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Disney to film tale of how Walt won Mary Poppins


The fractious relationship between Walt Disney and P L 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 trying to persuade her to sell him the rights to her story, which was inspired by her own childhood in Queensland. Her father, an alcoholic, failed bank manager, died young, leaving the family destitute.

Travers disliked Disney's animated films, and 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.

However, she 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 that tapioca be removed from Mary Poppins's shopping list and balked at Americanisms such as "go fly a kite".

Travers's Poppins was a vain, haughty disciplinarian. 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 for an invitation.

She resisted Disney's pleas to produce a sequel. However, she could not prevent Disney producing the new film, Saving Mr Banks, which is expected to star Hanks as the film mogul. The new film due to be released in 2014.