If you don’t know what this movie is about, you grew up in a cave. If you’ve never seen it,ditto. This is the tale, it need hardly be said, of Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews), the nanny whoarrives to take charge of two children whose imaginations have been repressed by theirexcessively proper father. In the care of Mary, and accompanied by chimney sweep Bert (DickVan Dyke), the children bounce from one magical mix of dance, live action and animation toanother.
A more…irrepressibly cheerful film would be hard to imagine, and yet it isn’t without itsmoments of melancholy (“Feed the Birds”) amidst its impressive collection of songs. As aDisney film, and as a musical, Mary Poppins is, like its protagonist, “practically perfect inevery way.” The one exception being Van Dyke’s attempt to sound Cockney — this is quitepossibly the worst accent in film history.
There are a raft of audio options here, including the original theatrical 2.0 mix, an enhanced2.0 home theatre version, and a 5.1 mix. In any event, the surround elements are effective whenpresent (which isn’t all the time). The music has a full surround presence, however, and there areno inappropriately placed effects. There is a little bit of distortion on the dialogue, perhapsinevitable given the film’s age.
The aspect ratio of 1.66:1 (anamorphic) is the original aspect, according to the case.However, the IMDB lists this original format as 1.75:1, and the scenes of the film in thedocumentary footage looks closer to 1.85:1 or more. This caution aside, the print looks very fineindeed, with hardly any speckling and no grain to speak of. The colours are very rich and bright,and the blacks are profound. There is some slight edge enhancement visible, however.
As with many other recent major releases from Disney, the extras are copious. Navigating themenus can sometimes be a bit confusing, and fortunately the liner doubles as a fairly thoroughguide to the two discs. Disc 1 has a commentary track pieced together from three separaterecording sessions: one with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, one with Karen Dotrice (whoplayed the little girl) and composer Richard Sherman, and a third done in London with the otherSherman brother, Bob. Plenty of good cheer and memories all around. Pop-up factoids can alsobe triggered to run with or without the commentary. A song selection option allows one to jumpdirectly to the more famous pieces. There are also a number of Disney trailers on this disc.
The documentaries are all on Disc 2. There are plenty here, and they seem aimed largely at ayounger audience, and the tone of relentless cheeriness feels a bit forced after a while. RichardSherman joins Van Dyke and Andrew for a “Musical Reunion,” and then hosts a “MusicalJourney” on his own. The musical features are rounded out by a reconstruction of the deletedsong “Chimpanzoo” (Richard Sherman plays the piano and sings the piece). The 50-minuteMaking-of documentary is loaded with praise for the saintly Walt Disney (and again, this gets abit hard to take). The “Movie Magic” is an all-too-brief (7:05) consideration of the FX, and isvery much for young viewers. The “Deconstruction of a Scene” features involve behind-the-scenes footage of two scenes, but no accompanying explanation. There is also Van Dyke’s make-up test. The “I Love to Laugh” game is a very basic trivia game, which should bore kids in veryshort order.
The vintage footage here is a pretty nifty find. There are two segments involving the worldpremiere, along with the original radio coverage of same. The Publicity extras have the originaltheatrical teaser and trailer, Andrews’ filmed welcome to original audiences, two TV spots andthree re-issue trailers. There are ten art galleries, and a new short: “The Cat That Looked at aKing.” This last feels, to be honest, very artificial, and does no honour to the original’s memory.The menus of both discs have an animated and scored main screen, and some of the secondaryscreens are scored.
One of Disney’s greats, re-released in a suitably deluxe package, this is also a practicallyperfect family Christmas gift.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Pop-Up Facts
- Deleted Song
- Making-of Documentary
- “A Musical Reunion” Featurette
- “A Musical Journey” Featurette
- Deconstruction of a Scene Featurettes
- “Movie Magic” Featurette
- “I Love to Laugh” Game
- World Premiere Footage
- Publicity Galleries
- “The Cat That Looked at a King” Short
- Dick Van Dyke Make-Up Test