Wednesday, July 22, 2015

P.L. Travers Recorded Discussing "Feed the Birds"

By Keith Mahne

Almost from the day the Mary Poppins character appeared on the cover of a book in 1934, she was destined to gain additional fame through some form of the entertainment medium. Walt Disney first became aware of Mary Poppins around 1949, when one of his daughters introduced him to the magical nanny. The events that followed lead to one of the most beloved Disney movies of all time. Getting to that point, however, was no easy feat for Walt and his team as the author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers, wasn't as charming as the flying nanny she created. Join me today as we take a listen to a wonderful, rare recording of P.L. Travers discussing "Feed the Birds" with the Sherman brothers during the making of this classic film...

Diane's and Sharon's (Walt's daughters) enthusiasm for the Mary Poppins books prompted his reading them and he, too, saw their potential as material for a motion picture. Upon learning that the film rights were unobtainable, he temporarily abandoned the idea. When Disney tried to acquire the movie rights, he learned they were not for sale. In the meantime, other producers, in turn, considered the Poppins stories perfect material for a Broadway musical, a television special and a motion picture, but their offers too were rejected. Around 1961, the paths of Disney and Miss Travers happened to cross in London. Walt told her of his interest in Mary Poppins and inquired again about the movie rights. They discussed the possibility of his bringing Mary Poppins to the screen and Travers agreed to relinquish the film rights if his approach to the stories met with her approval.

On Walt Disney's return to the studio, the project was set in motion and several months later, Mrs. Travers was invited to Burbank for story conferences. Contracts were drawn and signed, and the beloved nanny and her amazing adventures were on their way to becoming immortalized on celluloid. One can understand why she thoroughly tore apart the completed works. Mary Poppins was her baby and she wasn't going to let Hollywood destroy it. During one of the conferences, a Disney writer inquired if Mary Poppins was considered ageless. "Not at all," Miss Travers answered. "She is precisely twenty-seven." Coincidentally, this was precisely the age of Julie Andrews during production. By the time filming began, Walt Disney had set aside over six million dollars on the budget, with an additional one million for promotion and publicity. People would continually ask the author if the famous English nanny was modeled from a living person. "No, she wasn't," Miss Travers was always quick to answer. "I didn't even think her up. She just brushed past me and said, 'You take it down.'"

The P.L. Travers recording below features the author discussing the Mary Poppins song "Feed the Birds" with Richard and Robert Sherman in 1961. During the discussion, Richard Sherman plays the song and Travers even sings along. Unlike the Saving Mr. Banks movie, the true story reveals that "Feed the Birds" was actually the song that won her over.

(Please pause the Disney Avenue Music Player above prior to playing the audio below if you are on a desktop computer.)



Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true everyday.

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