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The Lost Mary Poppins Prop That Walt Disney’s Amazing Archivers Are Still Trying To Locate

Julie ANdrews as Mary Poppins with bird umbrella
(Image credit: Walt Disney Studios)

When fans watch Adventure Thru the Walt Disney Archives when it hits on DIsney+ on November 19, they’ll get a glimpse of the epic scope of one of the largest film archives in the world. Even though only a fraction of the items in the archive are shown in the special, you can still tell just how massive and vast the archive is. And yet, even the Walt Disney Archive is missing key pieces of Disney history. Including an iconic piece from Mary Poppins.

The Walt Disney Archive was only started by one man, Disney Legend Dave Smith, back in 1970, four years after Walt Disney died and decades after the company began. As such, there was a lot that was simply never kept because there was no indication that people would care. 

As part of a round table for the new Disney+ show, I got a chance to ask Director of the Walt Disney Archives Beck Cline if there was anything the Disney Archives didn’t have that she wishes she could find, and she admitted there is one item from Mary Poppins that seems to have been lost to time. Cline said...

The one I always put out there in case somebody has it in their attic is, nobody knows where the original parrot umbrella is from Mary Poppins. So that's something that I think is pretty iconic, that we would love to find.

The simple fact is that Beck Cline doesn’t know whether that classic umbrella is gathering dust in somebody’s attic or if it is in the possession of a private collector and the collector isn’t talking. It’s also quite possible that the item was destroyed or fell apart, as Becky Cline admits that, because of the way Disney movies used to be made, a lot of costuming items and other props have simply fallen apart because there was no plan to preserve them. She continued...

Our early films were built for hire, so a lot of the costumes were made by Western Costume. And over the years, they were rented out or destroyed because, they got old and unusable and things like that. So I think there's a lot of stuff out there, and maybe in personal collections that I'm unaware of. I don't have the ability to go out and treasure hunt as often as I would like. But we do keep our eye open for things that are being sold at auction to see if there's anything of real importance to the company's history. And if I can afford them, there's a lot of really wealthy collectors out there. So sometimes we're able to get a few things back for the Archives collection. But, you know, I'm not the Disney police, I don't have any desire to go out and wrest things away from anyone. But I am always on the lookout to see who has things in their personal collection. Because in the past, they've loaned us things for exhibits, too. So sometimes just knowing where it is, is the important thing.

But the Mary Poppins umbrella is far from the only thing that the Walt Disney Archives is currently without. Becky Cline says that there are basically zero props from early Disney live-action films, like Treasure Island, that have apparently survived. If they exist at all, they’re in the wind. Cline explained...

But there are a lot of objects, probably props and costumes that I would say from some of the films of the 50s, and 60s, even up through the 70s, we weren't able to keep a lot of that. Over the years, we've acquired things, we've been given things. The costume department every once in a while, will find something and they'll call me and say, ‘Hey, I just found yada, yada with a label inside, do you want it?’ And that does happen. So we are constantly acquiring older things. I have literally nothing dimensional from Treasure Island, for example, which came out in 1950. And things like that, we just don't have dimensional objects from some of those classic early films.

For everything that The Walt Disney Archives has, there’s still, as it turns out, a lot that is still missing. How much of it is even still out there to be found is a pretty big question. Now that the archives exist, here is clearly a bigger focus on preservation, so less will be lost from modern films. And maybe some of those missing items are still out there, waiting to be found. And if they are, hopefully they'll find their way to the Walt Disney Archive.

Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.