up where the air is clear" comes across. Whether it is laughing at a tea party held near the ceiling or viewing a sunset & skyline on the rooftops (where "a trackless jungle" is "just waiting to be explored") or climbing a staircase of exhaust to view "the whole world at your feet only seen by the birds, stars and chimney sweeps", up off the ground seems to be the place of sheer joy. So, "Come along. Spit spot!", a journey to happiness can be the ultimate destination, whether you are arriving by the flight of an umbrella or a chimney broom or "holding tight to the string of your kite."

Although the character of Mary Poppins has been described as such, it is this film which is "practically perfect in every way"! This is apparent in the entire acting ensemble, direction, production, music and visual presentation. Along with the lead actors already previously mentioned, Elsa Lanchester (Katie Nanna), Arthur Treacher (Constable Jones), Reginald Owen (Admiral Boom), Ed Wynn (Uncle Albert), Jane Darwell (the Bird Woman), Arthur Malet (Mr. Dawes) and Hermoine Baddeley & Reta Shaw (the Banks' domestic help) fill the cast of actors to perfection. Bill Walsh has, once again, co-produced and co-written another Disney masterpiece.

In 1964, Mary Poppins received 13 Academy Award nominations, the most of any film during that time period. Among its' nominations were Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Stevenson), Best Writing, Best Color Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Sound. Mary Poppins was awarded five Oscars, which were presented for Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Musical Score (Robert Sherman & Richard Sherman) and Best Original Song "Chim Chim Cher-ee" (Robert Sherman & Richard Sherman).

The music and lyrics of Mary Poppins is "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"! Along with the previously mentioned songs, Sister Suffragette, The Perfect Nanny, A Spoonful of Sugar, Jolly Holiday, I Love To Laugh, Stay Awake and Let's Go Fly A Kite are among the many tunes that make this film an unforgettable experience. Feed The Birds was known to be a personal favorite of Walt Disney himself, as it also is one of mine.

At the present time, a Gold Collection Edition of Mary Poppins is available in the DVD format. However, "if you invest your tuppence wisely in the bank, safe and sound, soon that tuppence, safely invested in the bank will compound" and you'll be able to purchase a special 40th Anniversary two disk Masterpiece Edition of Mary Poppins in December 2004.

Taking into account that I was born in 1964, two months before the grand premiere of Mary Poppins, I sometimes wondered if this influenced the special significance that this movie has held in my personal life. My mother has told tales of my father accompanying my older brother 40 years ago to numerous viewings of this motion picture at the movie theater. Now on video and DVD, this is a favorite film that my adult brother is now sharing, years later, with his toddler son and daughter. The Hollywood community obviously felt a great appreciation of this movie, by bestowing on it many awards and award nominations (including Disney's first Academy Award Best Picture nomination). Thus, it appears, my love of Mary Poppins is not due to its' debut two months after my birth, but more so in that everything that is "practically perfect in every way" occurred in 1964. While this last pompous statement has me currently laughing and floating in midair, this motion picture is truly considered by some (including me) as the best and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious live-action film of all time. So spend "a copper or two" and add this "thing of beauty (that) is a joy forever" to your DVD library to make everyday a Jolly Holiday in your life.

-Jeff Miller (SillyOldBear)

This film is often cited as an intriguing blend of live action and animation. But Disney had been coupling live action and animation all the way back to the mid-1920s with the Alice shorts he produced in Kansas and later in Los Angeles. One of his earliest live action features, So Dear to my Heart, also capitalizes on this combination. (Little known fact: So Dear to My Heart is loosely based on Walt Disney's childhood in the midwest.) Mary Poppins is also often compared to the panoply of large scale Disney musicals, such as The Happiest Millionaire and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

But what sets Mary Poppins apart from these other films is how well it uses these elements--live action, animation, music--to tell a tightly-drawn story. Unlike The Happiest Millionaire, where the plot literally stops for the insertion of musical numbers, Mary Poppins uses its musical numbers to effectively develop characters and to further the plot. Beneath the surface, the film is about characters who yearn to have closer relationships and who desperately want to be respected. Ironically it is the nanny--a domestic figure who should have little knowledge of such things--who ultimately teaches the Banks family how to be closer and to be respected despite the roles in society they feel obligated to play.

Walt's movies at their best combine sharply plotted stories, music and technology. That aspect of technology is often overlooked in discussions of Disney films: Mickey Mouse was an early success in large part due to the addition of sound; the 1932 Silly Symphonies revived their popularity with three-strip technocolor; Snow White was a stunning success because it was not only the first full-length animated feature, but also because how realistically the drawings mimicked real life (there were very few human characters in Disney shorts before Snow White) and because of the realism provided by the multi-plane camera.

Like these other milestones, Mary Poppins uses technology to develop its story: animation seamlessly combined with (with early animator Ub Iwrek's help) with live action, Ellenshaw's gorgeous matte paintings and even an early audioanimatronic figure. (Look for it in the "Spoonful" number.)

The performances are also stunning: Ed Wynn is allowed to bring some of the madness of his Mad Hatter to live action; David Tomlinson, who is often allowed more comic movement than in other Disney films, is superb in a dramatic role; Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke are perfectly cast as happy, yet mostly poor and unnoticed because of their stations in life, against the Banks family, who is wealthy but mostly unhappy. If I were to own one live action Disney film, this would be it.

-Todd Pierce (Englishboy)

Mary Poppins is Walt Disney's personal crown jewel. Here was a movie that garnered thirteen Oscar nominations and it combined Disney's own technique of blending animation and live action. For Disney, this was proof that he was accepted in Holllywood as a major player, not only reserved for the short films and music categories. The movie was an astounding success. Ultimately, it is a movie that audiences around the world have come to love and cherish.

The story, adapted from the works of P.L. Travers, is about a nanny named Mary Poppins who makes a profound difference in the lives of the Banks family, as well as everyone else around her. Mary's cheerfulness and serious humor really makes the story rise above average Hollywood (and Disney) fare. Sure, Mary can fly with her umbrella and make paintings come to life, but it is her great advice (and wonderful singing by Julie Andrews) that makes her one-of-a-kind. Once songs like "Chim Chim Cher-ee" or "Let's Go Fly a Kite" come to my head, it is very hard for them to leave. The ending still brings tears to my eyes. Everything in Mary Poppins is great, from the acting, the writing, the songs, the special effects, the music, and many other technical aspects. Mary Poppins truly is practically perfect in every way.

-Rodney Figueiredo

From the first notes of the Overture, to the final moments of Mary flying away in the skies over London, this film is one of the most amazing experiences ever to be had in the world of entertainment. It's one of those rare happenings in time, just like The Wizard of Oz, when perfection in all areas of the production was combined with a perfect cast of actors. A brilliant combination of an inspired story, haunting songs, beautiful production design down to the finest detail, and at the center of it all, at it's very heart is the dazzling Julie Andrews. She is sheer perfection as Mary Poppins. In the role she is a mixture of wisdom, strength, beauty, propriety, and rebellion always just beneath her surface. Julie has a quality and talent that is just about indescribable.

Mary Poppins is an artistic miracle. It's a film that works for adults and children alike. It continues to be, for me and so many others, a highlighted experience of childhood and beyond. My heart is forever imbedded with memories of colored chalk puddles in the rain, a beautiful Nanny powdering her nose on a cloud, and the strains of "Feed The Birds" and "Chim Chim Cheree". Thank you, Walt Disney, and thank you, Mary Poppins.

-Chris Tassin

How can I possibly describe Mary Poppins better than it describes itself? It’s a supercalifragilisticexpialido-cious masterpiece of pure fun and entertainment! When you watch it, “you feel so grand that your heart starts beating like a big brass band.” You’ve gone on “a jolly holiday with Mary” to a world full of magic, laughter, and childlike innocence, and the trip is irresistibly fun. Watching it tonight for the first time in years, I couldn’t stop smiling and didn’t even try to resist the temptation to sing along with the wonderfully catchy, addictive songs. This is a wonderful movie that has rightly earned its place as a family film staple that no child should miss, and since this is one of the few titles that Disney has never taken out of print, no one ever will. In a single sentence: ”No wonder that it’s Mary that we love!”

-Jake Lipson

DVD Details
Mary Poppins has already been given two DVD releases, but the third one is the real charm. The 2-Disc 40th Anniversary Edition presents the film, remastered in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 Enhanced Home Theater Remix. New bonus features include audio commentary with Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Karen Dotrice, and songwriter Richard Sherman, an animated short based on a P.L. Travers story, pop-up fun facts, the deleted song "Chimpanzoo", a 50-minute making-of documentary, a game, trailers, a makeup test with Dick Van Dyke, galleries, musical reunions, and much more. It may be perhaps Disney's finest DVD release for a live action film, and quite the right film to select for that treatment.
Buy Mary Poppins (2-Disc 40th Anniversary Edition)
UltimateDisney.com's Mary Poppins: 40th Anniversary Edition DVD Review
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