Disney has released a new Star Wars movie for the past three Decembers, and made a ton of money in the process. But with J.J. Abrams' Episode IX not arriving for another year, there's an opening for box office supremacy this holiday season. The House of Mouse is still making a play in theaters, as Mary Poppins Returns will finally provide a follow up to the 1964 original classic.
Set a few decades after the events of the first film, Mary Poppins Returns brings the practically perfect nanny back to Cherry Tree Lane to once again look after the Banks children. Emily Blunt is playing the beloved title character, with Hamilton writer/actor Lin-Manuel Miranda playing newcomer Jack the lamplighter. And it turns out that the opening number contains a scene that was extremely difficult for the acclaimed theatre figure. As he tells it,
Making movies can be a difficult task, as it often takes a ton of technical work to achieve even the most simple of shots. And for Lin-Manuel Miranda's silver screen debut, he was challenged by having to multitask while performing to the camera during a musical number. Don't worry, he wasn't throwing away his shot.
Lin-Manuel Miranda's comments come from his recent appearance on Ellen, where the acclaimed composer spoke to Ellen Degeneres about his upcoming role in Mary Poppins Returns. Miranda has collaborated with Disney quite a few times over the years, but the Mary Poppins sequel marks new ground for the Hamilton and In The Heights writer.
Lin-Manuel Miranda's role in Mary Poppins Returns likely made the actor nervous, so the intricate nature of his musical numbers must have added to the pressure of playing Jack. In addition to singing, acting, and dancing, Miranda had to adopt a cockney accent, modeled after the one used by Dick Van Dyke in the original Mary Poppins. The character also gets around London by way of bike, adding an added level of complexity to many of Jacks' scenes.
In his conversation with Ellen Degeneres, Lin-Manuel Miranda also mentioned his lighting of a lamp. As Jack is a lamplighter, Miranda had to work with live fire during plenty of his scenes as well. The trailers for Mary Poppins Returns tease a big song and dance number with the lamplighters, a la "Step In Time" from the 1964 original. It's clear that Disney is pulling out all the stops for the highly anticipated sequel, with performers like Lin-Manuel Miranda balancing a ton of responsibilities to bring the movie to life.
Jack's bicycle is clearly a macguffin that's going to be used a variety of times throughout Mary Poppins Returns, as shots from the marketing material also reveal a wild ride that Jack takes the three Banks children (and Mary!) on. Just check it out below.
Of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda has some very big shoes to fill, as he's occupying the space held by the great Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. His iconic character Bert isn't set to appear in Mary Poppins Returns, likely due to Van Dyke's age, and the juxtaposition that would have to Emily Blunt's ageless Mary. But Miranda plays Jack, a protegee of Bert's who helps her guide the Banks children during her second visit to Cherry Tree Lane.
Luckily, Dick Van Dyke is still going to be included in the upcoming sequel. But rather than reprising his role as Bert in Mary Poppins Returns, he'll actually be playing Mr. Dawes Jr., the chairman of Fidelity Fiduciary Bank. Banks played Dawes Sr. in the original film, with the help of old age makeup and a favor by Walt Disney himself. With Van Dyke still included in the cast, he seems to passing the torch (or kite, as the case my be) to another actor.
Like Bert in the first film, it seems that Lin-Manuel Miranda's Jack will likely be a major presence in Mary Poppins Returns. In addition to his giant pyrotechnic dance number with the lamplighters, Jack will also be around for some of the sequel's biggest adventures. This includes the highly anticipated animated sequence, which will feature the return of the first film's dancing penguins. It should be interesting to see if he's also got a romantic flirtation with Mary like Bert, or if his affections are aimed somewhere else.
While Lin-Manuel Miranda is an acclaimed composer who has won awards for both of his Broadway musicals, he actually doesn't have a hand in writing the new songs for Mary Poppins Returns. That honor goes to Hairspray scribe Marc Shaiman, allowing Miranda to fully focus on his role as an actor in the new sequel. But fear not Hamilton fans, he'll be doing some form of rapping in Mary Poppins Returns.
The pressure is on for everyone involved to deliver with Mary Poppins Returns. The original 1964 movie is a beloved piece of moviemaking, and has been passed down across the generations. A sequel is a lofty goal, but luckily director Rob Marshall seems to be a major fan of the first film. So while the musical numbers and Emily Blunt's performance will no doubt be compared to Julie Andrews' beloved movie, the reverence and appreciation for the first Mary Poppins is there.
Mary Poppins Returns picks up on Jane and Michael Banks, who have grown into adults since we last saw them. Following a family tragedy, Mary Poppins comes back to Cherry Tree Lane in order to look out for the children of the family-- all of them. Like many Disney movies, this tragedy is the loss of a parent- Michael's wife and the mother of his three children. So bring your tissues and prepare for the musical numbers.
All will be revealed when Mary Poppins Returns arrives in theaters on December 19th. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your trips to the movies in the New Year.
Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.
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