Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)

December 13, 2013 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

As the years progress, it’s a bit odd for me to see some of these “anniversary” dates on the new Blu-ray’s.  I realize it’s another opportunity for the studios to capitalize on the popularity of these films and give the consumer the best in audio and video, but still – seeing something with “50th Anniversary Edition” on it is a bit odd to say the least!  Granted I’m not 50 years old, but this movie was under a decade old when I was  born, so it does tend to make me scratch my head. “Where does the time go?” And, as of this writing, I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are starring in Saving Mr. Banks, the story of how Mary Poppins came to be on the big screen.  Remember The Perfect Storm?  Yes, I think Disney has had tis plan for quite some time now – release a Blu-ray of one of their most classic films, coincide it with a 50th Anniversary and couple that with a feature film about the making of that film.  Ingenious. No wonder Disney is worth billions upon billions of dollars.  All marketing speak aside, there really are few things that can compare with watching one of Disney’s classic films and this certainly fits the bill.  For those out there that haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat and for the rest of us – it’s just a spoonful of sugar…

Those expecting to be challenged by the plot will be in for a pleasant surprise here as it’s, well, pretty straight-forward.  Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber), children of banker George Banks (David Tomlinson) put out an ad for, quite simply, “A perfect nanny.” This ad is summarily incinerated, but as fate would have it an umbrella-toting woman by the name of Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) makes an entrance that embodies the film itself.  And in a nutshell, that’s it.  Unlike Andrews in The Sound of Music, there are no real antagonists it’s more along the lines of “The Adventures of Mary Poppins.” There are songs aplenty and it’s the chemistry between Poppins, the kids and of course Bert (Dick Van Dyke) that makes the movie really work.  Mary Poppins embodies everything that you’d think the film would and for a movie that’s now half a century old, I’d say it’s held up remarkably well.

A movie this popular has become so ingratiated in pop culture that it’s hard to deny its long-lasting effect. Fans of The Simpson’s will no doubt recall an episode where “Sherry Bobbins” came to help Bart, Lisa and Maggie after Homer and Marge couldn’t take it anymore.  I won’t ruin this review by saying how Bobbins finished out the episode, but let’s just say that the Disney version is a bit more “Family Friendly.” And while there’s no doubt that Andrews might be a bit more synonymous as Maria from The Sound of Music, I’d say that she’s equally popular here as well.  The songs really did rekindle a spirt of me watching the film for the first time as a child and I’m sure that a new generation will be just as enthralled with the movie as I’ve been over the years.  Words can’t really suffice here when I say that Mary Poppins is a must add to every Blu-ray collection.

Video: How’s it look?

The sheer delight of watching the film should be enough to please most audiences, but if you’re sprigging for this Blu-ray (and you should) it does have a  few decisive advantages over the previous standard DVD counterpart. Disney has digitally restored the film and it looks as good as I’ve ever seen it. The somewhat narrower version, presented in a 1.66:1 AVC HD image loses a bit of the “original” 1.75:1 aspect ratio, but I won’t gripe. Colors are brighter and seem to have a bit more life, and of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on the chimney scene and the soot that so decorates the skin of the cast.  While a far cry from some of today’s films, Mary Poppins has benefitted from a nice new restoration and I think only the sourest of chaps could find something – anything, to complain about.

Audio: How’s it sound?

I highly doubt that the filmmakers had a DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 mix in mind when they were making this half a century ago, but here we are and this Blu-ray does in fact come equipped with such a track. Now the good news is that the songs sound as good as you might expect and they resonate throughout however many speakers you’ll have powered on. But the “bad” news (and you’ll see why I used that in quotes in a second) is that the songs just seem a bit too sparse to actually fill all of these channels. The consensus is that there should have been an option for a simple stereo mix that would have more faithfully replicated the original mix and, therefore, made it a bit more true to the original recording. Still, this by no means sounds bad and I highly doubt that viewers will find much, if any, displeasure while watching the film.

Supplements: What are the extras?

There are a few new supplements to this Blu-ray edition, but the lion’s share are ported over from the standard DVD. Still, here’s what to expect from this set:
Blu-ray Exclusives

  • Becoming Mr. Sherman – What? A tie-in to Saving Mr. Banks? You must be joking!  Only kidding, the obligatory feature has a pretty decent interview with Jason Schwartzman who plays Mr. Sherman in Saving Mr. Banks. It’s basically a promo for the movie that they want you to see.
  • Mary-Oke – A four song karaoke feature that allows you to sing along with “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” among others.

Classic DVD Features

  • Audio Commentary – This is the same track that was present on the DVD (obviously) and it’s kind of a hodgepodge of actors and crew as they reminisce about the film, the shoot and its long-lasting influence.  It’s a nice listen, but a bit inconsistent at times.
  • Disney on Broadway – This hour long documentary is pretty all-encompassing when it comes to Mary Poppins on stage. Though a bit dated, we get pretty much all we’ve ever wanted to know about the film and its transition to Broadway.
  • Backstage Disney – This is actually about 8 different segments, with the most robust being a 50 minute documentary “The Making of Mary Poppins” along with some red carpet featurettes.
  • Music and More – Broken down into a quartet of features: “A Magical Musical Reunion”,  A deleted song “Chimpanzoo”, a “Disney Song Selection”, and a “Movie Sing-Along” track.
  • The Cat that Looked at a King – A 2004 feature, Andrews leads two children into a chalk drawing and regales them with a story.
  • DVD/Digital Copy

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