Saving Mr. Banks (Walt Disney Studios, 2013)

I had anticipated a movie about Walt Disney and how he secured the rights for the movie Mary Poppins. I was not prepared for a movie rich in meaning about fatherhood. In fact, the primary theme of this movie was that of redeeming flawed fathers. The title should have tipped me off to this theme.

Mr. Banks was the father of the children which Mary Poppins taught and attended. However, the creator of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers,  intended Mary Poppins to arrive at the Banks’ household to redeem the father of the family.

In the movie (starring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks) we see four father-child relationships which stand need of saving or redeeming. First of all is the fictional Mr. Banks and his two children. At one point in the movie, Ms. Travers became emotionally upset at the suggested portrayal of Mr. Banks as a father who treated his children more as bank patrons rather than as children.

Mr. Banks’ redemption comes when his songs transition from Fidelity Fiduciary Bank to Let’s Go Fly a Kite. Ms. Travers forgets that she is supposed to be cantankerous when she first hears the song about the kites. For her, the father in the story has been redeemed or saved.

This was important to her because she had been living her own life trying to redeem her deceased and flawed father. The father and daughter had a special bond. Yet alcoholism and his inability to hold a job led to much anxiety in the family. The alcohol eventually led to his early death.

With the aid of the story and the visualizing of it by Walt Disney, she was able to redeem the great qualities of her father which were so often overshadowed by his flaws.

The third father-child relationship comes near the end. Walt Disney finally won over Ms. Travers when he sat in her London home and told her the story of his father. Disney recounted that as a young boy his father was a harsh taskmaster and disciplinarian. The harshness of his father had painful effects on Disney. Yet Disney also took from his father the qualities which made him a success. Those positive attributes were the ones which Disney chose to keep close in his mind. He had already redeemed his father.

The fourth father-child relationship was between Walt Disney and his daughter. When his daughter had fallen in love with P.L. Travers book about Mary Poppins, she asked him to make it into a movie. He had promised her that he would do that. In order to keep that promise to his daughter, Disney had pursued Travers for twenty years. Every year he contacted her and wooed her. He told Travers that he had never broken a promise to his daughter and did not intend on ever breaking one.

So this movie about the whimsical Mary Poppins from the imagination wizard Walt Disney and the matter-of-fact P.L. Travers gives viewers a glimpse into the vital role of fathers. This is enough of a reason to view this well made film.

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