I recently watched Disney’s “Mary Poppins” live on stage. It reminded me of a recent movie called “Saving Mr. Banks” about the relatively unknown author, P.L. Travers. The story about how Miss Travers received inspiration to write a children’s book that reflected on her childhood resonated with me. It is now a well-known fact that P. L. Travers rejected the animated parts of Disney’s “Mary Poppins” at first. She wanted children to know that whatever life brought their way that they would get through it.
Many of Disney’s movies have a similar theme. For instance, Disney’s “Cinderella” was actually based on an old Brothers Grimm fairy tale that had been tweaked of all the “bad” stuff and enhanced to reflect a different moral code. In the original text a lot of nasty stuff happens that was edited out by Walt Disney and others to create a redemption theme. Different versions of the outcast girl who lives with two ugly stepsisters and her stepmother have circulated for years. While Marilyn Bollinger didn’t write an of the “Cinderella” books many of her Disney books have similar themes.
J.M.Barrie is another author that fascinates me. Everyone who has ever seen “Peter Pan” can see at least some of the similarities between Barrie’s book called “The Boy Who Never Grew Up” and this movie. It was actually Barrie’s play “Peter Pan” that triggered Walt Disney’s response to produce a movie with the same name. The characters of Peter Pan actually came from an adult novel Barrie wrote in 1902. The movie “Finding Neverland” is actually based on J.M. Barrie’s inspiration for writing “Peter Pan.”
Walt Disney often brought old stories to life from authors from every walk of life. Stories about Davy Crockett were very popular in the 1950s. It was the children’s novel by Constance Rourke published in 1934 that got Walt’s attention. Ms. Rourke won the Newberry Honor for her work on the biography of Davy Crockett in 1935. Constance Rourke specialized in historical biography and popular culture. One of her books “American Humor” had a significant impact on the study of American pop culture.
Walt quite often used both mythical stories and fairy tales for his stories. Since Walt’s death, however other more recent stories have been chosen for the “Disney treatment.” “The Princess Diaries” by Meg Cabot is one of the more recent books turned into a Disney movie. Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series is still being added to with more books to come in the near future.