She taught us to dance and sing 50 years ago, and to cheer ourselves up with the fanciful fun of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” Now Mary Poppins will guide a new generation of moviegoers in MARY POPPINS RETURNS. Rob Marshall’s film takes place in 1935; Michael and Jane Banks are all grown up, but their lives aren’t what they hoped they would be. So Mary Poppins drops in to save the day.
Following up a classic film, especially one that has been in the popular consciousness for the better part of a century, is a daunting challenge. But MARY POPPINS RETURNS strikes the ideal balance. It takes characters in new directions while also paying homage to the original film. Here’s how the upcoming sequel honors its legacy.
The Banks Are Back
The most significant connection between MARY POPPINS and its sequel (aside from Mary Poppins herself) are the Banks siblings. MARY POPPINS RETURNS picks up 25 years after Jane and Michael first met their magical nanny. Michael, now a widowed father of three, grapples with the possibility of losing his childhood home. At the same time, Jane struggles with not being able to help her brother.
Adding to the family’s predicaments, Michael’s kids gradually lose their sense of fun. They’re growing up too fast. These chaotic situations prompt Mary Poppins’ return. She must figure out how to give the Banks family a new outlook, and remind Michael and Jane of the magic that helped them as children. The role of the Banks siblings isn’t purely nostalgic. Their journey from happy children to disillusioned adults in need of magic opens a path for Mary’s message of fun and harmony.
Bert Lives On
It’s difficult to imagine MARY POPPINS without Bert, the happy-go-lucky chimney sweep played by Dick Van Dyke. He accompanied Mary and the Banks children on their adventures, and became a standout thanks to his charming personality and impeccable dance moves. As far as we know, Bert isn’t in MARY POPPINS RETURNS, though Dick Van Dyke is featured as Mr. Dawes Jr. His essence lives on, however, through Jack, played by HAMILTON’s Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Jack is a lamplighter, and Bert’s protégé. He’s versed in Mary’s history and doesn’t hesitate to help her bring color back into the life of the Banks family. Much like Bert, he’s enthusiastic, loves music and brings a great deal of comedy to the film. Jack allows MARY POPPINS RETURNS to continue Bert’s legacy while also bringing a new (yet familiar) dynamic to the table.
In MARY POPPINS, Mary and the Banks siblings travelled to a magical world that blended live action with 2D animation. Now the magical nanny dusts off that trick for Michael’s children in MARY POPPINS RETURNS. Mary, Jack and the Banks go inside a whirling bowl which holds a land filled with fantastical creatures and animated animals. The movie follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, combining 2D animation with live-action.
This new sequence, dubbed “Royal Doulton,” accomplishes two important things. Firstly (and perhaps most obviously), it pays homage to MARY POPPINS’ original sequence, a nod that will surely be embraced by fans of the series. And that creates a strong sense of continuity between the two movies. It gives audiences the sense that the 2D animation sequences in the 1964 film weren’t created that way due to technical limitations of the time. That’s simply the way Mary Poppins’ world feels.
A Spoonful Of Classic Music
Legions of fans can sing along to “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Let’s Go Fly A Kite.” They’re timeless classics. MARY POPPINS RETURNS revisits them… but not in the way you might expect. Speaking to CinemaBlend, Lin-Manuel Miranda explained how the movie brought beloved songs back in a subtle yet impactful way:
“I catch a new one every time I see the film […] It’s never manipulative, [Marc Shaiman] doesn’t do it at the beginning of the movie. He […] establishes his incredible new score and then just in little moments ‘Feed The Birds’ […] here, ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite’ for [a] second here.”
Musically, MARY POPPINS RETURNS stands on its own. The new soundtrack with songs written by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, after all. That said, certain films are instantly recognizable by their music. MARY POPPINS is one of them. Thankfully, MARY POPPINS RETURNS pays homage to it in a way that’s noticeable but subtle enough so as to allow the new music to shine by itself.
MARY POPPINS RETURNS opens on December 19.