Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way


Poppinsfirst4P.L. Travers (1899-1996) was born Helen Lyndon Goff. She was born in Australia where she began her writing career by publishing poems as a teenager. She also wrote for various magazines. She became an accomplished actress there and later moved to England and focused on writing books. In 1933, she began Mary Poppins.


Mary Poppins arrives at the Banks home after their nanny storms out in a huff. She is stearn, vain and magical, and the children love her. There are eight books in the series and they were published from 1934 to 1988. In 1964, the books were adapted by Walt Disney into a musical film starring Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and some awesome penguins! Ms. Travers was an adviser on the film and was not happy with the dilution of the harsher aspects of Mary Poppins’ character. She also hated the use of animation in the film. She felt she was poorly treated in the adaptation process and as a result never agreed to future projects.

The movie, however, was also produced for stage in 2004. Ms. Travers agreed to this as long as no one involved in the film was allowed to work on the musical. The musical transferred to Broadway in 2006 and ran until 2013. Another film, Saving Mr. Banks (2013), tells the story of the making of the 1964 movie.

Despite Ms. Travers’ dismay at the way the film turned out, it was the most profitable film of 1965. Not a bad showing, considering i was up against The Sound of Music, Goldfinger, and My Fair Lady! At the Academy Awards, it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, and Best Sound Mixing. It won Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Song (for “Chim Chim Cher-ee”), and Best Score. The Golden Globes and other award ceremonies went much the same.


One of my favorite songs to come from that movie is “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” The word has been defined as meaning “atoning for educability through delicate beauty.” In the movie, it is said to be something to say when you have nothing to say. I’m not sure what it means, but I was quite pleased to get the spelling right! 🙂 Other wonderful tunes from the movie are “Spoonful of Sugar,” “I Love to Laugh,” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”

If you have only experienced the books, please rent the movie. If you have only seen the movie, read the books. And if you have only seen the movie about 50 years ago, do yourself a favor. Grab a big bowl of buttery popcorn and your favorite people, and watch it again!

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