It’s a Jolly Holiday For Mary!

Love this poster. Looks like it’s staring Gene Van Kelly And Cyd Andrews.

Happy Birthday, Mary Poppins! You’ve aged quite gracefully!

Today, Walt Disney’s masterpiece (and this DisNerd’s favorite Disney live action movie) turns 50, and we celebrate all things Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in honor of its release.

Instead of posting every reason I love this movie (including the Sherman Brothers’ most amazing score), I thought I’d share my absolute favorite part of the movie, then open it up to you, dear readers, to share with the DisNerd community your favorite part as well!

As magical as Mary Poppins is in the movie (in no small part to the amazing performance of Julie Andrews), the defining moment for me comes from a scene where Ms. Poppins is absent. After an incredibly and understandably frazzled Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson) has returned from a career defining (and not in a good way) day at work, after chasing off countless chimney sweeps, and seeing the one person he blames for all of his problems, George Banks is left to reflect on his misfortunes as he sees them while Bert the chimney sweep (Dick Van Dyke) finishes up his job. His utter disappointment in anyone but himself is quite clear, and Bert is all too understanding. Watch the look in his eyes as he hears Mr. Banks pour out his frustrations. He realizes the problem of a man not being able to see past himself, and figures out a way to reverse the tables, allowing George to take a long look at himself. Mary may have come to save the family, but in no small way, it’s Bert who helps to “save Mr. Banks.” There is some true magic in that as well, and this scene and song have helped me to shape my life philosophy, especially when it comes to spending time with my family. I don’t think there will ever be a time when it won’t get to me.

Now it’s your turn, friends! Do you have a favorite scene or song from Mary Poppins? Sound off below – we’d love to hear and discuss! In turn, your pick may be featured on our Facebook page, as we continue to celebrate this motion picture achievement over the next couple days!

Happy birthday, Mary Poppins! No wonder that it’s you (along with Bert, the Banks family, Uncle Albert, Admiral Boom and so many others) that we love!

So Long, Diane

Griffith Park Carousel

One can only imagine the energy running through Walt’s head as he sat at on that “dirty” Griffith Park bench, watching his two daughters ride on the nearby carousel. Walt Disney claims this to be where his dream of Disneyland first began.

You wonder what sparked the dream.

Sure, Walt loved trains, and perhaps wanted a place he could showcase that love.

Certainly he thought his films and their stories were great enough to replicate in the third-dimension.

The idea of creating a theme-park had to have intrigued someone with the urban-developing and civil-designing mind that he had.

However, this author best assumes, from the stories I’ve heard told, that Walt Disney’s dream began not for any type of self-aggrandizement, but for his daughters. Watching Diane and Sharon ride around and around on that carousel, he began dreaming of a land, a kingdom where his two daughters could have all the clean, safe, imaginative fun that their hearts could dream up. Such a place was what Disneyland became. I see Disneyland and all other Disney Parks to be more of a “grand playground” for a man’s daughters than anything, a thoughtful gift from father to child, part of why I think those parks are so personally endearing.

Walt Disney shares a story with his two daughters, Sharon and Diane.

Walt Disney shares a story with his two daughters, Sharon and Diane.

Such seems to be the case with all of Walt’s creations. His dreams began at his home. His children had began reading these little story books about a nanny in England that flew around with an umbrella. His children loved them so much, he thought certainly he could bring this “Mary Poppins” character to life for them in a far greater way.

It’s my opinion, and you can hold me to it, but if it wouldn’t have been for Walt’s two daughters, I can’t imagine many of Disney’s greatest moments ever coming to fruition. They certainly wouldn’t have turned out the way they have. There certainly wouldn’t have been the same motives behind it. We have so very much to thank his girls for.

It hurts my heart to report that Diane Disney Miller, the oldest of Walt’s daughters, has passed away due to complications from a fall she had taken earlier, at the age of 79.

Diane Disney Miller, standing in front of one of her greatest contributions to the DIsney legacy: The Walt Disney Family Museum.

Diane Disney Miller, standing in front of one of her greatest contributions to the DIsney legacy: The Walt Disney Family Museum.

I can claim absolutely no close, personal association to Diane, or with anyone in the Disney family. I am merely an admirer of such. However, this news comes as such a hit to the heart to all of us Disney loyal. Diane was the last surviving member of Walt’s immediate family. Truly, she was the sole biological child of Lilian and Walt. As such, she had a way of catching my attention when I saw her on-screen in several various Disney documentaries. The thought was always, “I’m looking at Walt Disney’s daughter; can I see Walt in her?” You always could. That twinkle in Uncle Walt’s eye we’re all so very fond of was present in Diane’s. The simplistic joy she expressed as she relived stories of her growing up as the daughter of Walt immediately identified her as a Disney, her father possessing a similar enthusiasm for story-telling. Diane, thank you for helping to tell your father’s story, for being such “a fierce guardian” (as Bob Iger so aptly put it) of his name and legend. In doing such, thank you for sharing with us your own story, for showing us that the “Disney magic” wasn’t exclusive to one man.

Diane, we’re so very sad to see you go. With all of our hearts, we say “thank you.” My thoughts and prayers extend to the family and friends you’ve left here. I hope your reunion with your dear sister, with your father and mother, was as sweet and joyful as you’d ever have dreamed it to be.

– Hayden Evans

The author recommends reading THIS ARTICLE PUBLISHED BY THE LA TIMES for a more concise, informative post on Diane’s passing.

Thankful for the Sherman Brothers

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

Sometimes it’s the people you’ve never met that influence you the most.

As many long time readers know from previous posts, The Sherman Brothers (Richard and Robert) come up rather frequently in my blog. This is with good reason: next to perhaps Walt himself, those two have more influence on me than anyone else has in the history of the Walt Disney Company. As I’ve stated before, their interviews on the Mary Poppins soundtrack opened me to a world of the musical process of writing, helping me appreciate song and score in movies even more. The lyrics and tone of “A Man Has Dreams/ A Spoonful Of Sugar” from Mary Poppins (combined with the superb delivery of David Tomlinson and Dick Van Dyke) leave me with a lump in my throat every time. The fun mix of melodrama and a rousing good time on “Let’s Have a Drink On It” from The Happiest Millionaire make it one of my all-time favorite Disney songs.

But their ability to entertain and stir emotion reaches beyond just the Disney realm. “You’re Sixteen (You’re Beautiful, and You’re Mine)” is so infectious, it’ll stick in one’s head for days almost as much as “It’s a Small World.” For many, the songs from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” remain classics as well (perhaps the songs of the brothers, along with Dick Van Dyke, are the reason many people think this one IS a Disney film!). Although I didn’t realize it until I watched “The Boys – The Sherman Brothers Story,” the two were responsible for one of the saddest songs of my childhood. The haunting music and lyrics in context with the happenings of “Snoopy Come Home,” are so powerful I can’t listen to this song without feeling extreme sadness. That, my friends, is the power of great music and lyric writing.

The two brothers have surpassed being “just writing Disney music” as many would think of them. They’ve become timeless. In the words of publicist and Disney historian Tim O’Day, ” They are the ‘Gershwin Brothers’ of Disney (and beyond). They and their work need to be elevated above the category of ‘children’s music.’ ” I couldn’t agree more, Tim. And in this season I am thankful for the two brothers that made me believe that flying a kite was excellent therapy. That Annette was indeed a pineapple princess. That it really IS a small world, after all.

Richard (left) and Robert – Two very different brothers who left an amazing mark on the musical world.

Unused, But Not Unloved

WIth the D23 Expo days away, one of the ultimate highlights for me, if I were attending this year, would be “Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken: The Disney Songbook.” One evening with both of these legends on stage would be an amazing sight to see. There’s just something about hearing songwriters sing and talk about their songs. While the voices that are picked to carry over onto film or radio are great, the fact that you’re hearing the person who first wrote the tune and/or lyrics bring out their original visions. And to hear the story that goes along with it? Amazing and priceless.

Seriously, if you’re at the Expo on Saturday, August 10, see this performance. Hosted by Tim O’ Day, it’s sure to be a great time of story and song. And I’ll be jealous of you.

Perhaps that’s the reason I’m so into movies like “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story” and “Waking Sleeping Beauty.” Perhaps even just a little more than the finished product, I’m fascinated by the labor of love behind those same stories. Learning how the Shermans would come up with songs, envisioned one way (did you know “It’s a Small World” was originally a ballad?), and have it come out an entirely different way. How Howard Ashman would fight for his vision, from coaching vocal performances to fighting for inclusion of a piece that animators and directors just “didn’t see working.”

How many times, these songs would wind up on the cutting room floor.

One such song is a song that for some reason has become one of my favorite Disney songs as of late. A song that never made it into the movie “Aladdin.”

I realize ultimately there was no place for the song in the movie, as, in the end, Aladdin was a parent-less street urchin. However, the song resonates with me, maybe even more than any song in the movie that made the final cut did. How painful it must be for a songwriter to have such a labor of love be taken out like that.

Dick and Bob Sherman had a similar experience with “The Eyes of Love,” a lovely ballad that was cut out of Mary Poppins because Julie Andrews wasn’t a big fan of it (you can hear the story told in their own words on the Mary Poppins Special Edition Soundtrack). This is a common practice in movies and musicals – they’re always a work in progress until that final cut. (For more unused songs, I very highly recommend checking out  “The Lost Chords” series of MP3s compiled by Randy Thornton.)  However, I find such songs and stories fascinating.

If I were able to ask Richard Sherman or Alan Menken any one question, it would probably be the following: Which of your songs that never got used are you most proud of? What’s your favorite “unheard” piece? For, although these songs may not have been used in film, by no means are they weak songs. In fact, they can turn out to be very loved indeed.

What about you, readers and fellow DisNerds? Any favorite Disney songs that just didn’t make the cut in the final films? I’d love to hear from you!

Mary Poppins, Stage & Music, Magical Performance!

“Winds in the east, mist coming in, like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin. Can’t put me finger on what lies in store, but I fear what’s to happen all happened before…”

So begins the tale of Disney’s Mary Poppins, as sung by Bert, Mary’s dear “jack-of-all-trades” friend who serves as a kind of narrator throughout this classic (masterpiece even) telling of PL Travers’ fantastical stories. It never ceases to amaze me just how well acquainted the world is with Disney’s Poppins. Everyone seems to know the multi-purposeful “Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious” (fewer know how to actually spell it, and even fewer go so far as saying it backwards). How many kids have leaped off a patio, opened umbrella in hand, hoping to float down as effortlessly as Mary Poppins can? Us DisNerds especially: how many times a week, day even, do you say that something is simply “practically perfect”, and any other Poppins-related remarks? Mary Poppins is so definitively Disney, in my opinion. (If aliens visit this Earth, and ask what one film best showcases Disney, I’m popping in Poppins. DOn’t ask me how they already know what Disney is.) The film is quite like Mary’s famous carpet bag; You may have just 2 hours or so of film, but it just keeps surprising you with the amount of magic and heart that it contains.

Gosh, I’m sure Poppins has been on your mind a lot recently. It certainly is on the tip of a lot of folks’ tongues as of late, DisNerd or not. With Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks” coming to theaters later this year, no doubt you’ve seen its recently released trailer. (If not, enjoy the preview HERE!) We’ve talked Poppins a few times on this blog, and no doubt we’ll be talkin’ Poppins a lot more on this blog.

While all of you are discussing how close (or far) Tom Hanks’ actually resembles Mr. Disney, I’d like to bring up a side of Mary Poppins that I saw for the first time this July.

This was taken moments after the show had finished. I'm glowing with that "dream just came true" glow, I suppose.

This was taken moments after the show had finished. I’m glowing with that “dream just came true” glow, I suppose.

The winds were blowing in the right direction, and a trip to St. George, UT perfectly coincided with a local theater’s showing of Disney’s “Mary Poppins: A New Musical”. My experience with Disney’s theatrical productions have been few, but absolutely memorable. I remember seeing a touring production of Beauty and the Beast as a pretty young kid, and there are moments of the show that I’ve yet to forget. (“Be Our Guest” had me in awe.) Seeing a professionally performed Disney Broadway show always seemed like an out-of-reach dream for me growing up, not unlike my current dream of experiencing Disneyland Paris. (Mary Poppins touring production stopped in Salt Lake City, UT two years ago, but as stated in my previous blog posting, I was ecclesiastically committed to another project that had me unable to attend.) I discovered this past weekend, the same quality I’ve come to expect from Disney’s other endeavors stands true for its musicals.

A broad-view of the desert's Broadway: the Tuacahn Ampitheater in St. George, Utah. Imagine seeing Ms. Poppins's silhouette cast on those red-rock cliffs. "Coo, what a sight!"

A broad-view of the desert’s Broadway: the Tuacahn Ampitheater in St. George, Utah. Imagine seeing Ms. Poppins’s silhouette cast on those red-rock cliffs. “Coo, what a sight!”

The venue certainly lent itself to some incredible effects. Seeing Mary Poppins soar through this red rock canyon would be an incredibly fulfilling moment for any self-respecting DisNerd. You can imagine how thrilled I was to see Admiral Boom shooting off fireworks throughout the final bars of “Step In Time”, knowing fully well that such an effect was not a part of the original production. The cast was so enjoyable. They carried such an energy that had the audience in all-smiles from start until end.

Yes, I know, and you’ve probably already thought this as you’ve read this post, “This shmuck didn’t even see a legitimate Disney production!” and that’s true. I didn’t see Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee. I didn’t see any touring company. And I may have just invalidated any point I’ve been trying to make throughout this article.

Oops.

I did get a neat t-shirt out of it all, and that’s gotta count for something. No? Drat. Well c’mon, watch the preview they made. You’ll see that what I saw wasn’t too far a cry from Broadway.

I’ll say this much… It was an incredibly magical moment to see a Disney classic brought to life. It was a wholly unique experience, oh-so different from the Poppins I knew before, and yet it all felt so familiar as well. In struggling to come up with some witty way to end this post with, here’s what I produced: I’ve got a fev’ah, and the only subscription is mo’ Disney Theatrical Productions. I so look forward to the next Disney show that I see. Here’s hoping the wind will blow you and in the direction of the Great White Way!

Take the time to enjoy this wonderful musical number, “Step In Time” from the Original Broadway Cast of Disney’s Mary Poppins. (What’s the best part? It’s free!)

So DisNerds, have you ever been to a Disney show? What shows have you seen? Any recommendations you’d make?

(PS: Kudos to those who sang the post’s title to the tune of “Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious”!)

The Sherman Brothers: A Personal Tribute

(Note: Volumes have been spoken and written about the Sherman Brothers, both before and after the passing of Robert Sherman. This is my personal tribute to both brothers and the profound impact they had on my life. For a more comprehensive history, I highly recommend the movie “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story,” directed by (their sons) Jeff and Greg Sherman.)

When I was 16, I went on a choir trip to Disneyland. Before leaving, with a few extra dollars in hand, I made a decision to buy something that would affect me profoundly.

Now, obviously, I knew the music well, so it wasn’t the score that had such a profound effect on me. The last tracks of the CD contained an interview with Richard and Robert Sherman. As they reminisced about the making of the movie and the songs they wrote, Richard would occasionally play at the piano and they would both sing bits from the movie. The first time they started singing their songs, the world of the songwriter really opened up to me.

And I fell in love with the music of The Sherman Brothers.

The interview can be heard here:

Continued here:

Although I had grown up with Disney music since childhood and was aware of their songs, there was something that really clicked.  I found myself paying more and more attention to lyrics of songs, how well they worked within the films. It helped spur my appreciation for the newer works of Menken and Ashman, as well as classic tunes by the likes of Frank Churchill and George Bruns.

In a sense, I suppose you could say my love of Disney music can be attributed to (blamed on?) the Sherman Brothers.

Fast forward to the present. On the morning of March 6th, in the midst of a trip to Disneyland, I woke up to read the news: Robert Sherman had passed away at the age of 86.

Eighty-Six years is an extraordinary life – so many are given so much less – and longetivity and a full life are things to be celebrated. Yet, there was a profound sadness in Robert’s passing. And there was a definite air of bittersweet-ness in the fact that I was at Disneyland when I heard the news of his passing. It allowed my family to pay their respects while riding It’s A Small World. I rode through The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh saluting nothing in general as the music played. I did the silent nod toward the Tiki Room out of respects.

But perhaps the biggest moment came for me from the following story: My four year old daughter had been insistent that we go to Build-a-Bear in Downtown Disney that day; not so she could stuff an animal, but so I could. I told her I didn’t need one. I tried to convince her. Honestly, I didn’t want to spend the money on another plush animal. However, she was adamant, on the verge of tears, telling me that she knew I NEEDED a stuffed friend. Begging that I do it for me, not for her. Then inspiration struck. I agreed to stuff an animal for me, on the terms that I got to pick it out as well as name it. So with her help, I picked it out, stuffed it and named it.

That evening, Sherman the Dog got to pay his own respects in front of the Sherman Brothers’ window on Main Street, USA.

Thank you, Dick and Bob Sherman. Thank you for the music. Thank you for the interview that inspired at least one young Disney fan (and I’m sure there are countless more). Your relationship may not have been the greatest, but in your works…. it was magical.