Mary Poppins 50th AnniversaryIt's hard to believe that on the 27th August 2014, 50 years have passed since Julie Andrews took to our screens as everyone's favourite nanny, Mary Poppins, in the 1964 musical film. The film, which brought to life the lead character from a series of eight children's books created by Australian author P.L. Travers, was directed by Robert Stevenson and produced by Walt Disney. As well as Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Glynis Johns feature in supporting roles.

Critical acclaim

Upon its release, Mary Poppins received 13 academy award nominations, a record for Walt Disney Studios, and won five awards. Julie Andrews won Best Actress, whilst the film also received awards for Original Music Score, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects. 'Chim Chim Cher-ee' won Best Original Song.

True to form

But what of the film's main character, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious nanny, Mary Poppins? Well, the film stayed true to the books when Mary Poppins was blown to London by the East Wind, arriving at 17 Cherry Tree Lane and becoming part of the Banks household. But as well as being turned into a film, Mary Poppins has also been a stage musical too, enjoying a run on Broadway from 2006 to 2013. An early television play in 1949 cast actress Mary Wickes as Poppins; her performance may have been closer to the original character that P.L. Travers created in her books.

 Initial resistance

It's amazing that Mary Poppins became such as iconic part of so many childhoods, as author P.L. Travers originally did not agree to sell the film rights to Walt Disney Studios. In 1938, she rebuffed Disney's offer, as she didn't think that the film would do her books justice and it wasn't until 1961 that she finally agreed to sign the rights over to the studio. Travers worked as an advisor on set but there were many aspects of the film production that she didn't approve of. She hated the animated scenes, didn't like the original music and wasn't even sure about some aspects of Mary Poppins character that didn't stay true to the first novel. So much so, that she declined to agree to any further adaptations of later Mary Poppins novels! A number of elements that she objected to still make it into the film, with Disney Studios having the final say.

The film could still have ended up very differently; Julie Andrews had auditioned for the lead role in My Fair Lady, but was passed over for Audrey Hepburn, freeing her up to play Mary Poppins. When Walt Disney first approached Andrews for the role, she was already three month's pregnant, so filming was put on hold until she had given birth.

Travers and Disney

Those interested in finding out more about the relationship between Travers and Walt Disney can read Valerie Lawson's biography of the author, 'Mary Poppins She Wrote.' In 2013, Disney's film 'Saving Mr Banks' was released, a film about the relationship between Travers and Disney, which stars Emma Thompson. Receiving glowing reviews, Emma received four nominations for Best Actress and the film grossed $112 million worldwide, not bad considering it cost $35 million to film!

 Why do we love Mary Poppins?

But why do is Mary Poppins loved so much? Is it her 'Spoonful of Sugar' song, her ability to clean the house with just a snap of her fingers, her seemingly bottomless handbag, or just the magic she has brought to so many generations of children? Even watching the newly-released 50th anniversary edition of the film on Blu-ray, the movie has lost little of its charm; after all, who wouldn't want to jump into chalk drawings or fly a kite with the perfect English nanny?

UK celebrations

Celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the film include a medley of Mary Poppins songs, included as part of the Last Night of the Proms concert on 13th September. The audience will sing-along to songs such as ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ ‘Let's Go Fly A Kite’ and ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’. It's the first time a film medley has been included in the Last Night Concert and the medley has been arranged by film composer Anne Dudley, who produced music for the film version of Les Miserables.

Create your own celebrations

Of course, you don't have to get tickets for the Last Night Concert to celebrate Mary Poppins' 50th anniversary. You can pick up the special edition DVD or Blu-ray online or in a store near you, or why not throw your very own Mary Poppins themed party for the kids? A fancy dress party is a great way to recreate the magic of the film and you'll find plenty of options when it comes to shopping online for outfits. If you fancy yourself as Mary Poppins herself, outfits such as this one from HollywoodUK.com include a jacket, skirt, hat and even her famous bag – although we can't guarantee you can fit everything including the kitchen sink in it! There are even Mary Poppins outfits for children, such as this Disney Collection costume which you'll find available for most ages. There's no need for Dad to feel left out either – men can enjoy dressing up as Dick Van Dyke's character Bert; cheeky Cockney accent and attitude is optional, but with this costume you'll get everything you need to be Mary Poppins' sidekick – a jacket, trousers, cap and sweep!

However you celebrate the 50th anniversary, this is a special year for all fans of Britain's most enduring nanny. Pick up a copy of the film and gather some friends, snap up tickets to the Last Night Concert, throw a fancy dress party for the kids with the movie soundtrack or even snuggle up with one of P.L.Travers novels. It still seems hard to believe that it's been 50 years since the release of one of the most iconic children's films of all time. You're sure to enjoy the film just as much revisiting it today as you did in your childhood.