CLOSE
Disney
Disney

18 Supercalifragilistic Facts About Mary Poppins

Disney
Disney

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.)

nextArticle.image_alt|e
ERIC FEFERBERG, AFP/Getty Images
arrow
olympics
9 Scandals that Rocked the Figure Skating World
ERIC FEFERBERG, AFP/Getty Images
ERIC FEFERBERG, AFP/Getty Images

Don't let the ornate costumes and beautiful choreography fool you, figure skaters are no strangers to scandal. Here are nine notable ones.

1. TONYA AND NANCY.

Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding
Pascal Rondeau, ALLSPORT/Getty Images

In 1994, a little club-and-run thrust the sport of figure skating into the spotlight. The assault on reigning national champion Nancy Kerrigan (and her subsequent anguished cries) at the 1994 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in Detroit was heard round the world, as were the allegations that her main rival, Tonya Harding, may have been behind it all.

The story goes a little something like this: As America's sweetheart (Kerrigan) is preparing to compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team bound for Lillehammer, Norway, she gets clubbed in the knee outside the locker room after practice. Kerrigan is forced to withdraw from competition and Harding gets the gold. Details soon emerge that Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, was behind the attack (he hired a hitman). Harding denies any knowledge or involvement, but tanks at the Olympics the following month. She then pleads guilty to hindering prosecution of Gillooly and his co-conspirators, bodyguard Shawn Eckhart and hitman Shane Stant. And then she's banned from figure skating for life.

Questions about Harding's guilt remain two decades later, and the event is still a topic of conversation today. Recently, both an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary and the Oscar-nominated film I, Tonya revisited the saga, proving we can't get enough of a little figure skating scandal.

2. HAND-PICKED FOR GOLD.

Mirai Nagasu and Ashley Wagner at the podium
Jared Wickerham, Getty Images

Usually it's the top three medalists at the U.S. Nationals that compete for America at the Winter Olympics every four years. But in 2014, gold medalist Gracie Gold (no pun intended), silver medalist Polina Edmunds, and ... "pewter" medalist Ashley Wagner were destined for Sochi.

What about the bronze medalist, you ask? Mirai Nagasu, despite out-skating Wagner by a landslide in Boston and despite being the only skater with prior Olympic experience (she placed fourth at Vancouver in 2010) had to watch it all on television. The decision by the country's governing body of figure skating (United States Figure Skating Association, or USFS) deeply divided the skating community as to whether it was the right choice to pass over Nagasu in favor of Wagner, who hadn't skated so great, and it put a global spotlight on the selection process.

In reality, the athletes that we send to the Olympics are not chosen solely on their performance at Nationals—it's one of many criteria taken into consideration, including performance in international competition over the previous year, difficulty of each skater's technical elements, and, to some degree, their marketability to a world audience. This has happened before to other skaters—most notably Michelle Kwan was relegated to being an alternate in 1994 after Nancy Kerrigan was granted a medical bye after the leg-clubbing heard round the world. Nagasu had the right to appeal the decision, and was encouraged to do so by mobs of angry skating fans, but she elected not to.

3. SALT LAKE CITY, 2002.

Pairs skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada and Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia perform in the figure skating exhibition during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games at the Salt Lake Ice Center in Salt Lake City, Utah
Brian Bahr, Getty Images

Objectively, this scandal rocked the skating world the hardest, because the end result was a shattering of the competitive sport's very structure. When Canadian pairs team Jamie Sale and David Pelletier found themselves in second place after a flawless freeskate at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, something wasn't right. The Russian team of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze placed first, despite a technically flawed performance.

An investigation into the result revealed that judges had conspired to fix the results of the pairs and dance events—a French judge admitted to being pressured to vote for the Russian pair in exchange for a boost for the French dance team (who won that event). In the end, both pairs teams were awarded a gold medal, and the entire system of judging figure skating competition was thrown out and rebuilt.

4. AGENT OF STYLE.

Jackson Haines was an American figure skater in the mid-1800s who had some crazy ideas about the sport. He had this absolutely ludicrous notion of skating to music (music!), waltzing on ice, as well as incorporating balletic movements, athletic jumps, and spins into competition. His brand new style of skating was in complete contrast to the rigid, traditional, and formal (read: awkward) standard of tracing figure-eights into the ice. Needless to say, it was not well received by the skating world in America, so he was forced to take his talents to the Old World.

His new “international style” did eventually catch on around the globe, and Haines is now hailed as the father of modern figure skating. He also invented the sit spin, a technical element now required in almost every level and discipline of the sport.

5. LADIES LAST.

In 1902, competitive figure skating was a gentlemen's pursuit. Ladies simply didn't compete by themselves on the world stage (though they did compete in pairs events). But a British skater named Madge Syers flouted that standard, entering the World Figure Skating Championships in 1902. She ruffled a lot of feathers, but was ultimately allowed to compete and beat the pants off every man save one, earning the silver medal.

Her actions sparked a controversy that spurred the International Skating Union to create a separate competitive world event for women in 1906. Madge went on to win that twice, and became Olympic champion at the 1908 summer games [PDF] in London—the first “winter” Olympics weren't held until 1924 in France, several years after Madge died in 1917.

6. AGENT OF STYLE, PART 2.

A picture of Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie
Keystone/Getty Images

Norwegian skater Sonja Henie was the darling of the figure skating world in the first half of the 20th century. The flirtatious blonde was a three-time Olympic champion, a movie star, and the role model of countless aspiring skaters. She brought sexy back to skating—or rather, introduced it. She was the first skater to wear scandalously short skirts and white skates. Prior to her bold fashion choices, ladies wore black skates and long, conservative skirts. During WWII, a fabric shortage hiked up the skirts even further than Henie's typical length, and the ladies of figure skating have never looked back.

7. TOO SEXY FOR HER SKATES.

Katarina Witt displaying her gold medal
DANIEL JANIN, AFP/Getty Images

A buxom young beauty from the former Democratic German Republic dominated ladies figure skating in the mid- to late 1980s. A two-time Olympic champion, and one of the most decorated female skaters in history, Katarina Witt was just too sexy for her shirt—she tended to wear scandalously revealing costumes (one of which resulted in a wardrobe malfunction during a show), and was criticized for attempting to flirt with the judges to earn higher scores.

The ISU put the kibosh on the controversial outfits soon afterward, inserting a rule that all competitive female skaters “must not give the effect of excessive nudity inappropriate for an athletic sport.” The outrage forced Witt to add some fabric to her competitive outfits in the late '80s. But 10 years later she took it all off, posing naked for a 1998 issue of Playboy.

8. MORE COSTUME CONTROVERSY.

For the 2010 competitive year, the ISU's annual theme for the original dance segment (since defunct and replaced by the “short dance”) was “country/folk.” That meant competitors had to create a routine that explored some aspect of it, in both music and costume as well as in maneuvers. The top Russian pair chose to emulate Aboriginal tribal dancing in their program, decked in full bodysuits adorned with their interpretation of Aboriginal body paint (and a loincloth).

Their debut performance at the European Championships drew heavy criticism from Aboriginal groups in both Australia and Canada, who were greatly offended by the inaccuracy of the costumes and the routine. The Russian pair, Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, were quick to dial down the costumes and dial up the accuracy in time for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but the judges were not impressed. They ended up with the bronze, ending decades of Russian dominance in the discipline. (With the glaring exception of 2002, of course.)

9. IN MEMORIAM.

While not a scandal, this event bears mentioning because it has rocked the figure skating world arguably more than anything else. In February of 1961, the American figure skating team boarded a flight to Belgium from New York, en route to the World Championships in Prague. The plane went down mysteriously (cause still questioned today) as it tried to land in Brussels, killing all 72 passengers. America's top skaters and coaches had been aboard, including nine-time U.S. Champion and Olympic bronze medalist-turned-coach Maribel Vinson-Owen and her daughter Laurence Owen, a 16-year-old who had been heavily favored to win the ladies event that year.

The ISU canceled the competition upon the news of the crash and the United States lost its long-held dominance in the sport for almost a decade. The United States Figure Skating Association (USFS) soon after established a memorial fund that helped support the skating careers of competitors in need of financial assistance, including future Olympic champions like Scott Hamilton and Peggy Fleming.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Disney/Marvel Studios
arrow
Afternoon Map
Marvel vs. DC: This Map Shows Each State’s Favorite Comic Universe
Disney/Marvel Studios
Disney/Marvel Studios

Which comic book company is the best: Marvel or DC? This is a perennial argument on middle-school playgrounds and Reddit threads, but this map, courtesy of USDish.com, might just give us a definitive answer. The information here is broken down by state, using information provided by Google Trends to give us a clear winner of not only the most popular comic book company but also the most popular individual hero in each state (let’s show a little respect to Indiana for championing the Martian Manhunter).

According to the map, Marvel is the most popular publisher in 37 states, with DC trailing behind at eight, and five additional states coming to a 50/50 stalemate. The totals weren’t a blowout, though. In certain states like Mississippi, Iowa, and Pennsylvania, the favored company only won by a point. And just because a state searches Google for a specific publisher the most doesn’t mean an individual character from the opposing team isn’t its favorite—Hawaii is listed as favoring Marvel overall, yet they love Aquaman on his own. Same with DC-loving Maryland showing Black Panther some love (helps to have a big movie coming out). Take a look at some of the most notable state preferences below:

So how did Marvel amass so many states when there are just as many DC TV shows and movies out there? Well, according to Andrew Selepak, Ph.D., a professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida, and director of the graduate program in social media, the answer lies in the depth at the House of Ideas.

“While Superman and Batman may be dominant characters,” Selepak said in a statement, “the DC Universe offers few other well-known heroes and villains and when these other characters are presented to the audience in film and on TV, they often are less than well-received.” This is opposed to Marvel, which launches new heroes on the big and small screen seemingly every year.

Does this map tell the whole story? That’s up for debate. When it comes to comics sold, DC and Marvel are always in a close battle: In January 2018, DC had six of the 10 best-selling comics of the month, placing four of the top five. Marvel, meanwhile, had three, while Image Comics had one with The Walking Dead. In terms of overall retail market share, though, Marvel eked out DC 34.3 percent to 33.8 percent.

This is a battle that's been raging since the 1960s, and for an industry that thrives on a never-ending fight between good and evil, we shouldn't expect the Marvel vs. DC debate to be settled anytime soon.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios