Over the past few years, nostalgia has proved a powerful trend in the entertainment industry. All that is old is new again, and it seems like just about any movie or TV show could return for a reboot or long awaited sequel. Disney has been mostly focusing on live-action adaptations of classic animated blockbusters, but the House of Mouse will go into sequel territory with Rob Marshall's upcoming Mary Poppins Returns.
Mary Poppins will soon return to Cherry Tree Lane this holiday season for the first time, bringing a new story set decades after the classic 1964 original. Emily Blunt is taking on the role of the practically perfect titular nanny from the great Julie Andrews, and has been open about not re-watching the movie during her time on set. But according to Rob Marshall, there needed to be a deep love for the OG Mary Poppins for both the cast and crew. He explained, saying:
Here was my barometer for anybody who was working on Mary Poppins: It has to be in your blood. You have to love the first film so much. Because I wanted to honor the first film and pay homage to it, but I wanted to carve our own space for our own story. So it was this fine balance. But you have to love it. As much as I did.
That's certainly cut and dry. While Rob Marshall and everyone involved in Mary Poppins Returns are no doubt trying to create a new story that will stand on its own two feet, a reverence for the 1964 original was mandatory. That film has such a specific tone and has affected generations of moviegoers, so Marshall believed everyone needed to be on the same page regarding Mary Poppins Returns, and the significance of this brand new story.
This adoration toward the OG Mary Poppins can be seen in the brief trailers for the upcoming sequel. Rob Marshall and the House of Mouse recreated all of Cherry Tree Lane, including the architecture and characters that were present in the iconic first movie. And while it's clear that Mary Poppins Returns is something totally original, there's little details that will elevate the experience for fans of the classic.
The supporting cast of Mary Poppins Returns shows how connected it will be to the first film. Obviously Jane and Michael Banks are present in their adulthood, accompanied by Michael's three children. Original star Dick Van Dyke has a role as Mr. Dawes Jr., a character present in the iconic bank sequences of the 1964 version. Admiral Boom is also still alive and kicking, presumably setting of cannons a few times a day.
The visuals of Mary Poppins Returns also look like a more sophisticated version of the original's, including its own out of this world animated sequence. The costumes are also similarly fantastical, with Emily Blunt's title character wearing almost an identical outfit to the one Julie Andrews made iconic as the musical British governess.
While the connection between Mary Poppins and its upcoming sequel are obvious, it's also been made clear that those collaborating on Mary Poppins Returns sought to craft something new and original. Emily Blunt has been open about this process, and you can hear that she's using an accent quite different from Julie Andrews'. And since Blunt also worked intimately on the new musical numbers, the songs should be more suited to her particular voice, which was seen in Into The Woods not too long ago.
In another interview with EW, screenwriter David Magee explained the conscious effort to create something different, rather than rehash old material. This includes the musical numbers, which don't include reprises of any the classics, but instead feature new creations by Marc Shaiman. As Magee tell it,
The truth is, from the very beginning, we knew how loved the first film was, and we wanted to pay homage to it and make reference to it, but we wanted to make sure that when you started our film, you were watching a new story, a new installment. The hope is that once we've gotten you fully into our world, we could use little tiny references or turns of phrase in music to remind you of a connection, but not constantly rely on the original to say, 'See? See?!' We thought it was more respectful to earn your interest in this movie, and then make it a much fuller experience by connecting it to the old film.
This is probably the right way to go, and will hopefully allow Mary Poppins Returns to stand on its own two feet. Or float slightly above the ground on an umbrella. But the new film certainly appears to have plenty of connections to its predecessor, while also paying homage with the myriad newcomer characters.
For instance, the legendary Angela Lansbury will be playing a character known as Balloon Lady. How she functions within the narrative in a mystery, but she's likely a nod to Mary Poppins' Bird Lady, and the haunting ballad sung by Julie Andrews. While Dick Van Dyke's Bert won't be present in the sequel, Lin-Manuel Miranda's Jack is reportedly playing Bert's apprentice.
The subject matter of Mary Poppins Returns does look to be somber, perhaps moreso than Mr. Banks' quest for self fulfillment in the original film. Mary returns to Cherry Tree Lane when tragedy strikes the Banks family. Smart money says it's Michael losing his wife, and therefore his three kids losing their mother. The House of Mouse loves to kill off parental characters, so it's par for the course in that way. But the darker subject matter may open up new possibilities for Mary and the Banks children.
It also appears that we'll learn more about Mary Poppins herself in Returns, as we'll be meeting another member of her family. Meryl Streep is playing Topsy, Mary's eccentric cousin. Perhaps he's related to her Uncle Albert, who sang the iconic song "I Love To Laugh" in the original movie.
Mary Poppins Returns will fly into theaters umbrella in hand on December 19th, 2019. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your trips to the movies in the New Year.