Mary Poppins is the title character of a series of children’s books written by P. L. Travers. Throughout the Mary Poppins series, which lasted from 1934 to 1988, Mary Shepard was the illustrator and acted as a second author. The books centre on a magical English nanny, Mary Poppins. She is blown by the East wind to Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, London, and into the Banks’ household to care for their children. Encounters with chimney sweeps, shopkeepers and various adventures follow until Mary Poppins abruptly leaves, i.e., “pops-out”. The adventures take place over a total of eight books. However, only the first three books feature Mary Poppins arriving and leaving. The later five books recount previously unrecorded adventures from her original three visits. As P. L. Travers explains in her introduction to Mary Poppins in the Park, “She cannot forever arrive and depart.”
The books were adapted in 1964 into a musical film titled Mary Poppins from Walt Disney studios and starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. In 2004, Disney Theatrical produced a stage musical also called Mary Poppins in the West End theatre. The stage musical was transferred to Broadway in 2006 where it ran until its closing on March 3, 2013. It has been highly successful, as was the 1964 film.
Mary Poppins was made into a film based on the series of children’s books by Walt Disney Productions in 1964. According to the 40th anniversary DVD release of the film in 2004, Walt Disney first attempted to purchase the film rights to Mary Poppins from P.L. Travers as early as 1938, but was rebuffed because Travers did not believe a film version of her books would do justice to her creation and did not want an animated cartoon based on it. Disney finally succeeded in 1961, although Travers demanded and got script approval rights.
The relationship between Travers and Disney is detailed in Mary Poppins She Wrote, a biography of Travers, by Valerie Lawson, published by Aurum Press in the United Kingdom. The biography is the basis for two documentaries on Travers, The Real Mary Poppins and The Shadow of Mary Poppins.
The process of planning the film and composing the songs took about two years. Songs in the film are by the Sherman Brothers. Mary Poppins is played by Julie Andrews. Disney cast Dick Van Dyke in the key supporting role of Bert. The Banks children were played by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber. George and Winifred Banks were played by David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns. The film features a mix of adventures and episodes taken from each of the existing novels, and new events, created for it. In notable differences from the original novels, the film does not include the characters John, Barbara or Annabel Banks, and has Mary Poppins herself characterized as noticeably kinder.