Disney has begun production on Saving Mr. Banks, starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers.
The movie will cover how it took Mr. Disney 20 years to get the film rights for Mary Poppins from author Travers and the struggles between the two while the movie was being made, along with a number of family flashbacks with Travers as a child. The company points out that this is the first time Disney will be depicted in a dramatic film. Here’s more description, from the press release:
Walt Disney, Tom Hanks
Before actually signing away the book’s rights, Travers’ demands for contractual script and character control circumvent not only Disney’s vision for the film adaptation, but also those of the creative team of screenwriter Don DaGradi and sibling composers Richard and Robert Sherman, whose original score and song (“Chim-Chim-Cher-ee”) would go on to win Oscars® at the 1965 ceremonies (the film won five awards of its thirteen nominations).
When Travers travels from London to Hollywood in 1961 to finally discuss Disney’s desire to bring her beloved character to the motion picture screen (a quest he began in the 1940s as a promise to his two daughters), Disney meets a prim, uncompromising sexagenarian not only suspect of the impresario’s concept for the film, but a woman struggling with her own past. During her stay in California, Travers reflects back on her childhood in 1906 Australia, a trying time for her family which not only molded her aspirations to write, but one that also inspired the characters in her 1934 book.
None more so than the one person whom she loved and admired more than any other—her caring father, Travers Goff, a tormented banker who, before his untimely death that same year, instills the youngster with both affection and enlightenment (and would be the muse for the story’s patriarch, Mr. Banks, the sole character that the famous nanny comes to aide). While reluctant to grant Disney the film rights, Travers comes to realize that the acclaimed Hollywood storyteller has his own motives for wanting to make the film — which, like the author, hints at the relationship he shared with his own father in the early 20th Century Midwest.
Travers’ parents are played by Colin Farrell and Ruth Wilson, with Rachel Griffiths as her aunt, who inspired the character of Mary Poppins. Bradley Whitford plays screenwriter Don DaGradi with Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak as the songwriting Sherman Brothers (Richard and Robert). Screenplay is by Kelly Marcel, and director John Lee Hancock previously helmed The Blind Side.
Saving Mr. Banks is filming through Thanksgiving in Los Angeles, at Disneyland, and at the Disney Studios in Burbank. The movie is due out sometime in 2013. I look forward to learning more about Travers’ famous book, although I expect some of the bad feelings around the making of Mary Poppins to be downplayed, since Travers wound up hating the film. More information is available at Hitfix, from where the picture came.
Update: The planned release date is now December 20.