Mary Poppins

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Practically perfect in every way."

Describe Mary Poppins? Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, of course!

If that's too much of a mouthful for you, she's also a magical nanny, who literally flies into the life of the Banks family of London, England, during the early twentieth century.[1] The ensuing adventures were originally a series of children's books by P. L. Travers, and there's also a musical stage adaptation, but when most people hear the name they think of the 1964 film starring Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke as Bert. Which is not surprising, as it is a very good movie; unless you are P. L. Travers, it is in serious competition for claiming the title of finest live-action feature that Walt Disney ever produced. Timeless songs, a perfect cast (yes, even Bert with his infamous accent), special effects that still hold up more than half a century later, and Van Dyke dances with penguins. Show it to your kids. Watch it yourself. Try not to sniffle too much at the climax.

In 2004, the story was adapted into a splendid musical theater adaptation that toured the United States; this version replaced some of the less stageable aspects of the original film (such as the penguins and Uncle Albert's floating) with elements of the original book by Travers, in an example of both Adaptation Expansion and Adaptation Distillation.

The movie was named to the National Film Registry in 2013.

In 2018, Disney released a Sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, starring Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Bert's protégé/successor Jack.

A Spoonful Of Tropes'll Help the Article Go Down:
For tropes specific to individual installments, visit their respective work pages.
  • Advertised Extra: Bert, despite being on the starring poster billing, has about thirty minutes of screen time. Elsa Lanchester has about five minutes of screen time, despite being one of the co-stars on the poster billing.
  • Angel Unaware: Mary Poppins. She's seen putting her makeup on while sitting waist-deep in a cloudbank, for heaven's sake. Possibly Bert too, though his magical powers aren't as reliable.
  • Animated Actors: The inhabitants of Bert's drawing.
  • Ash Face: Mary, Bert and the Banks' kids are sucked up the chimney and onto the roof, covered in soot. Later, Michael shouts into a chimney and gets even more soot blown into his face.
  • Bag of Holding: Mary Poppins' carpetbag.
  • Bank Run: Mary Poppins manipulates Mr. Banks into taking the children to his workplace, the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, where Mr. Dawes aggressively urges Michael to invest his tuppence in the bank. Dawes ultimately snatches the coins from him. Michael demands them back; other clients overhear the conflict and all begin demanding their own money back.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Mr. Dawes Sr. and George Banks becomes the film's main antagonists.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: George Banks is at first the leader of the Banks family, but he is revealed to be the director of the Bank and helping Mr. Dawes steal all of the tuppances.
  • British Stuffiness: Mr. Banks offers perhaps the archetypal example.
  • But Now I Must Go: Mary Poppins leaves, saying goodbye to no one but Bert, who tells her not to stay away too long.
  • Butt Monkey: Bert, who is looking for a new job.
  • Catch Phrase: Spit Spot!
  • Character Development: Mary Poppins' presence seems to cause character development. After she works for the Banks, all four members of the household gain a new perspective to some degree, but the most drastic change would be Mr. Banks' transformation from aloof and distant patriarch to concerned and loving family man.
  • Character Title
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Mrs. Banks
    • Mr. Banks too at times, when not dealing with his job.
    • The Banks family's eccentric neighbor Admiral Boom, an insane old navy man who made a ship out of his house, cannon and all.
  • The Comically Serious: Mr. Banks in the movie. Especially during the chimney sweep scene.
  • Composite Character: The film version of Bert, merging those of the Match-Man and Chimney Sweep.
  • Continuity Cameo: The people Bert sings to in the opening of the movie are all supporting characters from the book series. Mrs. Corry, the woman with the daughters taller than her, has a bigger role in the musical adaptation.
  • Crazy Prepared: The carpetbag again.
    • Mary Poppins also has a makeup compact containing soot. Y'know, just in case she gets sucked up a chimney, has soot on her face, and wants to add a little more.
  • Creator Cameo: An illustration in one of the books has P. L. Travers and series illustrator Mary Shepard flying with monogrammed balloons.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mary Poppins has her moments.
  • Dish Dash: The Banks household scrambles to keep their furnishings from falling over every time Admiral Boom fires his cannon.
  • The Dragon: Mr. Dawes Jr. becomes this to his father.
  • The Edwardian Era: The setting of the film.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Step in Time" in both the film and the stage musical. The stage musical is especially impressive in that Bert climbs up the wall and tap dances across the ceiling.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: Again, perhaps the arch-typical example.
  • Expospeak Gag:
    • Variant. No expospeak as such, but as it's a kid's movie this line has the same effect as one:

Tradition, discipline and rules
Must be the tools
Without them, disorder!
Catastrophe! Anarchy!
In short, you have a ghastly mess!

    • Later, this exospeak is heard again with a few different words that still mean the same thing:

Tradition, discipline and rules
Must be the tools
Without them, disorder!
Chaos! Moral disintegration!
In short, you have a ghastly mess!

  • Expy: Mary gets one in Nanny McPhee, only she's a bit snarkier.
    • Can anyone say Sherry Bobbins? (The Simpsons)
    • Hogfather turns Susan Sto Helit into one, though she swears if she ever catches herself dancing on rooftops with chimney sweeps she will beat herself to death with her own umbrella.
  • The Film of the Book: Travers and Walt Disney's battles were lengthy. It took twenty years for Disney to finally convince Travers to have her magnum opus adapted for the big screen, as the author felt that a film based on her work would be a disservice. Travers was also vehemently opposed to making an Animated Adaptation, even as Disney added an live-action/animated sequence in the film much to her chagrin. While she did eventually warm up to it somewhat and remarked that it did have some positive merits (particularly the casting of Julie Andrews), she put it in her last will that there will be no American-produced adaptations; she did acquiesce on a stage show adaptation, provided it would be written and produced by British staff, and Disney went on to produce a sequel with the blessing of Travers' estate.
  • Full-Name Basis: It's rare for anyone to use less than Mary Poppins' full name.
  • Get Thee to a Nunnery: The "go fly a kite" joke is often lost on modern audiences. The phrase was once used as a family-friendly version of "Go fuck yourself", but is almost never used this way today.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Mr. Dawes, Sr. dies as he finally gets a joke.
  • Great Way to Go: What the characters say about the above Go Out with a Smile.
  • Growing Up Sucks: More a theme in the original books.
  • Happily Married: George and Winifred Banks. He may start out a stuffy old bore, but even at the very beginning there's no doubt he and his wife truly love each other.
  • Heel Face Return: Mr. Dawes Sr.'s children do one at the final scene of the movie.
  • Heel Face Turn: George Banks and all of the Dawes children do one at the end of the movie.
  • Heel Realization: George Banks tells Mr. Dawes Sr. the wooden leg joke at the climax of the movie.
  • Henpecked Husband: In the cartoon band sequence, as comedy.
  • High Turnover Rate: The Banks' nannies before Mary Poppins arrives.
  • The Hyena: Uncle Albert.
  • Hypocritical Singing: Mary sings a lullaby to the kids entitled "Stay Awake".
  • Inexplicably Awesome: Mary is a classic example. She never explains anything, after all.
  • Insignia Rip Off Ritual: Hilariously parodied when Mr. Banks is fired from the bank.
  • Jaw Drop: "We are not a codfish."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mr. Banks. Mary herself is one at least to a degree (at one point threatening to cook one of the Bird Woman's poor pigeons who just happened to perch atop Mary's hat), though she does appear to care for her charges in spite of her seemingly ascerbic personality. This attitude of hers was downplayed significantly in the 1964 film much to P. L. Travers's chagrin, but both the musical and Mary Poppins Returns brought that aspect back to an extent.
  • Late to the Punchline/Parental Bonus: Watch it as a kid and you'll get a thoroughly entertaining movie. Watch it again twenty years later, and you'll suddenly be able to understand a whole host of jokes and subplots that you couldn't possibly have gotten as a kid, either for want of experience or vocabulary, or simply because the adults were talking too fast.
  • London Town
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Jane and Michael.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Stay Awake". It's a lullaby. A very effective one.
    • Burt's own variation on the upbeat "A Spoonful of Sugar", sung as a lyrical Aesop to Mr. Banks, is a virtual Tear Jerker.
  • Magical Guardian: Mary Poppins.
  • Magical Nanny: The original, endlessly referenced and parodied.
  • Matte Shot: Since the entire film was shot on a soundstage, Peter Ellenshaw made sixty-four matte paintings to recreate the vistas and skies of Edwardian London.
  • Meaningful Name: Mr. Banks and Admiral Boom. Also the admiral's assistant Mr. Binnacle
  • Medium Blending: When they interacted with animated characters inside Bert's paintings.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: American robins in England, despite there being another species native to the British Isles with the same name. The penguins might also count, but it is a fantasy world after all.
  • Morally-Bankrupt Banker: Mr. Banks' employers.
  • The Musical
  • Neologism: "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", although there is some dispute about whether the movie invented the word or merely popularized it. [2] Richard Sherman has mentioned the song and the purpose of it was inspired by summer camp memories he and Robert had, where they would have contests to come up with words longer than antidisestablishmentarianism. He and Robert decided to put different parts of words together, getting the "atrocious" and "precocious" rhyme early on. [3]
  • No Antagonist: The film has no antagonists, except Mr. Dawes Sr., George Banks and all of the Dawes children.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Ed Wynn in his brief appearance as Uncle Albert.
  • Oh Crap: Ellen whenever Admiral Boom fires off his cannon and when she cries "It's the Master!" during Step in Time.
  • Oh, No, Not Again: "Ahh! They're at it again!", "They're at it again, step in time! They're at it again, step in time!"
  • One Steve Limit: Minor aversion. One of the female names rattled off in the penguin scene is "Jane". Presumably they aren't referring to Jane Banks.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Dick van Dyke's Cockney accent is a contender for second most notorious film example of all time. If you're wondering who owns the title for most notorious, see here.
    • Dick defended himself on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me by explaining that his accent coach was J. Pat O'Malley, an Irishman who didn't speak cockney any better than he did.
  • Parasol of Prettiness: Mary Poppins has one in the chalk painting sequence. Along with a lacy white dress.
  • Parasol Parachute: It goes up as well as down...
  • Parrot Expowhat:
    • Mr. Banks' initial inability to say, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious".

Jane: Mary Poppins taught us the most wonderful word!
Michael: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Mr. Banks: What on earth are you talking about, supercal-- super-- or whatever the infernal thing is?
Jane: It's something to say when you don't know what to say.
Mr. Banks: Yes, well, I always know what to say.

    • And later, as he sings "The Life I Lead" again:

Mr. Banks: (singing) These silly words, like... (stops singing) Superca... Superca... Superca...
Mary Poppins: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Mr. Banks: Yes, well done. You said it.

    • He eventually comes around when he is discharged from the bank and Mr. Dawes, Sr., asks him if he has anything to say:

Mr. Banks: (giggling hysterically) Just one word, sir.
Mr. Dawes, Sr.: Yes?
Mr. Banks: Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious!
Mr. Dawes, Sr.: What?
Mr. Banks: Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious! Mary Poppins was right, it's extraordinary! It *does* make you feel better! (giggles some more)
Mr. Dawes, Sr.: What are you talking about, man? There's no such word!
Mr. Banks: Oh yes! It is a word! A perfectly good word! Actually, do you know what there's no such thing as? It turns out, with due respect, when all is said and done, that there's no such thing as YOU!

  • Politeness Judo: How Mary Poppins wins the horse race.
  • Politically-Correct History: The rough and tough chimney sweeps appear to express a lot of sympathy for the women's suffrage cause in 1910 Britain during the "Step in Time" song. On the other hand, they approvingly start singing absolutely anything anybody prompts them with during that song, so the jury's out as to whether this counts.
  • Portal Picture: Bert's pavement drawings.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The film folds together the highlights from several of the books.
  • Pretty in Mink: Mrs. Banks wears an ermine muff to one of her suffrage rallies.
  • Proper Lady with a Prim and Proper Bun: Mary Poppins of course! Practically perfect in every way!
  • The Protagonist: Mr. Banks is the main character of both the film and stage musical.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • Mary Poppins uses the wind to literally blow the competition away to leave the nanny spot open for her.
    • Mary Poppins hires herself. With, no less, the implication that Mr. Banks is the one who needs to impress her!
  • Reverse Psychology: Mary Poppins owns this trope. She gets herself hired by interviewing her employer, gets the children to sleep by singing a lullaby about staying awake, and tricks Mr. Banks into taking the kids to work with him by acting like it's his idea.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: One of the film's most famous sequences. Ironically enough, the singing penguins from the Chalk Drawing sequence actually make a cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, serving drinks at the Ink & Paint Club. This raises the dilemma that Mary Poppins is a movie made in the early 1960's, while Roger Rabbit takes place in the early 1940's. The official word on "early" appearances of toons in Roger Rabbit is that said toons were puttering about Toontown waiting for their big break, but another theory is that the godlike existence of Mary Poppins drew the Toons into being.
  • Rummage Fail: Mary Poppins hunting for her tape-measure.
  • Sarcastic Clapping: Bert's "high-wire" act in the park provokes this response.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Starting when Mr. Banks is called to the bank to be fired for his kids starting the run on the bank, and Mr. Banks confides to Bert at the awful prospect of losing his dreams and unable to support his family while Bert reminds him that his children will only be around a short time as well, so he must treasure their love as well.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: A prim and Proper Lady; the only one not to lose her composure during the laughing scene. She also manipulates her employer with the ease of a pro. See her entry on Reverse Psychology.
  • Solo Duet: Both "in movie", when Mary Poppins sings with her reflection, and then "in production", when Julie Andrews dubbed in the robin-whistles in the same song.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Mary can talk to animals. In the original books, everyone can while they are babies.
  • Supporting Protagonist: A case is often made that Mary Poppins is this trope and the movie is really about George Banks. This line of thinking can also be applied to the stage musical, but not to the original books. In any case, it's true enough that he gets more Character Development than anyone else.
  • Token Romance: The 1983 Russian movie tacks on a romance between Mary Poppins and the Banks' hippie uncle. Sure, it culminates in great tear jerker of a song but is still doesn't really fit the rest of the film.
    • Weirdly, Bert and Mary Poppins are implied to have had this before the movie begins.

Groundskeeper Willy: We were engaged to be married! Then she got her eyesight back. Suddenly the ugliest man in Glasgow wasn't good enough for her!
Sherry Bobbins: It's good to see you, Willy.
Groundskeeper Willy: That's not what ya said the first time ya saw me!!! [stomps off]

... in a most de-light-ful way!

  1. While the 1964 film is set in 1910, both the original books and the sequel take place in the 1930s.
  2. But if you say it loud enough, it doesn't matter because you'll always sound precocious.
  3. And it is so rococo-co-cious.