Creator Backlash: P.L. Travers called the second chapter of the first book, "The Day Out", the worst Mary Poppins story she ever wrote. (For people who haven't read the book: Take the "Jolly Holiday" scene of the movie, remove Jane, Michael, the talking animals, and the horse race, and replace the penguin waiters with a human waiter, and you'll have an idea of how "The Day Out" goes.) Incidentally, this was the first Mary Poppins story - an earlier version, "Mary Poppins and the Match-Man," was published as a short story in 1926.
The 1934 version of the first book has gone out of print, meaning that fans who want to read the unedited version of "Bad Tuesday" have to hunt down an old copy, keeping in mind that there was a good reason Travers felt like she had to edit it herself.
The individual editions of Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane and Mary Poppins and the House Next Door have also gone out of print. The 2010 omnibus Mary Poppins: The Complete Collectionnote Which actually only has six of the eight books, skipping Mary Poppins From A to Z and Mary Poppins in the Kitchen has those two stories, albeit with either most or all of their pictures removed.
The character of Mr. Banks is based on the author's own father, Travers Goff.
Mary Poppins herself was based on Travers' Great Aunt Ellie (Helen Morehead).
The Disney movie
Ability over Appearance: Uncle Albert was originally written as having a Viennese accent. Ed Wynn, however, didn't attempt the accent—or even an English accent, for that matter. He was just himself, ad-libbing many of the lines he says while laughing on the ceiling in the "I Love to Laugh" scene.
"The Land of Sand" brought Mary Poppins and the children to a desert. The melody was recycled for "Trust in Me" from The Jungle Book.
"The Beautiful Briny Sea" had Mary and the children travel underwater. The song was finally used in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
"Chimpanzoo" told of a place in which animals could watch humans misbehave inside cages; it's inspired by the "Full Moon" chapter of the original book. The tune became used for a song in Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland.
A song about Admiral Boom was written for the film. Although the song does not appear in the film, the music can be heard in the score.
Development Hell: Walt Disney had first considered making a live-action adaptation of Mary Poppins as early as 1938, but P.L. Travers didn't think it could do justice for her books, mainly because Disney hadn't done any live-action films at the time.
Disowned Adaptation: P.L. Travers absolutely hated the film, due to its changing of several elements of her original stories and the inclusion of the animated sequence. So much so, that at the premiere, she approached Walt Disney before its first screening, demanding the sequence be removed. Disney refused, and later, when the film had concluded, Travers broke down crying, not because the people hated the film, but because they were giving it a standing ovation. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Disney-produced biographical film Saving Mr. Banks finesses these facts like mad. Rare interviews and secondary accounts state Travers did gain a better opinion of the film later on, she actually stated that she thought the film was well made and had a lot of positive aspects to it (for instance, she agreed that Julie Andrews was marvellous). However, she felt it was so different from her books that she wasn't happy with the final product.
Used a couple of times with the young actors playing Jane and Michael.
The medicine bottle that pours different colors was a real working prop. The children were not informed of its purpose, so Karen Dotrice's shriek of delight is real.
The children were unaware that Mr. Dawes Sr. was played by Dick Van Dyke. According to Karen Dotrice (Jane), she didn't know till she saw the end credits.
Likewise, Karen Dotrice says that in the scene in which the children run away from the bank and get grabbed by a mysterious figure, they weren't told beforehand that the soot-covered figure was actually Bert, who was trying to calm them down.
Fake Brit: Dick Van Dyke. That accent. Ironically, he also plays Mr. Dawes, Sr, doing so brilliant a job that many viewers don't even realize it was him. Dick van Dyke's Cockney accent is a contender for second most notorious film example of all time. If you're wondering who owns the title for most notorious, see here. Dick defended himself on NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! by explaining that his accent coach was J. Pat O'Malley, who didn't speak Cockney any better than he did. Though J. Pat O'Malley was English, he was from Burnley, Oop North and nowhere near London. To hear his take on Cockney listen to Jasper in the original 101 Dalmatians, for whom he provided the voice, as well as the voice of the Colonel.
Inspiration for the Work: The song, "Let's Go Fly a Kite" was inspired by the Sherman brothers' father, Al Sherman who made kites for neighborhood kids as a weekend hobby. In the film, the broken kite represents the broken family. When Mr. Banks mends the kite and the four pieces are taped back together, the four members of the family are also reunited. By transforming her "suffragette ribbon" into the kite's tail, Mrs. Banks also commits herself to being there more for her family.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: The 1997 Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection Laserdisc included an isolated score, which didn't make it onto any DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital releases of Mary Poppins. Not even the soundtracks include all of it, due to Disney's tendency to save discs two onwards for bonus features. Three of the Laserdisc's other extrasnote The documentary Practically Perfect in Every Way, a Hollywood Goes To a World Premiere vintage newsreel, and a trailer for the original wide theatrical release did make it to DVD, on the 2000 Gold Classic Collection disc; the later releases replace them with extras that cover the same ground, but in more detail.
Uncle Albert is played by Ed Wynn, who appeared in numerous Disney films, most notably being the voice of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.
In addition, the film's vocal coach, J. Pat O'Malley, also appeared in numerous Disney films; he was also in Alice in Wonderland, voicing Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and he was also Colonel Hathi in The Jungle Book.
Hermione Baddeley, who played Ellen, the Banks' parlormaid, also was the voice of Madame Adelaide Bonfamille in The Aristocats.
In addition, Thurl Ravenscroft, who voiced the hog in the barnyard scene in the animation sequence, also appeared in The Aristocats as the Russian cat.
Director Robert Stevenson spent much of his career directing live-action Disney films.
In addition, music editor Evelyn Kennedy also worked on various Disney films, live-action and animated alike.
Jane, played by Karen Dotrice, previously appeared in The Three Lives Of Thomasina and later appeared with co-star Matthew Garber (Michael) in The Gnome Mobile.
Betty Lou Gerson has a cameo as the witch-like crone whom the children run away from. That's right, they escaped from Cruella de Vil herself! However, Gerson had a less threatening Disney role as the narrator of Cinderella.
Wag the Director: One of Julie Andrews' favorite songs was "Stay Awake". When she heard that there were plans to delete it, she wrote a letter of concern to P.L. Travers, who instantly insisted that the song remain in the film.
After the film's success, Disney approached Travers for rights to film the other books, but given her thoughts about how the film deviated from her stories, she unsurprisingly refused.
Walt was negotiating to have the rights to film Bedknobs and Broomsticks in case negotiations for the rights to Mary Poppins fell through.
The book had a chapter in which Mary Poppins and the children use a magic compass to visit different countries. The Sherman Brothers wrote a wide assortment of songs to use for their journey, but the chapter ultimately went unadapted.
P.L. Travers suggested dropping a few hints that Mr. Banks used to have Mary Poppins as his nanny.
Mrs Banks has no name in the books. The planned name for her was Cynthia but PL Travers wanted a more English sounding name - and they came up with Winifred. The names that Bert lists during the "Jolly Holiday" sequence are among those that were considered for her.
Tony Baxter, former Senior Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering, joined the company after sharing this concept for a Mary Poppins ride. Had it actually become built, guests would mount merry-go-round horses that would leap off their turntables, and prance through the same chalk drawings where Mary Poppins, Bert, and the Banks children shared a "Jolly Holiday". After the rain dissolves the drawings, the horses would take their riders across the rooftops of London.
The Sherman Brothers originally planned to use the song "Chim-Chim-Cheree" for all the music in the rooftop finale. However, when special effects supervisor Peter Ellenshaw brought the English pub song "Knees Up Mother Brown" to their attention, they decided to make their own variation, resulting in "Step In Time".
Some general trivia:
Because back then everybody smoked, Karen Dotrice (Jane Banks) says she has the surreal image in her head of Mary Poppins smoking (Julie Andrews, in costume backstage).
Matthew Garber (Michael Banks) was afraid of heights, so they gave him a dime (10 cents in 1963 was equal to about 81 cents in 2018) each time he went up in a harness for the tea party on the ceiling.
Mary Poppins was the very first Disney-branded film to be released on DVD, in 1998 as the sole DVD in the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection.
"A Spoonful of Sugar" is sung in the film when Mary Poppins first arrives, and she gets the children to tidy the nursery. Here it is sung a little later when the children and Robertson accidentally ruin the kitchen - and Mary helps them tidy it up before Mrs Brill discovers it.
"Feed The Birds" is now a duet between Mary Poppins and the bird woman herself. The song itself now comes after the visit to the bank.
"Let's Go Fly A Kite" is the finale number in the film. In the musical it is now sung by Bert and the children in the park - after they've run away from Miss Andrew.
The song "The Life I Lead" doesn't appear, but its melody is used repeatedly, introduced by the bit character Von Hussler in "Precision and Order/Feed the Birds" (as of the 2012 revision). Its function in the film as George's "I Am" Song is taken over by "Precision and Order".
"Temper Temper" eventually was cut from the stage musical, due to complaints by parents and that the producers of the show's Dutch production didn't like the idea of the kids being put on trial. The slightly tamer nightmare-inspired "Playing The Game" replaced the song when the US tour began and the changes have been reinstated to the Broadway production as well as future productions of the show.
"What I Can Do" (a precursor to the song "Being Mrs. Banks") and "She's Ever So Mary Poppins" were two songs originally written for the show, but cut for various reasons.
What Could Have Been: Concept art exists for Mary Poppins and Mrs. Corry gluing stars to the night sky, but proved too difficult to stage.