‘Mary Poppins: 40th Anniversary Edition’ proves this classic still has charm

Julie Andrews stars in the iconic role of 'Mary Poppins'
Julie Andrews stars in the iconic role of ‘Mary Poppins’

I think it’s probably arguable that Mary Poppins was Disney’s crowing live action achievement in film. This wildly popular film has undoubtedly been seen by generations of children and adults, and has become an indelible part of American pop culture.

With the 40th Anniversary Edition, this classic musical gets a well deserved spit and polish, remastered to sharp images and vibrant colors.

I actually hadn’t watched Mary Poppins in quite some time, and it was fun to sit with my son and view the musical. Although still a little young, he loves music, and actually danced around during some of the performances in the film. Julie Andrews’ soft and beautiful voice is still endures and Dick Van Dyke is just as hilarious as always.

For those who have lived under a rock for most of their childhood and did not at least hear of or see Mary Poppins at some point or another, here’s the lowdown:

Mary Poppins, played by Andrews, is a nanny who literally flies to the rescue of a pair of children and their workaholic single dad. With humor and magic, she leads the children on a series of adventures while teaching their father that there are things more important than his job.

Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke mix it up with animated penguins in 'Mary Poppins'
Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke mix it up with animated penguins in ‘Mary Poppins’

The music is easily the most recognizable element of the film, from “A Spoonful of Sugar” to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” My personal favorite has always been “Chim Chim Cher-ee”, but that’s just me.

Honestly, I don’t really like musicals. The coordinated dancing and often silly musical numbers just never sit right for me. There were always only a handful of musical films that I actually enjoyed, including White Christmas and The Music Man, but I think it’s impossible to dislike Mary Poppins. Filled with sweet innocence, whimsy and fun, do dislike Poppins is like not liking a sunny day.

Well, maybe that’s a little much, but you get the idea.

The movie is accompanied with some of the best features Disney has included on a live action DVD. The biggest highlight is the short film, “The Cat That Looked At A King”, taken from one of P.L. Travers’ original books. It’s an adorable piece of animation, where Julie Andrews kind of reprises her role as Mary Poppins, but it’s never directly stated that is who she is playing. And the two children in this short look eerily like the two from the original film.

What I liked the most about the behind the scenes featurettes were how they detailed the development of the music. One feature, “Musical Reunion with Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Richard Sherman”, offers some funny stories about how some of the songs were created. All three provide tales, and Dick Van Dyke’s attempt to recreate one of his dance steps from the film leads to the funniest moment of the feature.

Another documentary, hosted by Richard Sherman, who co-wrote all the music with his brother, Robert, takes viewers through all the major musical numbers and how they were filmed, as well as how the songs evolved. What surprised me most about this feature was how so many of the unused songs — and there were more than 20 of them — were eventually recycled into other movies, such as The Jungle Book and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

Disney hit a zenith with Mary Poppins that it has chased after ever since. I don’t know if they will be able to replicate the magic and heart expressed in this classic family musical, but I’m glad to have this DVD to share with my son.

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