After earlier premieres at the London Film Festival in October and the AFI Film Fest at the Chinese Theatre in November where the original Mary Poppins premiered in 1964, Saving Mr. Banks, Walt Disney Studio’s big awards contender, finally had its official Los Angeles premiere on a cool December Monday night. It took place on the very Disney studio lot where much of the movie about the making of the 1964 classic was filmed (as well as Poppins itself). And just to add a touch of nostalgia and class itself the stars of Mary Poppins Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke joined the cast of Banks including Tom Hanks who plays Walt Disney and Emma Thompson who plays the cantankerous author of Poppins P.L. Travers. At a photo opp before the film the Banks cast members along with Andrews and Van Dyke and studio execs Bob Iger and Alan Horn all joined in a spontaneous rendition of the catchy tune from Poppins, “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” (watch here). Those singing along included the indefatiguable two-time Oscar winning co-writer of that song and the entire score, Richard M. Sherman.
At the post party in a completely made-over studio commissary Horn told me how pleased they were that Saving Mr. Banks had made the AFI Top Ten Movies Of The Year list released earlier Monday. When I asked how he felt about singing with all those iconic stars he said he can’t sing and in fact was banned from trying to carry a tune in church and everywhere else. Iger also marveled at the idea he was actually singing along with everyone and modestly just said ” let’s not count the eggs before they are hatched” when I suggested that the movie was a cinch to become the Disney studio’s first home grown live action Best Picture nominee since the original Mary Poppins 49 years ago, the one and only other time the studio had such a distinction.
The 85-year-old Sherman, who has been on cloud nine since this whole ride began, said it was completely “surreal” to be back on the Disney lot with Andrews and Van Dyke celebrating this whole experience. Only in Hollywood. There’s something about the movie that really has created a team spirit. At a Saturday night cast Q&A with Hanks, Thompson, Colin Farrell, Jason Schwartzman and Bradley Whitford I moderated after a SAG screening of the film, Hanks also led everyone in a rendition of “Let’s Go Fly A Kite”. Guess it is just a movie that makes people want to sing. Hanks and Thompson had also been doing Q&As earlier that day at BAFTA and for the Academy where I am told 700 members showed up for a 3 PM Saturday matinee. Certainly Disney, which has been having a great holiday season already with Thor and Frozen, is hoping they will be singing about Banks which opens nationwide on December 20th. I am told it is tracking well. Banks opens Friday with a special engagement at the Walt Disney Studio Theatre that includes a special studio tour of spots of where the films were made.