Mary Poppins ShoesWhen you think of classic Disney movies, you think of good guy vs. villain with an exciting story line and a thrilling climax, which eventually ends in “Happily Ever After.” But, there is one iconic Disney movie that defies these rules. Can you name it? It’s Mary Poppins.

We might have mentioned before that Mary Poppins is our all-time FAVORITE Disney movie. We really didn’t notice this little “quirk” until a few years ago. We were watching the movie for the ump-teenth time, and Sean said, “Did you ever notice that there’s no villain in Mary Poppins?” “Huh, you’re right,” I said.

Maybe you can call Mr. Banks the villain because he wants to fire Mary Poppins, or perhaps you can call the old men at the bank the villains because they want to fire Mr. Banks, but neither of those story lines really affect the ending of the movie. Mary Poppins comes, does what she needs to do, and leaves. Perhaps because Mary Poppins is an amalgamation of several chapters of one book, no villain is needed. Whatever the case, it’s been going 51 years strong.

Mary PoppinsWhen Saving Mr. Banks was released in 2013 and we gained insight into the making of the movie and the often uneasy relationship between P. L. Travers and Walt Disney, did we actually come to realize that Mary Poppins does have a villain (of sorts) … two, in fact?

I refer to “villains” loosely as they are not evil, sinister characters, but rather internal demons. First, take Mr. Banks, who we learned was based on Travers Goff, P. L. Travers’ father. Goff’s alcoholism led to destructive consequences for him and his family during P. L.’s youth. Losing job after job, moving from town to town, and eventually causing his own demise.

Many years later, you have P. L. herself. Her traumatic childhood and her sentimental connection to the characters she created in her Mary Poppins novels, led her to become fiercely protective of how they would or would not be portrayed in the movie. Some may call her mean or viscous; I call it protective. When you essentially put your life story out there, you can’t help but be picky about what is said and done.

Knowing the back story helped us appreciate Mary Poppins even more. You don’t need a villain on the journey to a happy ending. All you need is love!

(Images ©Disney)

Felicia and Sean“New Yorkas” Felicia and Sean are avid Disney fans.  Their first vacation as a couple was in Walt Disney World.  They were engaged there, and also honeymooned there.  After a combined 30 trips to the World, they are self-professed Disney travel agents and enjoy helping family and friends plan magical Disney vacations.



7 thoughts on “The Disney Movie the Villains Forgot”

  1. Chris says:

    It’s certainly true that Goff Travers’ alcoholism was bad for his health, but he died from tuberculosis, known as “consumption” at the time. Tuberculosis was common, and killed those afflicted by it slowly. The Saving Mr. Banks film did a good job of portraying this disease.

    He didn’t die from his alcoholism.

  2. Kendall Foreman says:

    Chris, that is interesting because, as someone not familiar with the signs and symptoms of tuberculosis, I too made the assumption that he died of some sort of complication resulting from his alcoholism. Was there a reference to TB in the film that I missed?

  3. Lisa Brown says:

    Chris is right. I don’t think TB is ever mentioned by name, but the symptoms make it obvious to anyone familiar with tuberculosis, specifically coughing up blood.

  4. Chris says:

    Kendall, the movie didn’t explicitly state was it was, and I was already convinced it was TB based on his symptoms and setting. can’t say for sure whether any other signs were written into the dialogue. I grew up with a public health nurse for my mother and studied a fair amount of disease and public medical advances while in college, so I was already familiar with the disease that is so rarely a concern in present day United States.

  5. Mary Franco says:

    I see the “”villains”” in Mary Poppins as extremely relevant for today. They include the human frailties many of us have, tendencies that sometimes cause us to neglect those things which are most important, such as family, for greed or advancement, careers or causes. It tells us we should all spend more attention on “feeding the birds” over striving for tuppence.

  6. Anne says:

    Felicia and Sean, I love Disney’s Mary Poppins, too, so I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Until you pointed it out, I never really thought about the fact that the film has no traditional villain. When I first saw it at the drive-in as a young child, I initially thought Mr. Banks was the villain of the story because he was grumpy, mean, bossy and no fun at all. To me, he was ruining everything for his family. Eventually, he realizes he needs to change, which he does, and then he merrily skips to the park with his family to fly Michael’s kite. I love that part! Of course, years later, I came to realize that Mr. Banks was no villain; he was just a man in need of personal reformation and redemption.

    Your thoughts about there being villains behind the scenes are insightful and interesting. P.L. Travers’ father did have multiple issues that were extremely detrimental to his family and him. He proved to be rather a tragic villain, who was, nevertheless, said to have been idolized by his daughter. I agree with you about P.L, she was fiercely protective of her work. It is believed that her stories reflect her feelings about her father, which would explain why she may have come across as somewhat defensively villainous when she kept refusing to give Disney the rights to make the film, and likewise when she demanded that he cut the out the animation entirely. She was quite strong-willed and so was Walt. As a result, even he may have seemed to be a villain because of his relentless pursuit of the rights despite P.L.’s repeated refusals to say nothing of her expressed concerns about her stories being respectfully and accurately translated from book to film. In the end, Disney did defiantly include the animated scenes she had strongly rejected. Those scenes did prove to be among the most iconic in the film. Because of that, at the end of the day, Disney was probably able to comfortably justify a little villainy.

    Also, referencing the comments preceding mine, I, like Kendall, did not realize that tuberculosis actually claimed Travers Goff’s life. I, too, assumed that his alcoholism was responsible or at least a factor. I appreciate Chris as well as Lisa Brown’s information about Goff’s having suffered from the disease and about tuberculosis in general.

    Mary Franco, I am so glad you took the time to share your perspective! It is motivational. Isn’t it amazing how the messages conveyed in a book and movie so long ago continue to be both humanly and culturally relevant over the years?

    I realize my comment is quite lengthy. I hope you all don’t mind. This article just really got me thinking. Good work on it, Felicia and Sean! I love this website. I always read interesting things here and often learn something new in the comments section, too.

  7. John says:

    My understanding is that Travers Goff actually died of influenza rather than TB as depicted in the film.