Extraordinary Magic in Everyday Life
There is a distinction between what makes a good film and what makes a great one.
A good movie is an enjoyable time. It qualifies as a worthwhile viewing, and probably something you’ll enjoy again in the future. It gets the job done. But what tips the scale toward greatness is, in my opinion, the ability for the film to break boundaries and become more than just a movie. It exists as a reflection as we see ourselves in its characters, identify with their situation, and are compelled to make a change, even a small one. That’s what shapes a great film: a mirror of life.
More than any Disney movie, my favorite is Mary Poppins. It succeeds in that reflective quality, but does even more. It has several layers, if you will. Layer 1: It’s an excellent movie from the get-go. Production value, music, acting… it’s a start-to-finish treat with something to look forward to the entire time. Layer 2: Its story has a resonate message. Mr. Banks learning his priorities and Mary Poppins’s ability to transform the household into a family is something that strikes a real chord. Layer 3: It culminates everything from Walt Disney’s career into one project. Made in 1964, Mary Poppins was not the final movie Walt worked on, but it was the last of this scale, and it teems with his spirit of the strength found in family. Layer 4: The box-office profit of Mary Poppins funded the construction of Walt Disney World. No Mary Poppins, no Walt Disney World. That’s a crazy fact to wrap your mind around.
So that’s what makes Mary Poppins a good movie. Those qualities work in tandem to deliver what I consider to be the quintessential Disney cinematic experience. But they aren’t what make it great. What pushes it to that next level is the reflective nature of the cast. The moral of the film is so strong, and when presented in such a carefully crafted way, as it is here, it becomes relatable, applicable, and real.
The wonderful thing about a great movie is that its application will change as time passes, as we enter different seasons of life. Every time I’ve watched Mary Poppins before, I’ve identified with Mr. Banks in thinking about things I’ve closed myself off to, and the people (the Mary Poppins figures) that have extended kindness, tuppence, to me. As I grow older, though, and I have the chance to be an example to those younger than me, I can now identify in some ways to Mary Poppins: her willingness to make herself available, her satisfaction in knowing that some of herself will be given up for the benefit of others, and her drive to make a difference even if those she’s influencing do not realize her impact.
I’m currently wrapping up my winter break from school. There is nothing quite like returning to a place you’ve been absent from. It is in those moments that we realize the imprint we made on it, and the imprint it made on us. My friend and I have become Poppins-like figures to a group of middle-school boys, but it wasn’t until this break that I realized that. After we ate dinner and dropped them back off at their houses, the route back to my house necessitated driving through downtown, a charming square that sometimes reminds me of Main Street, U.S.A. As we drove down the street, completely empty, illuminated in Christmas lights, “Feed the Birds” playing on the car stereo, it was impossible to not feel inspired and gratified by the laughter those boys had at the dinner table.
When I watch Mary Poppins, what I see on the screen is only half the reason why it’s special to me. It’s because it spurs me forward to be the best person I can be, with the influence that I have, in the skillset I’ve been given. It is an astonishing feat of a film, and one in which I find Disney most of all.
What makes your favorite Disney film special to you?
(Images © Disney.)
Blake studies Electronic Media and Film at Appalachian State University. He enjoys making his family of six watch the parade in Frontierland and then sprint to Main Street in time to see it again. You can find him on Twitter @olddirtyblake or at BlakeOnline.com.