Recently Suzanne and I saw Saving Mr. Banks. It’s the story of how Walt Disney finally persuaded P.L. Travers to sell him the rights to Mary Poppins, which, of course, became the iconic movie musical (and multiple Oscar winner) that we all know.
The movie is worth seeing just for entertainment. Tom Hanks is excellent as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson is magnificent as P.L. Travers. The two actors who play the Sherman brothers, the composers of the movie’s score, are very good as well.
The movie shows the clash of visions between the Disney view of the world (which the Sherman brothers seem to share) and the Travers view of the world. Travers’s view is much darker than Disney’s, yet they discover what they have in common. That discovery is what finally cements the deal and makes Mary Poppins, the movie, work.
As time goes on, Disney realizes how personal the story is to Travers. He realizes how central it is to her life and why she is so protective of it. And we find out that Walt Disney can relate to her experience from his own.
I don’t wish to spoil the plot, but at one point, Travers leaves Los Angeles to fly back to London, not having signed the contract for the movie rights (which Disney has been trying to get for 20 years to keep a promise to his daughters.) She arrives at her house and Disney shows up.
Knowing that Mr. Banks is based on Travers’ father, Disney tells her a story of growing up in Missouri with his father and brother that resonates well with Travers’ own life (which we see in flashbacks throughout the movie.) Then he says something key — that making Mary Poppins is a way for Travers to forgive.
“I do not need to forgive my father,” she says. Disney tells her that it’s not her father she needs to forgive, but herself. He pitches her on the idea that making the movie — with his optimistic, sunnier worldview — is a way to forgive and let go. “Finish the job,” he implores her.
The movie ends with Travers at the premiere, crying at the movie. It’s a moment of release, although Travers can’t quite acknowledge it.
So who is your Mr. Banks? Whoever it is, it’s time to stop carrying Mr. Banks around with you. It’s time to finish the job by forgiving yourself and your Mr. Banks for whatever you believe may need it. Do not let your “Mr. Banks experience” define you. Let it go. Finish the job. As A Course in Miracles says, “It is the privilege of the forgiven to forgive.”
This movie reminds us that whatever our experience, it’s just experience and it’s never too late to have it be a good experience. To quote Rev. Noel McInnis, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” Writing the books helped P.L. Travers reframe her childhood and Disney’s take finished the job. Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down in a most delightful way.
This is a movie experience you’ll learn from and one you’ll enjoy.
Tim Phares, RScP