The best family films to watch in the BT TV PlayerMay 26 | 2 min read
Mary Poppins Returns was a long time in the making, but fans of the original 1964 film will fall in love with the movie’s star-studded sequel.
Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, The Girl on the Train) is practically perfect as the magical English nanny, combining the traits that Julie Andrews brought to the role with her own unique take.
Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into The Woods), the dazzling Disney film - based on the books by P. L. Travers - is set 24 years after the original movie.
Based in 1930s London, Jane and Michael Banks are now all grown up. Michael has three children of his own, but he’s struggling to look after them after the death of their mother.
Along comes Mary Poppins, and through her unique magical skills and with her friend Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) by her side, she helps the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives.
Here, we reveal the best bits about the movie, fascinating facts and Easter eggs you didn’t spot, who’s in the cast, and more, as Mary Poppins Returns is released in the BT TV Film Store.
Who’s in Mary Poppins Returns?
Emily Blunt - Mary Poppins
The London-born actress takes over the title role from Julie Andrews, who played the magical nanny in the 1964 film.
The former nanny of Jane and Michael Banks, she’s blown by the east wind into London, and into the Banks' household once more to care for their children.
Emily Blunt is best known for her roles in films including The Devil Wears Prada, The Girl on the Train and A Quiet Place.
Ben Whishaw - Michael Banks
Portrayed by Matthew Garber in the original film, Michael Banks now works part-time in a bank, raising little Annabel, John and Georgie alone, following the death of his wife Kate.
He’s played by Bedfordshire-born Ben Whishaw who, aside from notable roles in movies including Spectre, Paddington and Suffragette, won a Golden Globe for the BBC mini-series, A Very English Scandal.
Emily Mortimer - Jane Banks
Jane Banks is Michael’s older sister, and was played by Karen Dotrice in the original film.
Born in London and educated at Oxford, Mortimer has appeared in films including Transsiberian, Lars and the Real Girl, and Lovely & Amazing, plus the TV series Doll & Em.
Lin-Manuel Miranda - Jack
Cockney lamplighter Jack is a new character in Mary Poppins Returns, a former apprentice of Bert, the chimney sweep, pavement artists and match man played by Dick Van Dyke in the original film.
He’s played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, a multi-award winning actor, composer and playwright perhaps best known for creating and starring in the musical Hamilton.
Julie Walters - Ellen
Ellen is Michael's and Jane's long-time housekeeper, portrayed by Hermione Baddeley in the original film.
Bafta-winning British actress Walters has appeared in just shy of 100 films, including the Harry Potter franchise (as Molly Weasley), both Mamma Mia! films (as Rosie), and Billy Elliot.
Meryl Streep - Cousin Topsy
Topsy, a character from P. L. Travers’ original books, is Mary Poppins's eccentric cousin who runs a fix-it workshop in London.
She’s played by multi-Oscar winning actress Streep, best known for roles in films including Out of Africa, Sophie’s Choice, The Devil Wears Prada and Mamma Mia!
Streep appears in the second series of TV drama, Big Little Lies.
Colin Firth - Wilkins/Wolf
Firth plays the corrupt boss of the bank where Michael works, and also voices a wolf in one of the film’s animated sequences.
The Oscar-winning British actor is famed for his roles in acclaimed movies including The King’s Speech, A Single Man, the Bridget Jones's Diary and the Mamma Mia! films, plus for playing Mr Darcy in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice TV mini-series.
Mary Poppins Returns also stars: Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson as the Banks children, with Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury making cameo appearances.
3 reasons to watch Mary Poppins Returns...
1. Emily Blunt is wonderful as the magical nanny
In terms of career-defining roles, Julie Andrews’ turn as Mary Poppins in the 1964 Disney film is nothing short of iconic.
So when Emily Blunt was cast as the magical English nanny, she didn’t watch the original film because she knew she would not be able to “out-Julie Julie Andrews”.
Blunt was never aiming to be like Andrews, instead looking to P. L. Travers’ original book series for inspiration.
The actress is wonderful in the role, making it her own, all the while maintaining Poppins’ charm and mannerisms.
She won over the critics too - Blunt was nominated for both Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for her role, while Owen Gleiberman from Variety agreed that Blunt “has the spirit of Mary Poppins”.
He adds: “Mary Poppins possesses the same tartly irresistible combination of qualities we remember: She’s an angel, a disciplinarian, a devotee of the imagination, a tutor of delight, and also a bit vain (she spends a little more time than she should throwing glances at mirrors).”
Jocelyn Noveck from the Associated Press called Blunt a “practically perfect Poppins”, at the top of her game. She added that Blunt’s “easy warmth and charm shine through”, while bringing “humour and that steely Poppins nerve” to the role.
Peter Travers from Rolling Stone wrote that Blunt “dazzles” in the role, "making her own kind of magic”.
In part thanks to Blunt’s performance, the American Film Institute placed Mary Poppins Returns in its top 10 films of 2018, calling Blunt’s turn as the iconic nanny “extraordinary”.
2. The Oscar-nominated nostalgic soundtrack
Listen carefully and you’ll hear some of the melodies from tracks in the 1964 film in the background.
But Mary Poppins Returns doesn’t recycle the songs from the original film. Instead, it takes inspiration from the nostalgia of it, while creating a whole host of new, fitting songs.
A total of nine original songs were written for the film, with song lyrics co-written by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman.
The music and score for the film was composed by Grammy, Emmy and Tony award-winning composer Shaiman, who wrote the lyrics for the Broadway musical adaptation of John Waters film, Hairspray.
Mary Poppins Returns director Rob Marshall revealed that the plan from the very beginning of production was for the original songs to have the “feel” of the songs from the original 1964 soundtrack, telling Variety that the songs were a “love letter” to the original.
And if the songs feel alive - that’s because they are. The cast’s final vocals in the film are a blend of pre-recorded and live singing.
The soundtrack adds a perfectly nostalgic feel to proceedings, and was nominated for Best Score at the Oscars and Baftas.
The film also got an Oscar nomination for the original song The Place Where Lost Things Go, sung by Emily Blunt, which you can listen to below:
3. The incredible hand-drawn 2D animation - coupled with live action
Mary Poppins Returns is a seamless blend of old and new, maintaining the feel and tone of the original movie, but with the bonus of today's advanced filming and animation techniques.
The result is an amazing combination of live action scenes and the classic hand-drawn animation that viewers will remember fondly from the original.
Director Rob Marshall, recalling seeing the 1964 Mary Poppins film as a young boy, said it was “vital” to hold on to the classic hand-drawn animation from the first film.
He told The New York Times: “I knew I’d want an animation/live-action sequence: It’s in the DNA of Mary Poppins.”
Marshall had to fight for 2D animation to be included - it hasn’t been done in Hollywood since the 2011 animated film, Winnie The Pooh.
Luckily for fans, Marshall convinced the studio bosses, and like the original film, Mary Poppins Returns includes a sequence combining live-action and traditional hand-drawn animation. The animated drawings were created using pencil and paper, and scanned onto the computer to be digitally inked and painted.
Working with animators and artists, Marshall began by storyboarding "the old Disney way", pinning pieces of paper onto a wall before his animation crew were tasked with making the live actors look at home in the cartoon world.
The most awe-inspiring scene of all sees lead actors Blunt and Miranda interact with an assortment of animated animals in a circus show scene, including penguins - a nod to the original film.
Watch that incredible scene featuring Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda below:
Trivia and Easter eggs: Did you spot...
1. Karen Dotrice, who played a young Jane Banks in the 1964 film, makes a cameo as an elegant woman who asks Jane for directions (below with Lin-Manuel Miranda on set).
2. During a search for paperwork in his attic, Michael rediscovered the snow globe that Mary Poppins once showed him - providing an instant hit of nostalgia. Find out how the St. Paul’s snow globe was recreated from the original film. In the attic, there’s also a box of toy blocks with letters on them that subtly spell out 'Poppins'.
3. The film’s design team climbed up the inside of London’s Big Ben so that they could replicate it as accurately as possible. Mary Poppins Returns’ production designer John Myhre told The Hollywood Reporter that the famous clock tower in the film is “a little bit real and movie magic".
4. Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell was the person who came up with the “brilliant idea” of hand-painting the cast’s costumes in the style of the animation, so that they blended in, according to architecturaldigest.com.
5. Dick Van Dyke was offered four options for his cameo dance scene, each with a varying degree of difficulty. He insisted on performing the hardest dance routine and refused any help from fellow cast members while filming the scene, according to IMDB.
6. Director Rob Marshall told Variety that he approached Julie Andrews about making a cameo early on in the project’s development, but she deferred out of respect for Emily Blunt, saying she wanted it to be "Emily's show".
Watch Mary Poppins Returns if you liked…
Mary Poppins (1964 film), Christopher Robin, Beauty and the Beast, Saving Mr Banks, Into The Woods.