Walt Disney Studios recently confirmed that they are going forward with their plan to make a second installment of Mary Poppins and that Emily Blunt will star. The announcement, though it may surprise some (Mary Poppins came out over half a century ago), actually makes a lot of sense coming from Disney and is a great PR move on the company’s part.
For some people, the announcement of another Disney Mary Poppins flick was delightful news. The 1964 original is one of the more beloved films of the era, and many of the word and phrases it coined, such as “supercalifragilisticexpialidious” and “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down,” are still well-known today.
And if that weren’t enough, Disney has done a tremendous job of choosing an actress to follow up the nearly unachievable charm Julie Andrews captured in the titular role: Emily Blunt. Blunt is rosy-cheeked, delicate but stern, charismatic, British — she even looks like Julie Andrews. Disney, you thought of everything!
— MTV News (@MTVNews) February 19, 2016
News of Disney’s sequel was not well-received by everyone, though. A good amount of reviewers made the point that the original Disney flick is so iconic that it would shatter many a childhood if the follow-up were anything less than great.
“This entire idea is mildly terrifying if you’re a fan of the original film,” writes Cinema Blend. “It’s not impossible that the film could be good, but it will be a hard sell to fans of the original.”
But Walt Disney Studios actually has a very good reason for resurrecting Mary Poppins for (at least) one more go.
For years now, explains Forbes, Disney has been establishing itself as the movie studio that produces live-action movies featuring strong female leads. Think about it: Just in the past year, Disney has given us Cinderella, Tomorrowland and, most recently, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, all Disney films whose casts are helmed by women. That’s not exactly common in big-budget Hollywood productions.
They point out that that Disney is happy with the “strong female lead” niche it has developed, precisely because it is different than what most other big movie studios are doing.
Disney’s films “have emerged as something of a female-centric equivalent of the often male-led superhero/action fantasy picture that make up the so-called tent poles in a given studio’s slate,” they write in their coverage of Disney’s Mary Poppins 2 announcement. “And they are provided A-list leading roles for some of our would-be A-list actresses.”
In other words, Disney has found an approach to story that is practically unique among big Hollywood studios. The approach appeals to a greatly underutilized film-viewing demographic (namely, women), and the films make lots of money (the three films mentioned above made an average of $405 million), so Disney isn’t about to change its formula.
But money isn’t everything. Disney has another reason for wanting to become known as the studio for strong female leads.
It’s no secret that Walt Disney’s studios have had somewhat of a torrid past involving sexist storytelling and perpetuation of stereotypical gender roles in their movies. This new trend of creating films with strong female antagonists who get more screen time than their male counterparts works well to take care of that perception.
So it’s a win-win for Disney: They are making movies of a type that is still rare among big-budget studios, and they are at the same time working on the unfortunate legacy of misogyny they developed during the 20th century; Walt himself would be proud.
Disney’s Mary Poppins sequel is a natural continuation of the trend, as Poppins is one of Disney’s already-established and well-loved female leads who will instantly fill a lot of seats because of her name recognition.
There is also a lot of source material for Disney to work from, as there were eight books in the series containing the book that Disney brought to the big screen with the first Mary Poppins.
— extremely sensationa (@sanztarquino) December 28, 2015
According to What Culture, “the movie will follow a now-grown Michael Banks, who has children of his own. His sister Jane arrives on the scene to help out once he finds himself in a bind (something to do with a bank, perhaps?), with Mary Poppins reappearing not long after that.”
No title for Disney’s Mary Poppins sequel yet, but the second book in the series was called Marry Poppins Comes Back, so Disney could go the traditional route and choose that name.
Are you excited or nervous to see what Walt Disney and Emily Blunt do with the beloved childhood character? What other Disney classics would you like to see sequels to?
[Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Christian Dior]