I did not have the pleasure of viewing Mary Poppins upon its initial release 50 years ago in 1964. Nor did I see it when I was a young child. I was first introduced to this practically perfect lady when I was in high school. Mulling through these teenage years, I did not lose sight of the awe and wonder threaded into the antics of the two British children, Jane and Michael, and the lessons from a woman who appeared with the changing winds. I recall being fascinated by the diluted colors, the faint colloquialisms, and the catchy musical numbers that would inevitably repeat in my head; manifesting as a tune while I tidied up my room. As I continued to watch the witty street charmer, the magical nanny, the stubborn boy, and the giggly girl from my living room, I questioned why had I not seen this movie sooner.
I was spoiled by cutting edge visual effects for flawless integration of what is real and what is imagined. Disney is often renowned for their animated masterpieces, a reputation more than earned since the debut Disney feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. In Mary Poppins, the combination of the actors interacting with painted landscapes and animated animals was a very clever and ingenious move. I could not fathom a a more stirring method of merging a two-dimensional world with the three-dimensional elements. The production befuddled me. Everything I had known of animation, up until that point, was generated from a computer. Mary Poppins served as my introduction to he very essence of film and the foundational nature of the achievements we are able to see in the more precise Pixar productions today. It is very apparent that these elements were to be clearly separate and yet concurrently complement one another in a harmonious aesthetic manner.
And the music! Perhaps it was my limited musical upbringing (piano lessons every Wednesday) or the optimistic desire to attain a vocal range strong enough for an audience, but, upon my first watch I took delight in the lilting notes and and cacophonous surprises throughout Mary Poppins. In the film, one can anticipate a character’s upcoming solo or musical number; the combination of the build up and the execution is what made the musical aspect both effective and memorable. Like the aforementioned advancements in animation design, wherein precise colors are translated into pixels on our screens, modern animated films offer synthetic sounds with mixers that bring thousands upon thousands of infinite auditory effects. Mary Poppins is stripped of artificial melodies. A raw, natural state of music. If you pay attention, you can hear the gliding of bows on strings or the succinctness of the horns or tinkling of bells, essentially isolating each individual instrument. Listening closely, I realized that if audiences of today and generations after were to actively listen to the lyrics, vocabulary would easily improve ten-fold.
It was a jolly holiday with Mary and Bert. Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke were intoxicatingly sweet without an over-romanticized plot, a duo so drastically realized in every manner that they stand apart from all other screen partnerships in their perfect fusion into one delightful entity. To the delight of Jane and Michael, Mary Poppins was everything they could have hoped for in a nanny, the perfect manifestation of their desires as transcribed by their advertisement. Andrews exuded the grace, bore the sternness with soft eyes, and was a strong-headed beauty all the while, not being blatantly magical. Dick Van Dyke was the friendly fellow you would meet on the street, witty, talented in many facets, one who smiled with both his eyes and his heart. Without their presence, either Andrews or Van Dyke, there would be something amiss. From their physical attributes to speech patterns, they fill where the other is lacking, a crutch to each other’s weaknesses and shortfalls, together building one another up.
My first watch was a chance encounter, a flip through the channels, a mere frame catching my eye. My only regret is not watching this movie at an earlier age, when I could still believe that I could take a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, snap my fingers to get my toys to march to their proper places, and win a race with a carousel steed. But there is still a lot of magic to be found, no matter the age of the film or its audience. It is simply supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, unbound by time. If you have yet to find out the meaning of this word, you may have to pay a visit to 17 Cherry Tree Lane, hope for changing winds, and encounter the lady with a parasol.