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Mary Poppins
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English DTS-HD 7.1 Surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • French subtitles
  • Spanish subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Becoming Mr. Sherman
  • Mary-Oke
  • Audio Commentary
  • Disney on Broadway
  • Making of Mary Poppins
  • Archival footage from permiere
  • Publicity
  • A Magical Musical Reunion
  • Deleted Song
  • Song compilation
  • Bonus Short: The Cat that Looked at a King

Mary Poppins

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Robert Stevenson
1964 | 139 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.99 | Series: Disney
Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Date: December 10, 2013
Review Date: December 20, 2013

Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca

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SYNOPSIS

Starring Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews in her Academy-Award winning role, and featuring iconic toe-tapping songs including "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," Mary Poppins is a movie experience your family will enjoy again and again. An all-new digital restoration adds even more magic - helping bring the award-winning songs and amazing picture to life like never before.


PICTURE

Disney’s Mary Poppins makes its Blu-ray debut for its 50th anniversary (and conveniently just in time for the upcoming “making-of” Saving Mr. Banks) in this dual-format edition. The new high-definition 1080p/24hz transfer is delivered in the film’s original aspect ratio of about 1.66:1 on a dual-layer disc.

I was cautiously optimistic going in as who knows what tinkering Disney may do, but the image is admittedly very good. Stunning even. There appears to be some manipulation (one aspect I’m admittedly not too sure on) but it looks as though those involved have taken it easy. Restoration wise I don’t think the film has ever looked this good. Damage is non-existent with the only visible issues being the seams in some of the special effects show through a little more, otherwise I don’t recall any blemishes, not even a spec, throughout the entirety of its running time. Film grain has been left in place and looks mostly natural; some sharpening may have been applied in places and in turn may have pixilated the grain here and there. But it appears they’ve been mostly hands-off with this aspect of the image, and not only does it retain a film-like look and detail levels always remain high, in both long shots and close-ups (fine details in sets and costumes are clearly rendered throughout.) Even the animated sequences come off sharp and detailed with clean lines.

The colours look decent, though I’m unsure how accurate they are. It’s a Technicolor film, though doesn’t always have the Technicolor look, sometimes looking as though there may have been an attempt to make the colours look more natural. I could be wrong as I’ve never seen the film projected, and this could be how it is supposed to look, but the colours did look maybe a bit off to me at times, leaning a little on the warm side.

So past that the tinkering is otherwise minimal and the presentation retains a rather film-like look. I feared a bit of a waxy nightmare, an attempt to make it look like it came from an HD source for the young-uns, but it looks natural and clean. A very commendable job by all of those involved.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Disney delivers a lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1 surround track. Like most of their 7.1 upgrades it’s probably overkill, but they don’t overdo it here, which is how I would prefer it. Most of the sound effects and dialogue remain in the fronts with some activity moving between them. There’s some subtle work in the rears but it’s primarily the music that makes its way back there.

The musical numbers (which there are of course plenty of) are where the track shines. The music swells out and fills the environment nicely, not aggressively, but just right. Instruments are split between the speakers and bass from the lower frequency adds a nice little punch.

It thankfully doesn’t try to be show-offy in anyway, and doesn’t attempt to throw in any unnatural surround tricks, so that’s welcome. Music does sound far cleaner than I recall, but unlike some other surround tracks where the music has obviously been remixed and remasterd (I’m thinking of Criterion’s Blu-ray for Anatomy of a Murder) it doesn’t overshadow the other aspects of the track, like dialogue and effects, and everything is mixed perfectly so there are no moments where dialogue is being drowned out. Fidelity and range are excellent, and clarity is impressive with no background noise of any sort.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Disney carries over most of the material from the original DVD but adds on a couple of new features, starting with Becoming Mr. Sherman, a 14-minute (sort of) discussion between composer Richard Sherman and actor Jason Schwartzman, who plays Sherman in the upcoming film Saving Mr. Banks. Unfortunately this is more of an ad for Saving Mr. Banks, laced with a number of clips from the film and even ending with its trailer. In between these obvious promo clips we hear some demo recordings and Sherman does talk about what it was like working with Disney and on the film, and even gives examples of his working process for some of the numbers in the film. But it’s not in-depth, and covers no more than a making-of documentary that’s found elsewhere in the features.

Mary-Oke is a karaoke like presentation, delivering a handful of songs from the film and animating the lyrics across the screen. Cute but I doubt I see many using it. It runs about 20-minutes.

We then move on to the “Classic DVD features,” which presents the supplements that appeared on other editions of the film. First is a section devoted to the Broadway version of the story that begins with a 48-minute documentary Mary Poppins: From Screen to Stage, covering, rather thoroughly I might add, the development of the Broadway show. A good chunk of it is devoted to the actors, Gavin Lee and Ashley Brown, who talk about the roles and getting the parts, but looks at the process of adapting the film (and also including other elements from the stories apparently) and designing the look. Admittedly I wasn’t feeling the need to watch it, but it’s actually a rather decent documentary and not the ad I was actually expecting.

Step in Time presents a clip from the Broadway show, the “Step in Time” number. It opens with a brief intro by composer George Stilles. It gives a general feel of the show that was actually lacking from the otherwise rather thorough documentary that precedes it. It runs 7-minutes.

The section “Backstage Disney” presents a majority of the supplements, starting with a rather strong making-of, the 50-minute Supercaligragilisticexpialdocious: The Making of Mary Poppins, which features interviews with a number of cast, crew, and critics/historians, including Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, composer Richard Sherman, and more. It does a decent job covering the making of the film, from Disney’s decade’s long fight to get the rights to the character/story, to casting, composing the numbers, set design and costumes, it’s release, and more, even delivering great archival material, including actual recordings of the none-to-impressed author P.L. Travers expressing her disapproval to many things going on. Like most Disney docs of its kind it feels to sugarcoat some things and can feel like it’s really only skimming along the surface, but it’s a strong making-of and one I think fans of the film will surely enjoy.

The Gala World Premiere is a rather interesting compilation of surviving elements from both television, film (colour and black and white) and radio recordings of the premiere (it was recorded for local television but this footage is apparently lost.) A number of celebrities show up and get stopped on the red carpet and get interviewed, including Ed Wynn, Dick Van Dyke, Julie Andrews, Disney himself, and many others. Running 18-minutes it’s a great piece, nicely assembled, and rather seamless.

Following that is footage from the World Gala Permiere Party is around 6-minutes worth of 16mm footage taken from the party after the film (held in a parking lot near the theater.) Audio from a radio broadcast plays over it. Another excellent archival inclusion.

Movie Magic, running about 7-minutes, is a fluffy featurette that looks at some of the film’s looks and effects, covering sets, matte paintings, animatronics, stop motion, old school film tricks (like running film backwards,) and of course the blend of animation and live action. It’s aimed more for kids, giving a very high-level look at the complicated technical aspects to the film. Most others won’t get much out of it.

Deconstruction of a Scene: Jolly Holiday is a little more in-depth. Using the “Jolly Holiday” sequence it presents raw live-action footage and, mixed with rough animations and sketches, blending of the live action and animation, and then bits from the final sequence, occasionally in a split-screen format. Not surprisingly the live actors had to work with stand-ins representing the animated characters in a few shots. It’s a surprisingly well put together demonstration, editing together footage from the various sources, and letting the scene play out. It runs about 13-minutes. There’s also a deconstruction of the Step in Time sequence, which shows rehearsal footage, raw footage shot for the film, and then the blend of backgrounds and matte paintings. This one runs about 5-minutes.

Dick Van Dyke Make-up Test shows silent test footage of the actor in make-up for Mr. Dawes. Van Dyke talks over the footage, explaining how he wanted to do the role and asked Disney for it (“at no extra charge”) and commenting on the length of time it took to put on the make-up. The feature lasts just over a minute.

There is then a collection of Publicity material which includes the original theatrical and teaser trailers, re-issue trailers from 1966 and 1973, original television spots, and what appears to be a trailer for a premiere, featuring Andrews stating she will not be able to attend but wishes her best.

Leaving the “Backstage Disney” section we next move on to “Music & More”, and this section starts with A Magical Musical Reunion, a 17-minute featurette featuring Anderws, Van Dyke, and composer Richard Sherman talking about the film’s music and the writing process. A nice reflection, though ultimately it doesn’t offer too much.

Sherman then presents a deleted song, Chimpanzoo, which runs a minute-and-a-half. We also get what look like storyboards and concept drawings for the scene the song would have played over. This is also followed by a Disney Song Selection, which is a feature that appears on a lot of Disney releases. Basically it lists the songs and allows you to jump right to them in the movie. You can also optionally display the lyrics (subtitles.)

The disc also includes a “bonus” short called The Cat That Looked at a King, which features Andrews taking two children into an animated world. It feels rather rushed, specifically the live-action sequence with Andrews, which feels like it was quickly filmed while they had her there filming the other features. It runs less than 10-minutes and isn’t terribly good.

Then buried deep in here is the DVD’s audio commentary, featuring Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Karen Dotrice, Richard Sherman, and Robert Sherman. It’s similar to older Criterion tracks where people have been recorded separately or in groups, and then edited together. Van Dyke and Andrews are recorded together, as are Karen Dotrice and Richard Sherman. Robert Sherman is recorded on his own. There’s also some archival material featuring some of the participants of the track, director Robert Stevenson, and even Disney himself. The track is actually a pleasant surprise. It’s not a wholly in-depth track, with other features probably covering the film’s production a little better, but it’s entertaining enough to listen to every reflect on the time period and working on a film that Disney has been working for decades to get made. I never felt it had a true focus but it’s still rather entertaining.

Not everything has been carried over. There was an extended interview with Sherman on the DVD that doesn’t appear here, though I’m guessing the producers may have considered it repetitive after the new interview between him and Schwartzman. In all, though, what we get is generally decent. We get a decent making-of and audio commentary, some great archival material, and even a surprisingly engaging look at the Broadway musical.

7/10

CLOSING

Supplements are pretty good, though like most Disney releases lately they can’t help themselves and use some of the supplements as a way to advertise other things. Still, with its rather impressive audio and video presentation, this new Blu-ray edition of Mary Poppins comes with a high recommendation.




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