Everything Is Possible With Director Rob Marshall In Mary Poppins Returns
Everything Is Possible With Director Rob Marshall In Mary Poppins Returns. While I was in Los Angeles for the Mary Poppins Returns red carpet, I also attended a press junket where I had the opportunity to sit down with some of the cast of Mary Poppins Returns. The legendary director, Rob Marshall, was one of the amazing interviews I was able to attend with 24 of Disney’s top bloggers from around the country!
Rob Marshall walked in and, immediately, the sound of our applause engulfed the room. We had all been so moved by watching Mary Poppins Returns the night before, we needed to show Rob Marshall how much we loved his work! When he sat down to talk to us, we could feel the energy change. He is such a caring soul and that energy and feeling surrounded him. His smile was warm. His eyes were bright. And the excitement in his voice when he talked about Mary Poppins Returns was magical!
Rob Marshall started our interview with this. This, about the bloggers in the room with him. What an honor it was for me to be sitting among the women who Rob Marshall calls his favorite!
“You know I’ve said this to Leslie, my Publicist, it’s always my favorite moment to be with you guys. No it is.
It’s a whole different experience so thank you.” ~Rob Marshall
How do you convince your Actors that everything is possible even when they’re scared of heights? When they don’t consider themselves Singers or Dancers in other films that you have made?
Rob Marshall: You know it’s sort of interesting when I work with Actors I really find they need to feel positive reinforcement you know and it’s such a simple thing to do. It’s like being a really good parent you know. And you try and achieve that when we’re working you know.
For instance, as an example Ben Whishaw, who plays Michael Banks, he’s never sung before. He was sort of nervous about how do you do that and I always feel that people can do so much. It’s just feeling that they can and knowing that they can. I like to protect them in rehearsals when– you know we had over 2 months of rehearsal. So it was during that time that you can fail and be bad and then learn to get better and not feel judged. That’s a really important thing.
I like to protect Actors to make them feel they can do things and try things. And everybody was so nervous on this film because you we were following that extraordinary film that means so much to me and so much to so many people. I’m sure everybody in this room. So we knew we were doing the impossible, but I honestly felt like if we did it together from the right place with a great respect for the first film and found our own way at the same time then we would at least have done it in the right way. Then you hope that it works.
You’ve mentioned that you had found the original table from the first movie. Did you use any other props from the first film?
Rob Marshall: Well, here’s the thing, I visited the Disney archives. They didn’t really have the archives in the 60’s, not much, there’s some. What there is I saw so you remember the blocks from Mary Poppins? We replicated the blocks. They didn’t give us the blocks, but we replicated the blocks. They’re in the attic if you look. Also the snow globe. We replicated that as well. So the only real thing is that table in the front hall, which I saw at Club 33 at Disneyland and I said, “That’s in the movie if the let us have it” and they did. So that was really moving to me. The kite, of course, we replicated that and created our own version of the kite. Those very specific things from the first film that I really wanted to hold onto if I could. That’s for the people who love the first film who know it. It’s those first little Easter eggs. I use myself as honestly as a barometer the whole time. What would I wanna’ see?
How was it to work with Dick Van Dyke?
Rob Marshall: There’s no one like him. I was so excited and nervous to even call him to ask him to do this, you know. Because he’s a hero for me. I mean and that’s the Dick Van Dyke Show for me honestly. Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang you know all of it. Bye Bye Birdie, all of it, so you know talking to him he just disarms you immediately. He’s so joyous and it’s just sort of who he is and he said yes so quickly. He was excited to be part of it.
When he came onto the set he honest to God grabbed my arm as we were walking on. He said, “I feel the same spirit here on this set that I did you know in the first film.” And I thought okay well that’s everything. That’s all I need to hear. That was everything for me to hear that from him.
Was it really him dancing?
Rob Marshall: Oh yes, all of it. In fact, I said to Lin and Emily, “If he falls off that desk you’re dead.” Well I said you’re spotting him. I mean who else? There’s no one there. I said, “You are spotting him. So if he starts to wobble I want you to jump in.” Of course he was perfectly fine.
Tell us about the magical bathtub scene
Rob Marshall: Well, it’s her first adventure. She arrives and so you have to look for something. The great thing about the P.L. Travers books is that even though there’s no narrative to any them they’re all just episodic. It’s all about taking an ordinary everyday event and turning it into something magical. An adventure that’s fun and even cleaning up your room turns into an adventure in the first film, right? So I was looking for something that kids hate and it’s taking a bath.
They’re so cynical, the kids, you know except for the little one who loves her and believes. But they’re all sort of judgmental and wary. I thought, you know, the great thing about Mary Poppins is she does these adventures, but denies them ever happening. She kinda’ just does them without you know announcing them. And all of a sudden that Dolphin comes up, she goes not yet, and things like that. You know what’s going on. But I thought that could open up to a beautiful world and there is an underwater adventure. It’s not from a bathtub, but there is an underwater adventure in one of the Poppins books.
I thought, well we could use sort of the feeling of the P.L. Travers underwater, and then I came up with this idea of her seeing all the people from the neighborhood below the water as they’re moving through and trying to open the eyes of these kids that have grown up too fast; been forced to become adults too quickly.
The animation sequences were amazing and beautiful and so clean. And I just wanna know about the process.
Rob Marshall: Thank you for asking about that really because that was the most challenging part of the whole film making and it’s the first thing we shot, right away, because the Animators. It’s all hand drawn animation, every frame. We needed to get that material to the Animators right away. The reason our post production was I think close to 14, 15 months was because of the hand drawn animation. They needed that time. Can you imagine flip-draw? That crazy; it’s so hard. I went and visited them.
I would say the majority of them came out of retirement to do this. It’s kind of a lost art, although I have just to say I was somewhat hopeful because a lot of the Artists there really were also in their 20’s who were more interested in working on the hand drawn animation than the computer generated work. That was really good. In a funny I thought; it will seem fresh because we haven’t seen it for so long. We haven’t seen that beautiful artistry of that work.
Putting it all together….
Rob Marshall: Putting that together we started with the musical number ‘Covers Not The Book’ and we had to shoot it like literally 3 different times. The first time you shoot it you shoot it with Mary Poppins. Let’s just for instance, say Mary Poppins and the Penguins that section. It’ll be Mary Poppins and then we would have Reference Dancers being the Penguins. Then we would take them out and she would dance alone and pretend they’re there. And then I would take Mary out and put just the Penguin Reference Dancers in so that the Animators would know exactly how, so all that’s very specifically choreographed.
The Flamingos. You know ‘cause I wanted to be able to control the choreography of even that. The layers of it were so complicated you know. You walk into a huge green room and I’m trying to pretend that they’re in a carriage. The carriage isn’t moving because that’s all background, but the kids have to have an eye line that watches like a big giraffe go by. And we have this huge Giraffe, for instance, on a pole just walking it past so the kids are imagining it. Everybody had to really launch their imagination to see what it was gonna be. But I don’t think anybody quite expected what it was going to end up being until they saw it. And that was mind blowing for Lin and Emily and the kids. They were blown away by, “Wow that’s what we were doing.”
About Mary Poppins Returns:
In Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns, an all-new original musical and sequel, Mary Poppins is back to help the next generation of the Banks family find the joy and wonder missing in their lives following a personal loss. Emily Blunt stars as the practically-perfect nanny with unique magical skills who can turn any ordinary task into an unforgettable, fantastic adventure and Lin-Manuel Miranda plays her friend Jack, an optimistic street lamplighter who helps bring light—and life—to the streets of London.
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MARY POPPINS RETURNS arrives in theatres everywhere this Wednesday, December 19th!