We used to have a little corner in the dining room where we kept the cheap record player. My younger brothers and sisters would sit in that corner and listen to records while the rest of us became fans or foes of the music from a distance.
One of the coolest records was Mary Poppins. It actually had a photo from the musical underneath the plastic and so it was this amazing visual effect for us at the time. Of course, the real joy came from the music. Mary Poppins songs were often heard mingled with songs from other musicals as we busied ourselves around the house with chores, homework and practicing our instruments.
I don’t remember the movie that much, but I will be checking on NetFlix to see if I can pull it up as a reminder. It seems like the necessary action after seeing Saving Mr. Banks at the theater this afternoon. It wasn’t really in our plans, but sometimes you just need to get out of the house and experience something completely different than the daily to do list and other chores that await. Plus, it is COLD outside.
Most movies kind of slip by me. Those I want to remember, I need to come home and write about before all inspiration is lost.
So, here I am on a Saturday night thinking it out by writing.
P.L. Travers – pursuit of excellence
P.L. Travers. She is quite the character. The author of Mary Poppins. Adamant in her idea of how her characters should be portrayed in a movie. Yes, she came off as overly picky and a bit standoffish really. She made life a bit difficult for the production team. But, we could learn a lot from her as we pursue our big hopes, dreams and ideas.
She expected authenticity and quality. It forced the people that worked with her out of their comfort zones. They had to think differently and push their personal boundaries. And, that different thinking created a masterpiece.
P.L. Travers had a picture in her mind of how this content was to be portrayed on the screen. It wasn’t just about her despising animation, hating the mustache on Mr. Banks, and keeping the color red out of the film. It was because these things detracted from all of the emotions and characters that she knew had to be portrayed. We find out in Saving Mr. Banks that some of these things were associated with experiences in her past. But, if it is a story of her past, wouldn’t she best know how to convey it? It was real to her, not just an imaginary tale.
She expected the songwriters, scriptwriters and other team members to listen to her feedback every step of the way. Sure, it was annoying. Yes, they had to re-write songs and work late nights. Not sure if this is real, but she even threw the transcript they had written out the window. These are powerful experiences for those of us that work with people like P.L. Travers. There is this point where everyone realizes that the person isn’t going to change. Those working with them must change if anything is to be completed. In this case, they stepped up to the challenge. Just think if they hadn’t?
Walt Disney – recognizing & supporting the excellence
It was wonderful to see how Walt Disney was portrayed in the movie. He realized, through the process of pursuing P.L. Travers, that he would have felt the same way if someone turned his dream into something less than his imagination. This positioned him well to understand her, adjust his responses, and approach the business and personal relationship with more empathy. He recognized his own weaknesses, hopes, and expectations through his desire to turn her work into an onscreen masterpiece. The struggle he went through, the additional expectations he placed on his production team, and the unapologetic push back he received from P.L. Travers ultimately improved the quality of his work and quite possibility helped him improve other products created after Mary Poppins.
Will you join the pursuit?
I left the movie with an extra bit of inspiration. To produce better products. To expect more of myself and others. To clarify my vision. To fulfill my potential and share with others. To pursue excellence.
It is a bit discouraging watching people online lately. It feels like so many people are copying each other – the same products and services and the same marketing. When I see people throwing sales pitches all over Facebook and Twitter, I cringe. Is their content that great? Will it really help me? Is it designed in a way that it will resonate with me? Have they giveN that same blood, sweat and tears to the actual product?
Saving Mr. Banks was a great reminder to expect excellence and to go through the sometimes painful process of taking something from ordinary to extraordinary. To make something worth talking about. To make something that becomes a masterpiece.
Thank goodness for P.L. Travers. We wouldn’t have the classic Mary Poppins movie and …we wouldn’t have Saving Mr. Banks.