Saving Mr. Banks

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Saving Mr. Banks
Saving Mr. Banks Theatrical Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Lee Hancock
Produced byAlison Owen
Ian Collie
Philip Steuer
Written byKelly Marcel
Sue Smith
StarringEmma Thompson
Tom Hanks
Paul Giamatti
Jason Schwartzman
Bradley Whitford
Colin Farrell
Music byThomas Newman
CinematographyJohn Schwartzman
Editing byMark Livolsi
StudioWalt Disney Pictures
BBC Films
Essential Media
Ruby Films
Hopscotch Features
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
Running time125 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
United Kingdom
Budget$35 million[2]
Box office$15,447,000[3]
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Saving Mr. Banks
Saving Mr. Banks Theatrical Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Lee Hancock
Produced byAlison Owen
Ian Collie
Philip Steuer
Written byKelly Marcel
Sue Smith
StarringEmma Thompson
Tom Hanks
Paul Giamatti
Jason Schwartzman
Bradley Whitford
Colin Farrell
Music byThomas Newman
CinematographyJohn Schwartzman
Editing byMark Livolsi
StudioWalt Disney Pictures
BBC Films
Essential Media
Ruby Films
Hopscotch Features
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
Running time125 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
United Kingdom
Budget$35 million[2]
Box office$15,447,000[3]

Saving Mr. Banks is a 2013 American-British-Australian historical comedy-drama film directed by John Lee Hancock from a screenplay written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. Centered on the development of the 1964 Walt Disney Studios film Mary Poppins, the film stars Emma Thompson as author P. L. Travers and Tom Hanks as filmmaker Walt Disney, with supporting roles from Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Ruth Wilson, and Colin Farrell. Taking its title from the father in Travers' story, the film depicts the author's fortnight-long briefing in 1961 Los Angeles as she is persuaded by Disney, in his attempts to obtain the screen rights to her novels.[4]

Produced by Walt Disney Pictures and BBC Films, Saving Mr. Banks was shot entirely in the Southern California area; primarily at the Walt Disney Studios, where a majority of the film takes place.[5][6] The film was released theatrically in the U.K. on November 29, 2013, and in the United States on December 13, 2013. It was met with positive reviews, with praise directed towards the acting, screenplay, and production merits.


The film centers on the life of Travers, shifting between 1906 with her childhood in Queensland, Australia and the 1961 negotiations with Walt Disney.[7][8] While in California for pre-production, Travers thinks back to her difficult childhood in Australia, most especially to her father, the inspiration for the role of the story’s patriarch, Mr. Banks.[9]


Dendrie Taylor, Victoria Summer, and Kristopher Kyer appear in minor, non-speaking roles as Lillian Disney, Julie Andrews, and Dick Van Dyke, respectively. [17][18]



In 2002, Australian producer Ian Collie produced a documentary film on P. L. Travers, entitled The Shadow of "Mary Poppins". During the documentary's production, Collie noticed that there was "an obvious biopic there" and convinced Essential Media and Entertainment to develop a feature film with Sue Smith writing the screenplay.[19] The project attracted the attention of BBC Films, which decided to finance the project, and Ruby Films' Alison Owen, who subsequently hired Kelly Marcel to co-write the screenplay with Smith.[20] Marcel's drafts removed a subplot involving Travers and her son, and divided the story into a two-part narrative; the conflict between Travers and Walt Disney, and her dealings with her childhood issues. Marcel's version, however, featured certain intellectual property rights of music and imagery which would be impossible to use without permission from The Walt Disney Company. "There was always that elephant in the room, which is Disney, Collie recalled. "We knew Walt Disney was a key character in the film and we wanted to use quite a bit of the music. We knew we’d eventually have to show Disney." In July 2011 while attending the Ischia Film Festival, Owen met with Corky Hale, who offered to present the screenplay to Richard M. Sherman of the Sherman Brothers, music composers of Mary Poppins.[21] Sherman read the screenplay and gave the producers his support.[21] Later that year, Marcel and Smith's screenplay was listed in Franklin Leonard's Black List, voted by producers, as one of the best screenplays that were not in production.[22]

In November 2011, The Walt Disney Studios' president of production, Sean Bailey, was informed of the existence of Marcel's script.[2] Realizing that the screenplay included a depiction of Walt Disney, Bailey conferred with the company's executives, including Disney CEO Bob Iger[23] and studio chairman Alan Horn, the latter of whom referred to the film as a "brand deposit,"[24] a term adopted from Steve Jobs.[25] Together, the executives discussed the studio's potential choices; purchase the script and shut the production down, put the film in turnaround, or co-produce the film themselves. Iger approved the film and subsequently contacted Tom Hanks to consider playing the role of Walt Disney, which would become the first ever depiction of Disney in a mainstream film.[2] Hanks accepted the role, viewing it as "an opportunity to play somebody as world shifting as Picasso or Chaplin".[26] Hanks took several visits to The Walt Disney Family Museum and interviewed some of Disney's former employees and family relatives, including his daughter Diane Disney Miller.[27][28] In April 2012, Emma Thompson entered final negotiations to star as P. L. Travers, after the studio was unable to secure Meryl Streep for the part.[29] Thompson described the role as the most difficult one that she has played, elaborating that Travers was "a woman of quite eye-watering complexity and contradiction."[30] "She wrote a very good essay on sadness, because she was, in fact, a very sad woman. She'd had a very rough childhood, the alcoholism of her father being part of it and the attempted suicide of her mother being another part of it. I think that she spent her whole life in a state of fundamental inconsolability and hence got a lot done."[31]

"I thought the script was a fair portrayal of Walt as a mogul but also as an artist and a human being. But I still had concerns that it could be whittled away. I don't think this script could have been developed within the walls of Disney—it had to be developed outside...I'm not going to say there weren't discussions, but the movie we ended up with is the one that was on the page."

— John Lee Hancock on his initial thoughts of Disney's involvement[21]

With Walt Disney Pictures onboard, the production team were given access to Travers' audio recordings of herself, Disney, the Shermans and co-writer Don DaGradi that were produced during the development of Mary Poppins, in addition to letters written between Disney and Travers between the 1940s and 1960s.[19][21] Initially, director John Lee Hancock had reservations about Disney's involvement with the film, believing that the studio would edit the screenplay in their favor. However, Marcel admitted that the studio "specifically didn't want to come in and sanitize it or change Walt in any way."[19] Although the filmmakers did not receive any creative interference from Disney regarding Walt Disney's depiction, the studio did request to omit any on-screen inhalation of cigarettes,[32] both due to Disney's policy of not directly depicting smoking in films issued under the Walt Disney Pictures banner, and to avoid an R rating from the MPAA.[33][34]


Principal photography began on September 19, 2012.[14][35] Although some filming was originally to be in Queensland, Australia,[9][36] all filming took place in the Southern California area, including the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, Disneyland Park in Anaheim, Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia, and the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.[36][37] For the Disneyland sequences, scenes were shot during the early morning with certain areas cordoned off during the park's daily operation, including Sleeping Beauty Castle, Main Street U.S.A., Fantasyland, and the Astro Orbitor attraction,[38] while the park's cast members were hired as extras.[39] Production designer Michael Corenblith had to ensure that post-1961 attractions did not show up on camera and that storefronts on Main Street were redecorated to appear as they did in the time period.[40][41] Corenblith also had to recreate Disney's office, using photographs and a furniture display from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library as references.[21][42] To recreate the original film's premiere at the Chinese Theatre, set designers closed Hollywood Boulevard and redressed the street and theater to resemble their 1964 appearances.[42]

Emma Thompson prepared for her role by listening to Travers's own recordings conducted during the development of Mary Poppins, and also styled her natural hair after Travers', due to the actress's disdain of wigs.[43] To accurately convey Walt Disney's Midwestern dialect, Tom Hanks listened to archival recordings of Disney in his car and practiced the voice while reading newspapers.[44][45] Hanks also grew his own mustache for the role, which underwent heavy scrutiny—with the filmmakers going so far as to matching the same dimensions as Disney's.[46][47] Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak worked closely with Richard M. Sherman during pre-production and filming, with him describing the actors as "perfect talents" for their roles as Richard and Robert B. Sherman.[48] Filming was completed on November 22, 2012.[49][9][50]


Saving Mr. Banks (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by Various artists
ReleasedDecember 10, 2013
1:09:18 (Deluxe Edition)
LabelWalt Disney
Thomas Newman chronology
Side Effects
Saving Mr. Banks
The Good Dinosaur
Professional ratings
Review scores

Walt Disney Records released the film's soundtrack on December 10, 2013.[51][52][53] The film's original score was composed by Thomas Newman.

Saving Mr. Banks (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
1."Chim Chim Cher-ee (East Wind)"  Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. ShermanColin Farrell1:04
2."Travers Goff"   Thomas Newman2:06
3."Walking Bus"   Thomas Newman2:10
4."One Mint Julep"  Rudy ToombsRay Charles1:31
5."Uncle Albert"   Thomas Newman1:34
6."Jollification"   Thomas Newman1:18
7."The Mouse"   Thomas Newman0:57
8."Leisurely Stroll"   Thomas Newman1:34
9."Chim Chim Cher-ee (Responstible)"  Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. ShermanJason Schwartzman, B. J. Novak, and Emma Thompson0:26
10."Mr. Disney"   Thomas Newman0:35
11."Celtic Soul"   Thomas Newman1:20
12."A Foul Fowl"   Thomas Newman2:04
13."Mrs. P. L. Travers"   Thomas Newman1:16
14."Laying Eggs"   Thomas Newman1:08
15."Worn to Tissue"   Thomas Newman0:54
16."Heigh-Ho"  Frank Churchill, Larry MoreyThe Dave Brubeck Quartet2:11
17."Whiskey"   Thomas Newman1:21
18."Impertinent Man"   Thomas Newman0:38
19."To My Mother"   Thomas Newman3:44
20."Westerly Weather"   Thomas Newman1:58
21."Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"  Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. ShermanJason Schwartzman, B. J. Novak, and Emma Thompson0:05
22."Spit Spot!"   Thomas Newman1:49
23."Beverly Hills Hotel"   Thomas Newman0:38
24."Penguins"   Thomas Newman1:18
25."Pears"   Thomas Newman0:55
26."Let's Go Fly a Kite"  Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. ShermanJason Schwartzman, B. J. Novak, Bradley Whitford, Melanie Paxson, and Emma Thompson1:55
27."Maypole"   Thomas Newman0:59
28."Forgiveness"   Thomas Newman2:00
29."The Magic Kingdom"   Thomas Newman1:05
30."Ginty My Love"   Thomas Newman3:12
31."Saving Mr. Banks (End Title)"   Thomas Newman2:12
Total length:

All songs written and composed by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman


A trailer for the film was released on July 10, 2013.[54]

Saving Mr. Banks held its world premiere at the London Film Festival on October 20, 2013.[55][56][57] On November 7, 2013, Walt Disney Pictures held the film's U.S. premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre during the opening night of the 2013 AFI Film Festival.,[58][59] the same location where Mary Poppins was premiered.[60] The original film was also screened for its 50th anniversary.[61] Saving Mr. Banks also served as the Gala Presentation at the 2013 Napa Valley Film Festival on November 13,[62] and was screened at the AARP Film Festival in Los Angeles, California on November 17,[23] as Disney is heavily campaigning Saving Mr. Banks for Academy Awards consideration.[23] On December 9, 2013, the film was given an exclusive corporate premiere in the Main Theater of the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California.[63] The film was released in the United States on December 13, 2013 in limited release and in wide release on December 20.[64] The film has been widely considered to be a front-runner to receive a Best Picture nomination at the 86th Academy Awards.[65][66][67][68][69]


Critical reaction[edit]

Saving Mr. Banks received positive reviews from film critics, with major praise directed to the screenplay and acting, particularly Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks' performances.[23][70][71] Film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports an 81% "Certified Fresh" approval rating from critics, based on 176 reviews with an average score of 7/10. The site's consensus reads: "Aggressively likable and sentimental to a fault, Saving Mr. Banks pays tribute to the Disney legacy with excellent performances and sweet, high-spirited charm."[72] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 66 (out of 100) based on seventeen reviews from mainstream critics, considered to be "generally favorable".[73]

The Hollywood Reporter praised the film as an "affecting if somewhat soft-soaped comedy drama, elevated by excellent performances." In regards to Thompson, the Reporter wrote that "Emma Thompson takes charge of the central role of P. L. Travers with an authority that makes you wonder how anybody else could ever have been considered."[74] Scott Foundas of Variety also lauded the film, writing that it "has all the makings of an irresistible backstage tale, and it’s been brought to the screen with a surplus of old-fashioned Disney showmanship...", highlighting that Tom Hanks' portrayal captured Walt Disney's "folksy charisma and canny powers of persuasion — at once father, confessor and the shrewdest of businessmen." Overall, he praised the film as "very rich in its sense of creative people and their spirit of self-reinvention."[75] The Washington Post rated the film three out of four stars, stating; "Saving Mr. Banks doesn't always straddle its stories and time periods with the utmost grace. But the film — which John Lee Hancock directed from a script by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith — more than makes up for its occasionally unwieldy structure in telling a fascinating and ultimately deeply affecting story, along the way giving viewers tantalizing glimpses of the beloved 1964 movie musical, in both its creation and final form."[76] The New York Times' A.O. Scott gave a positive review, declaring the film as "an embellished, tidied-up but nonetheless reasonably authentic glimpse of the Disney entertainment machine at work."[77] Mark Kermode awarded the film four out of five stars, lauding Thompson's performance as "impeccable", elaborating that "Thompson dances her way through Travers's conflicting emotions, giving us a fully rounded portrait of a person who is hard to like but impossible not to love."[78] Michael Phillips felt similarly, writing; "Thompson's the show. Each withering put-down, every jaundiced utterance, lands with a little ping." In regards to the screenplay, he wrote that "screenwriters Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith treat everyone gently and with the utmost respect."[79] Peter Travers also gave the film three out of four stars and equally commended the performances of the cast.[80]

Alonso Duralde described the film as a "whimsical, moving and occasionally insightful tale", elaborating that "director John Lee Hancock luxuriates in the period detail of early-’60s Disney-ana".[81] Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B+" grade, explaining that "the trick here is how perfectly Thompson and Hanks portray the gradual thaw in their characters' frosty alliance, empathizing with each other's equally miserable upbringings in a beautiful three-hankie scene late in the film."[82] Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times commented that the film "does not strictly hew to the historical record where the eventual resolution of this conflict is concerned," but admitted that it "is easy to accept this fictionalizing as part of the price to be paid for Thompson's engaging performance."[83] David Gritten of The Daily Telegraph noted that the confrontational interaction between Thompson and Hanks as "terrific", singling out Thompson's "bravura performance", and calling the film itself as "smart, witty entertainment".[84] Kate Muir of The Times also spoke highly on Thompson and Hanks's performances.[85] Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal, however, considered Colin Farrell to be the film's "standout performance".[86] IndieWire's Ashley Clark wrote that the film "is witty, well-crafted and well-performed mainstream entertainment which, perhaps unavoidably, cleaves to a well-worn Disney template stating that all problems—however psychologically deep-rooted—can be overcome."[87] Another staff writer labeled Thompson's performance as her best since Sense and Sensibility and stated that "she makes the Australian-born British transplant a curmudgeonly delight."[88] Peter Bradshaw enjoyed Hanks' role as Disney, suggesting that, despite its brevity, the film would have been largely "bland" without it.[89]

However, the film was not without its detractors. The Independent gave the film a mixed review, writing that "On the one hand, Saving Mr. Banks (which was developed by BBC Films and has a British producer) is a probing, insightful character study with a very dark undertow. On the other, it is a cheery, upbeat marketing exercise in which the Disney organization is re-promoting one of its most popular film characters."[90] David Sexton of the Evening Standard concluded his review stating that the film "is nothing but a big corporation boasting about its own marvellousness."[91] Lou Lumenick of The New York Post wrote a negative review, criticizing the accuracy of the film's events, concluding that "Saving Mr. Banks is ultimately much less about magic than making the sale, in more ways than one."[92] American history lecturer, John Wills, praised the film's attention to detail—such as the film's inclusion of Travers' original recordings—though he doubted that the personal dynamics between Travers and Disney were as amicable as portrayed in the film.[93]

Saving Mr. Banks was named the sixth best film of 2013 by Access Hollywood. [94]


AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipients and nomineesResult
African-American Film Critics Association[95]December 13, 2013Best Film of the Year8th place
Alliance of Women Film Journalists[96]December 19, 2013Best ActressEmma ThompsonNominated
American Film Institute[97]January 10, 2014Top Ten Films of the YearAlison Owen, Ian Collie, and Philip SteuerWon
Broadcast Film Critics Association[98]January 16, 2014Best PicturePending
Best ActressEmma ThompsonPending
Best ScoreThomas NewmanPending
Best Costume DesignDaniel OrlandiPending
Golden Globe Awards[99]January 12, 2014Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – DramaEmma ThompsonPending
Houston Film Critics Society[100]December 15, 2013Best PictureNominated
Best ActressEmma ThompsonNominated
Best Original ScoreThomas NewmanNominated
IGN's Best of 2013 Awards[101]January 10, 2014Best MoviePending
Best Movie ActressEmma ThompsonPending
Las Vegas Film Critics Society[102]December 18, 2013Top Ten Films7th place
Best ActressEmma ThompsonWon
Best Family FilmWon
London Film Critics Circle[103]February 2, 2014Supporting Actor of the YearTom HanksPending
British Actress of the YearEmma Thompson (also for Beautiful Creatures)Pending
National Board of Review[104]December 4, 2013Best ActressEmma ThompsonWon
Top Ten FilmsSaving Mr. BanksWon
Palm Springs International Film Festival[105]January 5, 2014Creative Impact in Directing AwardJohn Lee HancockWon
Phoenix Film Critics Society[106]December 17, 2013Best FilmNominated
Best DirectorJohn Lee HancockNominated
Best Actress in a Leading RoleEmma ThompsonNominated
Best Actor in a Supporting RoleTom HanksNominated
Best Ensemble ActingNominated
Best Original ScoreThomas NewmanNominated
Best Production DesignLauren E. Polizzi, Michael CorenblithNominated
Best Costume DesignDaniel OrlandiNominated
Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role - FemaleAnnie Rose BuckleyNominated
San Diego Film Critics Society[107]December 11, 2013Best ActressEmma ThompsonNominated
Best Production DesignMichael CorenblithNominated
Satellite Awards[108]February 23, 2014Best Motion PicturePending
Best Actress – Motion PictureEmma ThompsonPending
Best Supporting Actor – Motion PictureTom HanksPending
Best Original ScreenplayKelly Marcel and Sue SmithPending
Best Art Direction and Production DesignLauren E. Polizzi and Michael CorenblithPending
Best Costume DesignDaniel OrlandiPending
Screen Actors Guild Awards[109]January 18, 2014Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading RoleEmma ThompsonPending
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association[110]December 16, 2013Best ActressEmma ThompsonNominated
Best Original ScreenplayKelly Marcel and Sue SmithNominated
Best Musical ScoreThomas NewmanNominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association[111]December 9, 2013Best ActressEmma ThompsonNominated
Best ScoreThomas NewmanNominated
Women in Film and TV Awards[112]December 5, 2013FremantleMedia U.K. New Talent AwardKelly Marcel "screenwriter of Saving Mr. Banks and Fifty Shades of Grey"Won


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