In 1964, the special effects of Mary Poppins were groundbreaking. They actually went into a painting and danced with animated characters!
In 2018, moviegoers have seen everything. When Mary Poppins Returns, she still has the same magic, but director Rob Marshall took a new approach to it.
“I really love the juxtaposition between the real world that we were shooting and this real family,” Marshall said. “I wanted you to really connect emotionally to these people and know that they were real. Then these fantasias and adventures that Mary Poppins takes them on, then we could go so many places and come back to this real world.”
The Banks children are all grown up, so now Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) takes Michael (Ben Whishaw)’s children into a ceramic bowl and under the sea.
“The hope for me was that by the end of the film, they combine, they collide,” Marshall continued. “It was really finding that real world and then these two different worlds. That was the plan.”
By filming in London, some of the biggest special effects were already there in the background.
“Lin[-Manuel Miranda] drives by St. Paul’s,” Marshall said. “That is St. Paul’s Cathedral.”
As a fan of the original Mary Poppins, there were some things Marshall knew had to be in his sequel.
“If I came to a sequel to Mary Poppins I would want to see an animation sequence with live action and I would want it to be hand drawn in a 2D world,” Marshall said. I would want Cherry Tree Lane to have a curve to it because that’s the Cherry Tree Lane we all know. I would feel disappointed if it was a straight street.”
It’s the dilemma of any sequel, going in new directions without straying too far.
“It was this insane balancing act of honoring the first film, but at the same time forging our own way, our own story,” Marshall said. “Having Michael and Jane grown up and seeing what’s happened to them and with their journey and what they’ve lost along the way helped that.”
As the director, every decision was ultimately Marshall’s. He chose wisely, especially when including music from the classic original.
“[Composer] Marc [Shaiman] and [lyricist] Scott [Wittman] were incredibly careful about making sure that we didn’t abuse using themes from the first film,” Marshall said. “We used it in very strategic places throughout the film, most of it actually very much at the end where we feel we’d earned it by then.”
Mary Poppins Returns opens Wednesday, December 19.