Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mary Poppins - 45th year anniversary

I'm quite fond of Mary Poppins, but not so fond that, if I'd purchased the 40th Anniversary edition 5 years ago, I'd now shell out a third as much money to get the 45th anniversary edition. (At least I don't have to buy the Gold Edition.)

However, since I don't have that 40th anniversary edition, I'm thinking I will get this one. It's a 2-disc set, with a ton of extras (but, of course, missing a couple of extras from the 40th edition):

Backstage Disney

* Disney on Broadway (All New to DVD)

- "Mary Poppins from Page to Stage": The story of Mary Poppins from book to Broadway as the creative team and cast prepare to take the long running show on tour. A very well-done documentary on the stage production of "Mary Poppins," detailing almost every aspect of the production that began in London. Especially interesting is how P.L. Travers did not want any "Americans" involved in the stage production, as she was truly not happy with what Disney did with her books. This feature takes you all over the globe: interviews with the 2 leads are held in NYC at Sardi's restaurant; an interview with one of the Sherman Brothers is filmed in Beverly Hills; interviews with the stage productions composers George Stiles & Anthony Drewe are held in England (they did a fantastic job of blending their compositions seamlessly with the Sherman Brothers' songs from the film). You'll also hear from Bob Crowley, the scenic and costume designer, detailing how he came up with the sets (inspired by the book's illustrations) and changes he made for the touring production.

- "Step in Time": The Broadway cast of Mary Poppins performs the number "Step in Time" from the show. This is a nice glimpse into the stage production. Although it doesn't quite have the pizzazz of the filmed number (what a tough act to follow), the choreography, sets, and costumes work together to create a fantastic production. Especially effective is the use of costumes and make-up to create the illusion of the chimney sweeps are in black and white, making Mary Poppins in her red dress stand out even more.

- Step in Time - Downloadable MP3 featuring the Broadway cast of Mary Poppins singing "Step in Time," featuring Ashley Brown as Mary Poppins and Gavin Lee as Bert.

- Video Intro By Scenic & Costume Designer, Bob Crowley

- Bob Crowley's Design Galleries: Concept art, costume designs, set designs and set models for the Broadway musical

* Audio Commentary: with stars Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Karen Dotrice and songwriter Richard Sherman. There are a few archival comments included from Walt Disney and others. Fantastic track that really adds to the enjoyment of the film. Especially interesting is the "Feed the Birds" number, where Sherman talks about Mary Poppins instilling social responsibility into the children by planting the idea of feeding the birds with tuppence, thus setting off the important string of events at the end of the film.

* Poppins Pop-Up Fun Facts: View fun-filled facts about the creation of the movie during viewing. Mirrors some of the information from the commentary track, but still enjoyable to learn some of the behind-the-scenes info as you are watching the movie.

* "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins": The definitive behind-the- scenes look at how this unique and beloved film came into being.

* Movie Magic: A look at the special effect techniques used to bring the magical world of Mary Poppins to life.

* The Gala World Premiere: Footage from the Red Carpet. What a feast this is; a few different rolls of film (mixing bw and color) have been edited together to recreate as much as possible of this magical evening. See Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Ed Wynn, Cesar Romero, and so many more classic stars. Even Walt & his wife are on hand (it even appears that Walt is gently chastising the costumed Mickey character at one point).

* Dick Van Dyke Make-Up Test for his role of the elder Mr. Dawes. On the commentary track, Karen Dotrice (Jane Banks) admits that during filming, she was not told that Dick Van Dyke was playing the elder Mr. Dawes. She thought it was just some old smelly man who was close to death!

* Trailers, Ads and More from the Original Release and Reissue of the Film

* Mary Poppins Still Art Galleries

Music & More

* Disney's Song Selection: Sing along to "A Spoonful of Sugar," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and any of the film's other memorable songs as the lyrics pop up on screen. Each song can be selected separately or while watching the film.

* Magical Musical Reunion: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and songwriter Richard Sherman reminisce about making Mary Poppins and the music that makes it so special.

* A Musical Journey with Richard Sherman: A delightful magical journey through some of the film's locations with co-composer Richard Sherman, who reveals surprising secrets about the music of Mary Poppins along the way.

* Bonus Short: "The Cat That Looked at a King": Live action and animation based on a chapter from P.L. Travers' sequel "Mary Poppins Opens the Door." Julie Andrews hosts this short done in the style of the whimsical chalk drawings from the movie "Mary Poppins." Vocal talents of Sarah Ferguson, Tracey Ullman, and David Ogden Stiers.

* Deleted Song: "Chimpanzoo": A reconstruction of a song that did not appear in the movie using original storyboard and concept art, accompanied by a new rendition of the song performed by co- composer Richard Sherman.

Specs: Video is original aspect ration of 1:66:1, and audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound with French & Spanish language tracks & subtitles.

Nevertheless, it is annoying. I know that companies have to make money, and the only way to do that is to have a catalog full of offerings that someone will buy, but to re-issue a movie every 5 years? Seems kind of greedy! (I wonder what they'll do for the 50th anniversary edition?)

I've also heard, from someone who should know about these things, that many companies today deliberately play down the quality of the transfers they put out on DVD, because they want the BlueRay editions to look that much better - which I also think is dirty pool!

Anyway, if you haven't yet gotten your copy of Mary Poppins, choose one of the trio below. (Well, you can choose more if you certainly like...)

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