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The feud behind Disney's Mary Poppins to take centre stage (and a spoonful of sugar didn't help)

Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks set to star in movie about writer's battles with Hollywood
  • @adamsherwin10

The fractious relationship between Walt Disney and PL Travers, the author who created Mary Poppins but despised Hollywood's saccharine portrayal of her magical nanny, will be dramatised in a new film starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.

Although the 1964 musical film starring Julie Andrews has charmed generations of children, Pamela Travers, the Australian-born writer who died in London aged 96, vowed never again to let American producers get their hands on her prized creation.

Travers, born Helen Lyndon Goff, wrote Mary Poppins, which became an immediate success and spawned several sequels, in 1934, ten years after sailing to England.

Disney spent 14 years wooing PL Travers for the rights to her story, which was inspired by her own, emotionally deprived upbringing in Queensland. Her father, an alcoholic, failed bank manager, died young, leaving the family destitute.

Travers's Poppins was a vain, haughty disciplinarian blown by the East Wind into the Banks household at 17 Cherry Tree Lane.

Disliking Disney's animated films, she resisted his offer to buy the rights until appeased by the promise of an $100,000 advance, 5 per cent of the profits and full script approval.

Travers objected to almost every element of the Disney script; she disapproved of the children sliding up the banisters and jumping in puddles; she wanted Mr Banks to wear pyjamas, not a suit; she demanded tapioca be removed from Mary Poppins's shopping list and balked at Americanisms such as "go fly a kite".

The novelist despaired of the softening of Poppins's character, the hugely popular songs and the addition of animation. Omitted from the guest list for the premiere, she had to beg Disney himself for an invitation.

She resisted Disney's pleas to produce a sequel. However, Travers, who died in 1996, could not prevent the Disney studio producing the new film, Saving Mr Banks, which is expected to star Hanks as the film mogul.

The new film is expected to be released in 2014 to mark the 50th anniversary of the original, which paired Andrews with Dick Van Dyke, who starred as the cockney, Bert.