Who’s the coolest kid on the block at D23? Why that would be Mr. Lin-Manuel Miranda, of course, the brilliant writer and performer who skyrocketed to international fame with his groundbreaking musical Hamilton. Since then, Miranda has been actively in the Disney business, composing songs for Moana, gearing up for a live-action incarnation of The Little Mermaid, and co-starring in the studio’s upcoming Mary Poppins sequel Mary Poppins Returns. And he’s a big hit with Disney fans, earning the loudest screams when the studio played their lead-in sizzle reel — which is really saying something when you consider Star Wars and Marvel also featured in that real
While Miranda, unfortunately, wasn’t on hand for the D23 convention today (though that is probably good for my ear drums), his leading lady Emily Blunt, who takes over the iconic role originated by Julie Andrews, and director Rob Marshall (Into the Woods) took the stage to show off the first footage from Mary Poppins Returns . The sequel picks up decades after the original film, following the adult versions of Michael (Ben Wishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer), long after the magic of their encounter with the zany nanny has faded and the dreary realities of adulthood have taken hold.
The crowd was treated to an early teaser, live-scored by co-composer Marc Shaiman and the Disney orchestra, which promised a return to “A place we hold dear where laughter once dwelled.” That place is, of course, Chery Tree Lane, where the Banks has fallen on hard times in the midst of The Slump (aka the Great Depression) after the death of Michael’s wife, leaving the widower in charge of their three children. Things take a turn for the worse when a heartless bank manager, played by an always dapper Colin Firth, enters the equation. The footage transports you to a dark and gloomy London, where a car zig zags down a winding street. There, we see the sad state of Cherry Lane.
Michael’s young son, Georgie, heads out into the gloom to go fly a kite and when his toy is snatched up into the sky, eaten by the dark clouds, he gets some help from the lamplighter Jack (Miranda). Together, they pull the Kite back to the ground and who should come floating down but Mary Poppins, y’all, dressed to the nines, holding on to the kite, and calmly descending from the sky. As always, Poppings brings her practically perfect brand of magic with her, including her familiar umbrella and carpet back and an animate cane, brightening the Banks household once again. Snippets of dance sequences and grand musical numbers follow, all of which harkens back to Old Hollywood grandeur and choreographed production value. It looks like a true delight for any fan of movie musicals. We also glimpsed a vibrant 2D animation/live-action hybrid sequence, a tap dancing set piece, and plenty of gorgeous costume work from the inimitable Sandy Powell.
Blunt also spoke a bit about her spin on the character and what drew her to the project as a fan. “I think as a kid I found the idea that this magical mysterious person sort of whisking into their lives and making everything right again really comforting as a child,” said Blunt. “I found that I watched about 15 minutes of the original and then just stopped watching it because I needed to kind of try and pay homage to what Julie did but carve out new space for myself. No one is ever going to out-Julie Julie Andrews. She’s just unbelievable. There will never be anyone else like her. So I just had to do my version of her and I think we were very loyal to the books. I think she is a little more sort of acerbic and odd and vain and weird in the books. And so we went that direction a little more. So it’s my version of her!”
Mary Poppins Returns also stars Meryl Streep (Mary’s eccentric cousin Topsy), and Angela Lansbury (the Balloon Lady), and the return of Dick Van Dyke (the bank chairman). The film is slated to land in theaters on Christmas 2018.