The live-action 1964 Disney film of Mary Poppins had its fair share of strange and marvellous goings-on as part of the plot. Children jumped through chalk drawings into alternate universes and people laughed until they levitated. It was even a world where the stiff upper lip of an English father could be melted by a kite-flying excursion.
But even more weird and wonderful events happen in the original series of fantastical and hugely imaginative Mary Poppins books, written by the author PL Travers, on which the film was based. Some things were toned down for the screen: Mary Poppins herself, for instance, was a far kinder character than in the books.
More than 50 years since the first Disney film, there is now a sequel in the works starring Emily Blunt. Although it’s likely to be another story filled with magic, music and fun, reports from the production of the new film suggest that the filmmakers are going to expand the story well beyond the books.
The sequel is said to be set 20 years after the last Disney adaptation, with Jane and Michael grown up, and to be a new story with new songs. The adult Jane and Michael Banks, along with Michael's three children, suffer a tragedy in the family, and need Mary Poppins to return to bring them joy once again. This is an original plotline not found in the books.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of hit Broadway musical Hamilton, is playing the role of Jack, apparently based on several supporting characters in the books and loosely analogous to the role made famous by Dick Van Dyke as Bert in the original film. It remains to be seen how many of the stranger episodes from the novels make the transition to the screen sequel.
But whatever Disney decides to do for its family-friendly film, there’s definitely potential for a great Mary Poppins horror fantasy movie to be made for grown-ups, with plenty of bizarre - and sometimes downright terrifying - source material in the books. Here are eight elements that stand out as particularly hard to adapt...
1. A circus in space
In Mary Poppins Comes Back, Jane and Michael visit a circus in the night sky, where the constellations are the circus acts and a dragon made out of stars begs them for a currant bun. But the circus is overseen by a malevolent all-powerful sun, whom all the other stars worship, and who cracks a whip to express displeasure at their performances. The dragon and a clown flee the scene, weeping. The sun dances with Mary Poppins and they share a moment of unresolved romantic tension.
2. Mary Poppins flies off into the ether on a possessed Merry-go-Round
Not content with her usual method of transport - a flying umbrella - at one point in the books, Mary Poppins suddenly deserts her young charges in the park by hopping aboard a carousel, which promptly begins spinning faster and faster, the music louder and louder, until it takes off and bears Mary Poppins away and into the sky. An enchanted carousel did make it into the original film, but not in this context - and Disney chose to omit Jane and Michael’s devastated reactions to their beloved nanny blasting off into space and leaving them alone.
3. Alien cats
In Mary Poppins in the Park, a visit is paid to a planet filled with officious, riddling alien cats. The alien cats keep an army of slave children, and Michael Banks is betrothed to marry a feline princess before a group of furious cats attempt to smother him with their bodies.
4. A herbal encyclopaedia
Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane is a story that uses various botanical herbs throughout, and includes an encyclopaedia of their uses and Latin names. Which is interesting in itself, but might not translate well to the big screen.
5. The Crack
At New Year, things get philosophical, as a crack forms between the old year and the new: “Inside the Crack all things are at one. The eternal opposites meet and kiss. The wolf and the lamb lie down together, the dove and the serpent share one nest. The stars bend down and touch the earth and the young and old forgive each other,” says Sleeping Beauty, by way of explanation.
6. Fish that catch humans
Jane and Michael fall through a conch shell into an undersea kingdom filled with talking fish in Mary Poppins Opens the Door. Everything starts off innocently enough, and they get invited to a fishy garden party. But the first sign that all is not well comes with the strict enforcement of a “no whales” door policy. Soon it transpires that the the fish themselves enjoy a bit of fishing - and they like to catch humans, luring them with bait of strawberry tarts and keeping them trapped underwater. The fish enjoy watching them wriggle.
Source: The Telegraph
Banner Photo Credit: Disney