richard m sherman

“When Walt liked a song he’d say ‘that’ll work’. And my brother and I used to go crazy ‘cause all he ever said to us was, “Yeah, that’ll work.” [laughs] And we never got, “Wonderful! Great! Marvelous!” It was just Walt’s way. But, if it would work, you knew it was in his picture.”

-Richard M. Sherman

The emotional weight of the scene featuring the song “Feed the Birds” in Saving Mr. Banks is based on the fact that it was Walt Disney’s personal favorite song. According to the real Sherman Brothers, Walt would call them into his office to play the song when he felt depressed. It got to the point that he would call them in and simply say, “Play it,” and they’d know what he wanted. According to Richard M. Sherman, Walt felt that the song was a perfect summation of why he created Walt Disney Pictures in the first place.

According to the 40th Anniversary DVD release of Mary Poppins in 2004, Walt Disney first attempted to purchase the film rights to Mary Poppins from P.L. Travers as early as 1938, but was rebuffed because Travers was disgusted by Hollywood’s handling of book-to-film adaptations, and did not believe a film version of her books would do justice to her creation. Another reason for her initial rejection would have been that at that time the Disney studios had not yet produced a live action film. For more than twenty years, Disney made periodic entreaties to Travers to allow him to make a Poppins film. He finally succeeded in 1961, but Travers demanded and got script-approval rights, as shown in Saving Mr. Banks. Planning the film, writing the script and composing the songs took about two years. Travers objected to a number of elements that actually made it into the film. Rather than Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman’s original songs, she wanted the soundtrack to feature known standards of the Edwardian period in which the story is set. Travers also objected to the idea of using animation to depict the chalkboard world. Disney overruled her, citing contract stipulations that he had final say on the finished print. Travers refused to allow any other Mary Poppins books to be filmed, even though Walt tried very hard to get her to reconsider.

P.L. Travers never forgave Walt Disney for what she saw as vulgar and disrespectful adaptation of her “Mary Poppins” novels, unlike Saving Mr. Banks. In 1994, thirty years after the release of Mary Poppins, stage producer Cameron Mackintosh (Cats, Les Misérables, Oliver!, The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon) approached Travers about a musical theatre version of her work. The author initially refused, citing the film as a reason why she would never again allow an adaptation of her “Mary Poppins” series. After several meetings, the author relented, though when Mackintosh suggested using the songs from the Walt Disney film in the production, Travers again balked. After much more pleading, Mackintosh convinced Travers to allow a stage production with the songs from the film on the strict proviso that no Americans participate in the development, and further that no one involved with the film version–including original film composers Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, both of whom were still alive and working in 1994–could participate. Mackintosh proceeded with development of the stage adaptation for several years without any involvement from Disney, per Travers’ wishes, though after the author’s death in 1996, the Walt Disney Company was allowed some degree of creative involvement and went on to co-produce the musical with Mackintosh.

In the beginning credits, they show that the song She Never Felt Alone by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman is in the movie - but the song never played in the film. The first part was supposed to be played before the lawyer came into the bedroom that the will was created at by the old woman, and the second part was supposed to play when Duchess explaining to Thomas why she has to return to Paris.