The other day I watched Saving Mr. Banks, a fictionalized account of the filming of Mary Poppins, which I have to admit was not my favorite Disney film. Apparently, PL Travers, the author of the book, had an even stronger reaction. She gave ole Uncle Waltie such gas that at first she wasn’t even invited to the premiere. The reasons she gave for her disapproval were: the nanny wasn’t strict enough and Disney insisted on adding animation. After her experience, she refused to allow him to film any of her other books. (Watch the trailer from Saving Mr. Banks.)
The movie Saving Mr. Banks implies that Travers’ hatred of the movie went far deeper than a dislike of dancing penguins. Apparently the filming brought back memories of her delightfully fanciful
but totally irresponsible father and the stern aunt who arrived after his premature death to pull the grieving family together. In the Mary Poppins’ books, the nanny is able to save the whole family whereas in real life, help arrived too late. So you could say PL Travers used fiction to save a father she’d tragically lost and for that reason, seeing him and her beloved aunt portrayed as Disney caricatures must have mortified her. I can understand this feeling well. The other day someone commented that the Captain Wug character in FLIPKA was a “crazed geezer.”
Since that character was based on a decorated war hero, I freaked. What have I done, I thought. Turning the beloved people in my life into caricatures? The person who made the comment was surprised by my reaction. Many memorable characters in fiction began their lives in the impressions of children, he pointed out, and thus are often capable of the improbable, the fanciful, and the heroic. They are also subject to caricature. Every book we publish is like a kite we launch into the sky. Everyone who sees the kite will see it differently and about this fact we can do nothing except be happy the kite is flying.
By the way, PK Travers was not the first nor will she probably be the last author to hate the film version of their baby:
About the movie adaptation of The Shining, Stephen King complained the hotel was not sufficiently “evil” and Jack Nicholson acted “too psychotic.” Having read the book and seen the movie, King’s comments made me think he doesn’t know what he wrote! I could say the same thing about Ernest Hemingway’s response to the first adaptation of A Farewell to Arms. He felt it was “too romantic.” Okay. Here’s what I think. The heroine was based on his first wife and by the time the movie came out he was probably on his third. Sounds like the rascal was just trying to save a marriage!
The list goes on to include so many authors that I decided if anything I write is ever made into a movie or play, I’ll try to keep this in mind – it’s only a kite I launched which once airborne belongs to the world.Let’s go fly a kite (click for video)
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Let’s go fly a kite! – Robert B. Sherman
Click here to read about other authors who hated the movie adaptations of their books.