8 times ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ makes ‘practically perfect’ references to the original movie
"Mary Poppins Returns" brings the iconic nanny back to help a new generation of Banks children. (Photo: Disney; Jay Maidment/Disney)
Mary Poppins is back and (spoiler alert!) 54 years later, she’s still practically perfect in every way.
“Mary Poppins Returns” (in theaters Wednesday) picks up about 20 years after the events of “Mary Poppins,” to 1930s Depression-era London. We find adult versions of Jane and Michael Banks (Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw) as Michael, now the owner of his parents’ home, struggles to raise his three children after the death of his wife. But Mary, a familiar face (Emily Blunt, taking over Julie Andrews’ iconic role), re-emerges to help the family through a rough patch.
Although this new “Mary Poppins” is a sequel, not a remake, fans of the original film will catch a number of callbacks to the 1964 classic. We compiled the eight most practically perfect references:
1. Those nautically-inclined neighbors are still at it.
Remember the naval officers who fired off a cannon twice a day? They’re back. Both original actors have died, but David Warner and Jim Norton, respectively, revive Admiral Boom and Mr. Binnacle, who still seem to believe they’re in the middle of the ocean instead of on a London rooftop.
2. The opening credits are looooooong.
Hollywood’s old style of opening credits was a lengthy list of all the important people in front of and behind the camera, usually against still photos or B-roll that reflected the upcoming story. Movie studios have all but done away with that style, until now: A few minutes in, we read a long list of the movie’s key contributors. And just like in the original, the instrumental music played here shows up again throughout the rest of the film.
Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), like Dick van Dyke's Bert, is a good friend to Mary Poppins with a less-than-stellar Cockney accent. (Photo: JAY MAIDMENT)
3. Jack is meant to mirror Bert … but this newcomer also has a connection to the old chimney sweep.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s character, lamplighter Jack, shares a few traits with Mary Poppins’ old companion: He works on the streets of London, he likes to say “as I live and breathe” when he encounters Mary Poppins and he’s played by an American actor with a goofy fake Cockney accent.
But Jack’s backstory also lines up with the original film. We learn he grew up working for Bert (Dick Van Dyke in the 1964 version), who’s currently traveling the world (as the only returning cast member, it would be strange to see Bert about 30 years older than he should be).
Jack also reveals that as a kid, he would pass by the Banks house and wave to Jane through her bedroom window.
4. Dick Van Dyke has a cameo.
Van Dyke played two roles in the original “Mary Poppins”: Bert and Mr. Dawes Sr., the elderly director of Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, where Jane and Michael’s father worked. He looks pretty unrecognizable in a fake wig, beard and old-age makeup.
Now he’s back playing Mr. Dawes Jr., but considerably less makeup was needed this time around. At one point, he jokes he still has “a few steps in me” – a callback to his big “Step in Time” number – and busts a move. At 92, he’s still got it.
At 92, Dick van Dyke can still bust a move. (Photo: Mary Poppins return Van Dyke thumbnail)
5. Jane is an activist, just like her mother.
Mrs. Banks (Glynis Johns) spent a good portion of her time in the first movie fighting for womens’ right to vote, and it appears that activism rubbed off on her daughter. Amid the Depression, Jane rallies with other workers to fight for fair wages.
6. Nearly every new song calls back to an old one.
- “Can You Imagine That?” transports the Banks children from a bathtub to an impressive underwater realm to make a mundane activity fun, just like “A Spoonful of Sugar.”
- “A Cover is Not the Book” is a fun, fast-paced number featuring Mary Poppins and Jack, much like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” with Bert. Bonus: look out for a Hamiltonian rap from Jack.
- “Turning Turtle” replaces “I Love to Laugh.” It’s a wacky number featuring Meryl Streep that presumably takes place in the same alley where Uncle Albert (Ed Wynn) lived – and couldn’t stop laughing.
- “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” mirrors “Step in Time,” down to its rooftops-at-twilight setting and long dance routine full of wild stunts and silhouettes.
- “Nowhere to Go But Up” is the triumphant finale in the park, just as optimistic and cheery as “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.”
Emily Blunt's Mary Poppins is still practically perfect in every way. (Photo: Disney)
7. Some key mementos from Jane and Michael’s childhoods are still sitting in the attic.
Because Michael still lives in their childhood home,we get to see that iconic staircase where Mary Poppins slid up, and a few memorable keepsakes.
During a scene in which Michael and Jane head up to the attic, catch a glimpse of the blocks Mary Poppins used to spell out her name during the “A Spoonful of Sugar” scene.
Another Easter egg: the pink, white and blue “Votes for Women” sash Jane and Michael’s mother wore to suffragette rallies makes a brief appearance. And the kite from “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” also plays a sizable role this time around.
8. Even with updated visual effects, the movie honors 2D animation.
In an updated “Jolly Holiday” scene, Mary Poppins, Jack and the young Banks children jump into a fantasy carnival scene with cartoon animals. And while animators do an excellent job showing off advances in visual effects, they don’t overdo it here. This realm is spectacularly colorful, but it’s also in the two-dimensional animation style Disney has mostly moved away from.
While the rest of the movie’s visual effects are amazingly realistic, these stand out because they remind viewers not to take the art for granted.
Bonus: The dancing penguin waiters are back!
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