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    Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly positive

    Jeffrey Sherman, son of songwriter/composer Robert and nephew to Richard, has had some pointed things to say regarding the film adaptation Disney is making on his Facebook page via posts and comments:

    "The Pamela Travers conceived by the screenplay writers is made to be a sort of hero. In the draft I read, at least, she comes up for key story and song notions I absolutely know were my father and uncle’s contributions. She points out that they’d better write a song about that bird woman, pointedly mentions flying kites and a spoonful of sugar. The screenplay suggests that, somehow, by “saving" her precious story from the hands of the bumbling songwriting brothers and their cartoon-making boss, setting them all straight, she will in some sense “save" her own deplorable, drunken loser father who, according to these screenwriters, was the entire basis for her “Mary Poppins" book. For those of you who’ve read Travers’ original book, the ‘father’s responsibility to his family’ concept is nowhere to be found. That was my father’s and uncle’s added theme. So was the prayer for charity that is “Feed the Birds." The kites were an ode to my Grandfather, Al Sherman, and his simple, inexpensive way of bringing family together. Yes, a man must work hard, but his first responsibility is to his family. Mary and Bert both get that across, singing and speaking my father’s words. All it takes is tuppence, just a spoonful of sugar."

    "The whole central conceit of the story they're telling is flawed, from what I know about it. They're saying the reason Mrs. Travers was so intent on keeping true to her original material was because it was a story 'really' about her father. I listened to all the hours of taped recordings of the Travers/Sherman Bros./Don Da Gradi/Bill Walsh meetings when Gregg and I were making "the boys: the sherman brothers' story." The truth is, PL Travers was simply an objectionable, kooky woman who disliked everything developed by my Dad and Dick and the Poppins screenwriters -- INCLUDING the cohesive story about the dysfunctional family, the work-a-holic father and all the things my Dad and Uncle created with Walt Disney. The "...Mr. Banks" filmmakers have falsely attributed all of this to Mrs. Travers -- even certain song ideas. Ludicrous and laughable. In the long run, I suppose, who cares. My Dad is gone now and can't speak up for himself and the truth, my uncle won't for variety of reason. Despite the fact that Gregg's and my documentary we made FOR Disney Studios laid out the actual, true origins of the magic in the classic Poppins film -- and that, I'm told, our segment on Travers inspired the writers to write "...Mr. Banks" -- no one bothered to ever fact check. True Disney/Poppins fans know the real origin story well. Just sad that no one at the company that my Dad and Uncle helped build cared enough to tell the factual story."

    Interesting, if that pans out, that a movie released and made by Disney rewrites the history of some of their most talented employees in favor of 'improving' the story of an author who actually disliked the work Walt and the Sherman Brothers did, and attributing elements she opposed/others came up with to her. That doesn't sound terribly encouraging, if Jeffrey Sherman is accurately recounting things (which I've no reason to doubt, as the excellent documentary about the Sherman Brothers he contributed to doesn't shy away from personal disputes and 'darker' instances they had, even though they are family).

    Source for Jeffrey Sherman's comments.

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    Re: Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly posi

    Ouch. I'm really sorry to hear this.

    If the script Jeffrey saw, or one close to it, is the draft that was shot, Disney is going to get an enormous amount of flak -- and not just from Disney fans. Everyone in the publishing and film businesses knows chapter and verse of how PLT was a royal PITB. The books were Travers', but the movie was a Walt/Walsh/DaGradi/Shermans creation, first frame to last, and everyone in town has known it for a half century.

    This is the first feature film that Disney post-Walt has made about its own history and founder (not to mention a film about the making of Mary Poppins). If Jeffrey's take turns out to be what's on screen, the spoonful of sugar is gonna hit the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious fan.

    Last edited by Mr Wiggins; 07-16-2013 at 07:20 PM.
    "With the acquisition of Marvel and now of Lucasfilm,
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    Re: Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly posi

    Ouch indeed. Thanks for the link and quotes, Regions. In addition to the one that you posted, I stumbled upon this while looking for more information: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...type=1&theater. I believe the first quote in your post is from this particular link, but the two in your post both directed me to a more recent one, so I thought I'd share this as well, since it is a compelling and heartfelt post by Jeffery and a touching tribute to his dad.
    Last edited by gatheringrosebuds; 07-17-2013 at 01:02 AM.

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    Re: Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly posi

    Wouldn't be the first time someone's family has spoken out about portrayals.

    The Schulz family felt the depiction of Charles Schulz in the biography a few years ago was rather scathing.

    And even Walt Disney's family didn't feel too happy with Neal Gabler's portrayal of Walt.

    (in truth, both of those books made the men out to be somewhat self-centered with one seeming in search of a substitute mother figure and to be as great as the dog in his cartoons, and the other just seemed to keep pushing forward, regardless of the people or circumstances around him).

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    Re: Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly posi

    Very interesting. I also have a famous uncle in my family and make a point of reading whatever I can that is written about him to check the veracity of the work. Like this episode in the Disney team's lives, my uncle faced some tough situations and, as it was in his case, I'm certain that people who have little first-hand access to real information can easily force their interpreted revisionism onto black and white historical situations.

    I didn't have any sense when I read Gabler's Dream that Walt was being vilified in any way. Driven, yes. And Gabler very carefully detailed how Roy did nothing short of save his brother's career on several occasions. If anything, Roy Sr. is painted as an undersung hero in that book and Gabler's writing sparked my newest WDW tradition of having a photo taken with he and Minnie during our visits. I did sense that Disney became a bit hardened by his tenuous hold on the movie business in this book and that the unions (one of which I'm a member of) really gave him a difficult time of it after the war.

    I don't believe that there is much question about the fact that the Disneyland Project finally brought Walt a great deal of joy, where his work in filmed-entertainment gave him little pleasure, if any.

    Gabler's book is fascinating and I've added that narrative to my Disney experience and it shapes my interpretation of the man to a great extent. For that reason, Sherman's take on this chapter in Disney history is all the more interesting.
    ~ Erik

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    Re: Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly posi

    ^ Well said! I couldn't agree more about Gabler.

    As to Jeffrey Sherman speaking out about the script he read, Saving Mr. Banks isn't just a portrayal of Walt by an author. It's the Walt Disney Company's portrayal of Walt, in a film about its own history.
    "With the acquisition of Marvel and now of Lucasfilm,
    Disney may have finally found the grail. You don't need
    imagination or art. All you need is a brand."

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    Re: Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly posi

    Well, I guess we'll all have to see for ourselves.

    I have to admit, I've been very nervous about this film. For me, it's like how some comic book fans get all upset when a film adaptation changes certain details because it's thought it will make a better film. I've admittedly kinda laughed about that sort of reaction through the years, but now I find myself in their exact position. As someone who greatly cares about all things Walt Disney and has read all sorts of things about him, I'm afraid that I'm going to be like the die hard comic guys and get angry when I see inaccuracies here and there.

    In addition, certain things have concerned me so far. It was always clear this film was going to be about PL Travers what with all the stuff from her childhood, and with the official studio synopsis of the plot emphasizing the conflicts between her and Walt it always seemed as if Walt might actually come off as a bit of the sleazy Hollywood type. Doesn't that first photo released of Hanks and Thompson make Walt seem a bit like that? But who knows, it may be nothing like that. I'm hoping that if it's a good film on it's own merits that I'll be able put aside my own baggage and enjoy it anyway, but we'll see.
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    Re: Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly posi

    If anything, I predict, it is written to make them both 'heroes' (Walt and Travers), and sanitized/rewritten for that - even if at the expense of other people that actually were involved like the Shermans, DaGradi, Bill Walsh, and etc. Travers made more sympathetic than in real life via backstory (invented or not) for the purposes of being an 'uplifting' movie - it's being released under the castle logo, after all, so 'magic' has to win in the form of HanksWalt persuading Travers - and there enters it being about, supposedly, elements of her father being the 'emotional anchor' element added to the film - which Jeffery Sherman rather explicitly contests above, as that content never came from her in real life, according to him.

    The issue is, that didn't happen in real life, by all accounts. Mary Poppins the movie was brilliant and a success, but Travers hated it. I expect that to be vastly downplayed/not acknowledged, if they don't entirely 'rewrite history' and just pretend like that's what really happened, that she was persuaded and entirely happy with Walt doing what he did with Poppins as a story.

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    Re: Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly posi

    Coincidentally I just watched MP last week and as usual enjoyed the Special Features. Seemed like MP was a movie Walt really wanted to make and on which everyone had a great time except for dealing with a fruitcake author who would not have approved of anything no matter what. Harrrumph!
    "Ignore the Chihuahua behind the curtain."

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    Re: Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly posi

    Quote Originally Posted by DobbysCloset View Post
    Coincidentally I just watched MP last week and as usual enjoyed the Special Features. Seemed like MP was a movie Walt really wanted to make and on which everyone had a great time except for dealing with a fruitcake author who would not have approved of anything no matter what. Harrrumph!
    Well, I think one should also look at it from the point-of-view if you were an author. You've written something that you have a connection to. We see it alot in adaptations, where connections/characters/etc get excised/cut/spindled in strange ways.

    Besides, it's not like Travers was the only author who was not happy with the adaptation of her book. There have been other authors through the years:

    - Roald Dahl didn't care for how 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' was adapted, and word was years later, he also voiced displeasure on the adaptation of 'The Witches.'

    - Michael Ende's book 'The Neverending Story,' while it has a hardened sense of nostalgia in many people's minds, is truncated severely from his story. The most fascinating thing, is there was a documentary on the making of the film, AND they included a segment where Ende voices his displeasure with the adaptation.

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    Re: Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly posi

    I was concerned that they were headed in that direction -- taking even Walt's own instincts as a filmmaker away from him.

    Without a doubt the theme of "saving" cold hearted adults with the rediscovered joys of the inner child was a repeated theme in Walt's film classics throughout his career - leading up to "Mary Poppins." It was not something he discovered with that film.

    "Peter Pan"... "Song of the South"... "Pollyanna"... "Thomasina"... these all play on a similar premise.

    Some years ago, I wrote an article on this topic for SaveDisney, now archived here:

    Song of the South.net - News Archives: SaveDisney.com - The Spirit of Youth

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    Re: Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly posi

    First off, I'm a huge fan of Mary Poppins, and of course Walt Disney, Bill Walsh, and the Sherman Brothers. I personally never cared much for the original Mary Poppins' books, although I "get" why it would have (and did) make a terrific property for film. The book the film is based on ("Mary Poppins, She Wrote") tends to be fairly lopsided in Travers' favor when it comes to the film. Having listened to a lot of the meeting recordings with Walsh, the Sherman Brothers and Travers in attendance, it's obvious she's a prickley bitch.

    BUT--her strong and well spoken points of view made the film makers work harder, and contributed to an even better film than had she not been involved at all. Her comments provided MANY great jumping off points for both the screenplay, the songs, and the design of the film--that much is an indisputable fact. It's also a fact that she had many ideas that were not worth considering if they weren't fitting into the stronger overall film structure. The many Sherman Brothers songs left behind from the production weren't really worthy of the final film, and the incredible songs that made it into the film were no doubt made stronger by her prodding and questioning. There can only be praise for the Sherman Brothers and Walt for hearing her out--however frustrating--and responding with even better work that trumped her concerns. This is the creative process, and it's very, very hard sometimes. But it can sometimes yield superior work, as it did in the final film. Anyone--on any side--attempting to take ALL the credit for any aspect of making that film great is out of touch with reality.

    I've read the screenplay of the upcoming "Saving Mr. Banks." It's a "true" as any film "based on a true story," in the sense that many things are condensed, re-arranged, and dramatized. But it's a hoot, and very entertaining. How the FINAL film will come across as will be another matter, of course!

    As far as the Sherman Brothers documentary--it's so fun as a rememberance and celebration of their outstanding body of work. But ultimately, AS A DOCUMENTARY, the central question brought up is left dangling: WHY did they not speak to one another all those years? Not knowing doesn't undo their legacy as artists, but does leave the documentary dangling in a way that let's the air out of the tires. Maybe they just shouldn't have brought the question up at all!

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    Re: Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly posi

    Well said, Waltsicle! I'll be honest, whether its true or not, i'm looking forward to seeing Emma Thompson nail another role! And if it does well enough, Disney's first Best Picture Oscar! SHEER optimism, but why not right? Reviews out of London are pretty decent!
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    Re: Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly posi

    Variety loved it!
    "In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends." - Anton Ego

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    Re: Robert Sherman's son speaks about 'Saving Mr. Banks' - and it's not terribly posi

    I saw it on Sunday night at the Disney Studios and I thought it was great, personally.

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