Harlan Ellison describes himself as “a child of the Disney era,” whose first taste of the magic of cinema was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. But Disney’s latest movie (made in collaboration with BBC Films) Saving Mr. Banks has so pissed off the already notably cantankerous Mr. Ellison that he has felt it necessary to post a rather disconnected (one might say rambling) video on YouTube calling out the film as “bullshit.”
Saving Mr. Banks stars Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P. L. Travers, the author of the book Mary Poppins, which was first published in 1934. The film concerns Disney’s attempts to convince Travers to allow him to film her famous novel. It took Disney over 20 years to achieve this, and eventually his company filmed Mary Poppins, with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, in 1964.
Ellison has great praise for Hanks and Thompson in the film, but his main beef with Saving Mr. Banks is not the acting but a pivotal scene at the end of the movie, which he claims is bogus and bullshit. One can surmise what this scene may entail, as Ellison declares how Travers hated the movie, and went to her grave regretting her decision to ever allow Disney near her work.
Ellison gets all fired up about this, which (I suppose) is understandable as Ellison is a writer who is deeply proud of his own work, and sees anything he writes as sacrosanct. However, I (like no doubt millions of others) have known for decades that P.L. Travers hated Disney’s Mary Poppins. It’s not new news.
When musical impresario, Cameron Mackintosh asked Travers, who was then in her nineties, if he could produce a musical version of Mary Poppins, Travers stipulated (confirmed in her will) that this musical must be adapted by English writers and no Americans, or anyone involved with the film or the Disney empire were to be directly involved with the creative process of the musical. Mackintosh adhered to Travers’ wishes, and the musical opened in London’s West End in 2004, where it ran for four years.
Okay, so it’s not news, but what Ellison is really getting at is his disdain for the…
“...refurbishing of Disney’s god-like image, which he spent his entire life creating, and it is so fucking manipulative…”
Particularly when this involves the misuse of a writer’s work, especially when that work is exploited and bastardized for commercial reward, and in this case, to create propaganda to “burnish” the image of Walt Disney. Which probably is something to be pissed-off about.