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18 Supercalifragilistic Facts About Mary Poppins

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More than half a century after it hit theaters, Mary Poppins is still one of the most beloved films ever. Here are some of the most interesting facts about Mary and the people who brought her to the silver screen.

1. It took more than 20 years to convince the author of Mary Poppins to sell the movie rights.

It all started in the early 1940s, when Walt Disney told his daughter Diane that he would make her favorite book into a movie. He was probably assuming that any author would be thrilled to hitch her name up to the Disney wagon, but quickly discovered that P.L. Travers was not just any author. For more than 20 years, Travers refused to deal with Disney. It was only in 1961 that she finally relented, mostly because she needed the money.

2. Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke weren't the only options for the lead roles.

Angela Lansbury and Bette Davis were also considered for the role of Mary. Cary Grant was Walt's favorite for Bert.

3. Julie Andrews almost passed on the movie.

Because she had originated the role on Broadway, Andrews was hoping to be cast as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, so she didn't accept Disney's offer right away. Warner ultimately decided that Audrey Hepburn was their Eliza. Andrews and Hepburn ended up vying for a Golden Globe for their respective roles. When Andrews won, she took the opportunity to cheekily thank Jack Warner during her acceptance speech (which you can see above).

4. Dick Van Dyke’s Cockney accent has been named one of the worst accent attempts in film history.

Van Dyke has defended himself in recent years, saying that his vocal coach, an Irishman attempting to do a Cockney accent, was just as bad. “I don’t talk to British people because they just make a mess of me,” he told NPR in 2010.

5. The Sherman Brothers wrote 30 songs for the movie.

Roughly 20 of them were cut, but some found new homes. “The Beautiful Briny" was later used in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and the melody from “Land of Sand” was eventually recycled as “Trust in Me” from Jungle Book.

6. “A Spoonful of Sugar” was inspired by the polio vaccine.

To help woo Andrews to the part, Walt Disney had the Sherman Brothers write a special tune for her. The duo penned a lovely song called “The Eyes of Love.” Andrews hated it. The rewrite ("something catchier," according to Walt) proved to be a struggle for Robert Sherman—until he went home to see his kids. They had received their polio vaccine that day and informed him that it hadn’t hurt at all; the medicine was simply placed on a sugar cube and they ate it like candy. Voila.

7. Walt Disney’s favorite song was “Feed the Birds.”

Not just his favorite song from the movie—his favorite song ever. Richard Sherman has said on several occasions that Walt would stop by the Sherman Brothers office every Friday and request a private performance.

8. P.L. Travers hated the movie with a passion.

Though Travers was given script approval, she wasn’t given final script approval. She wept when she saw the final result at the movie’s premiere. “I said, ‘Oh God, what have they done?’” she later said. Travers hated the animated sequence. She hated the house the Banks family lived in. She hated that they changed the time period. She hated that Mary Poppins was pretty. She hated the songs. And she loathed Dick Van Dyke. Travers vowed that she would never work with Disney again.

You can hear her going over her notes with the Sherman Brothers and screenwriter Don DaGradi below:

9. Some of the nannies lined up at the beginning of the movie are actually men.

I bet you can tell which ones.

10. That’s Julie Andrews whistling the robin’s part during “A Spoonful of Sugar.”

An accomplished whistler (who knew?), Andrews recorded the robin's sweet tune. In order for the bird to move and nod during the scene, by the way, Andrews had to wear a ring that connected to it. Yards of cable ran from the ring, up her arm, and out to engineers who could control the bird’s movements.

11. Disney was sued over “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

Though the Sherman Brothers claimed they made the word up themselves, a 1949 song called “Supercalafajaistickespeealadojus” would seem to say otherwise. The writers of the song, Barney Young and Gloria Parker, sued for $12 million. They lost because lawyers were able to present evidence showing that the nonsense word had been around, in some form or another, for decades. Indeed, the Sherman Brothers later claimed that their made-up word was a variation on a similar word they had heard at summer camp back in the 1930s: “super-cadja-flawjalistic-espealedojus.”

12. David Tomlinson did double duty.

Tomlinson, the actor who portrayed the stodgy Mr. Banks, also provided the voice for the talking parrot on the end of Mary Poppins’ umbrella. Tomlinson also did a couple of voices for the “Jolly Holiday” scenes, including a jockey and a parrot.

13. The children were originally nannied by the Bride of Frankenstein.

The nanny who leaves the Banks family at the beginning of the movie, making way for Mary Poppins, is Elsa Lanchester. Horror movie buffs know her better as the Bride of Frankenstein.

14. There was almost a Mary Poppins ride.

Due to the popularity of the movie, a Mary Poppins ride was scheduled to be installed at the Magic Kingdom instead of Peter Pan’s Flight, a hit attraction at Disneyland. Roy O. Disney canceled the project, feeling that East Coast guests who had never gotten the chance to visit Disneyland would want to be able to ride the same rides.

15. The “Feed the Birds” snowglobe was almost trashed.

Wondering what happened to the “Feed the Birds” snowglobe from the movie, Disney archivist Dave Smith hunted through company storage to see if he could dig it up. He located it in a janitor’s closet. The janitor told Smith that he had spotted the snow globe in a trash can, but felt it was too pretty to throw away.

16. The cherry trees on Cherry Tree Lane were real—but the blooms weren’t.

To create the effect of blossom-laden branches, artists hand mounted thousands of twigs and paper blooms.

17. Disney Imagineering exists because of Mary Poppins.

Without the financial success of the film, Walt wouldn’t have been able to expand his baby, W.E.D. Enterprises, the department that helped create that animatronic robin. In 1965, he made a division of W.E.D. Enterprises just for animatronics, calling it MAPO—Manufacturing and Production Division, but also MAry POppins. MAPO later created animatronics for Pirates of the Caribbean, the Enchanted Tiki Room, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and more. W.E.D. (that's Walter Elias Disney, by the way) Enterprises was later renamed "Imagineering."

18. Disney won five of the 13 Academy Awards for which Mary Poppins was nominated.

The company had never experienced such a successful night at the Oscars—and hasn’t since. (Poppins didn’t win Best Picture, however; that prize went to My Fair Lady.)

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IFC Films
10 Surprising Facts About The Babadook
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IFC Films

In 2014, The Babadook came out of nowhere and scared audiences across the globe. Written and directed by Aussie Jennifer Kent, and based on her short film Monster, The Babadook is about a widow named Amelia (played by Kent’s drama schoolmate Essie Davis) who has trouble controlling her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who thinks there’s a monster living in their house. Amelia reads Samuel a pop-up book, Mister Babadook, and Samuel manifests the creature into a real-life monster. The Babadook may be the villain, but the film explores the pitfalls of parenting and grief in an emotional way. 

“I never approached this as a straight horror film,” Kent told Complex. “I always was drawn to the idea of grief, and the suppression of that grief, and the question of, how would that affect a person? ... But at the core of it, it’s about the mother and child, and their relationship.”

Shot on a $2 million budget, the film grossed more than $10.3 million worldwide and gained an even wider audience via streaming networks. Instead of creating Babadook out of CGI, a team generated the images in-camera, inspired by the silent films of Georges Méliès and Lon Chaney. Here are 10 things you might not have known about The Babadook (dook, dook).


Jennifer Kent told Complex that some people thought the creature’s name sounded “silly,” which she agreed with. “I wanted it to be like something a child could make up, like ‘jabberwocky’ or some other nonsensical name,” she explained. “I wanted to create a new myth that was just solely of this film and didn’t exist anywhere else.”


Amelia isn’t the best mother in the world—but that’s the point. “I’m not a parent,” Kent told Rolling Stone, “but I’m surrounded by friends and family who are, and I see it from the outside … how parenting seems hard and never-ending.” She thought Amelia would receive “a lot of flak” for her flawed parenting, but the opposite happened. “I think it’s given a lot of women a sense of reassurance to see a real human being up there,” Kent said. “We don’t get to see characters like her that often.”


Noah Wiseman was six years old when he played Samuel. Kent and Davis made sure he wasn’t present for the more horrific scenes, like when Amelia tells Samuel she wishes he was the one who died, not her husband. “During the reverse shots, where Amelia was abusing Sam verbally, we had Essie yell at an adult stand-in on his knees,” Kent told Film Journal. “I didn’t want to destroy a childhood to make this film—that wouldn’t be fair.”

Kent explained a “kiddie version” of the plot to Wiseman. “I said, ‘Basically, Sam is trying to save his mother and it’s a film about the power of love.’”


IFC Films

Kent told Film Journal that “The Babadook is a film about a woman waking up from a long, metaphorical sleep and finding that she has the power to protect herself and her son.” She noted that everybody has darkness to face. “Beyond genre and beyond being scary, that’s the most important thing in the film—facing our shadow side.”


In an interview with Uproxx, William Friedkin—director of The Exorcist—said The Babadook was one of the best and scariest horror films he’d ever seen. He especially liked the emotional aspect of the film. “It’s not only the simplicity of the filmmaking and the excellence of the acting not only by the two leads, but it’s the way the film works slowly but inevitably on your emotions,” he said.


Tim Purcell worked in the film’s art department but then got talked into playing the titular character after he acted as the creature for some camera tests. “They realized they could save some money, and have me just be the Babadook, and hence I became the Babadook,” Purcell told New York Magazine. “In terms of direction, it was ‘be still a lot,’” he said.


Even though Kent shot the film in Adelaide, Australians didn’t flock to the theaters; it grossed just $258,000 in its native country. “Australians have this [built-in] aversion to seeing Australian films,” Kent told The Cut. “They hardly ever get excited about their own stuff. We only tend to love things once everyone else confirms they’re good … Australian creatives have always had to go overseas to get recognition. I hope one day we can make a film or work of art and Australians can think it’s good regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.”


IFC Films

In 2015, Insight Editions published 6200 pop-up books of Mister Babadook. Kent worked with the film’s illustrator, Alexander Juhasz, who created the book for the movie. He and paper engineer Simon Arizpe brought the pages to life for the published version. All copies sold out but you can find some Kent-signed ones on eBay, going for as much as $500.


It started at the end of 2016, when a Tumblr user started a jokey thread about how he thought the Babadook was gay. “It started picking up steam within a few weeks,” Ian, the Tumblr user, told New York Magazine, “because individuals who I presume are heterosexual kind of freaked out over the assertion that a horror movie villain would identify as queer—which I think was the actual humor of the post, as opposed to just the outright statement that the Babadook is gay.” In June, the Babadook became a symbol for Gay Pride month. Images of the character appeared everywhere at this year's Gay Pride Parade in Los Angeles.


Kent, who owns the rights to The Babadook, told IGN that, despite the original film's popularity, she's not planning on making any sequels. “The reason for that is I will never allow any sequel to be made, because it’s not that kind of film,” she said. “I don’t care how much I’m offered, it’s just not going to happen.”

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Bruce Weaver / Stringer / Getty Images
NASA Is Posting Hundreds of Retro Flight Research Videos on YouTube
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Bruce Weaver / Stringer / Getty Images

If you’re interested in taking a tour through NASA history, head over to the YouTube page of the Armstrong Flight Research Center, located at Edwards Air Force Base, in southern California. According to Motherboard, the agency is in the middle of posting hundreds of rare aircraft videos dating back to the 1940s.

In an effort to open more of its archives to the public, NASA plans to upload 500 historic films to YouTube over the next few months. More than 300 videos have been published so far, and they range from footage of a D-558 Skystreak jet being assembled in 1947 to a clip of the first test flight of an inflatable-winged plane in 2001. Other highlights include the Space Shuttle Endeavour's final flight over Los Angeles and a controlled crash of a Boeing 720 jet.

The research footage was available to the public prior to the mass upload, but viewers had to go through the Dryden Aircraft Movie Collection on the research center’s website to see them. The current catalogue on YouTube is much easier to browse through, with clear playlist categories like supersonic aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. You can get a taste of what to expect from the page in the sample videos below.

[h/t Motherboard]


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