Surprisingly, there have been very few serious and in-depth documentaries produced though the years about Walt Disney, his company, or his life as a creative genius. Walt started his career in the first quarter of the 20th century as a pioneer of technical achievements in animated film production, and moved to the conceptualization and development of the world’s first theme park. The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story is one of the first documentaries about a specific era in Walt’s lifetime. The film looks into the careers of a few of his specially handpicked staff while focusing on the music of the Sherman Brothers (Robert and Richard). The hook here is that for all of the famous and happy-go-lucky Disney music that they wrote, they did not get along with each other very well.
My DVD review of the film, after the jump.
The Sherman Brothers quirkiness and interpersonal dealings make an absolutely fascinating subplot to a documentary that covers material that needed to be documented, regardless of the personal dynamics between brothers who created some of the most popular tunes of the 20th century. In a nutshell, the Sherman Brothers are the Lennon and McCartney of show tunes world, writing most of the Disney music from the late-1950’s onward, from Annette Funicello’s top ten hits to the Mary Poppins soundtrack, and even the hypnotic Disneyland park ride mantra “It’s a Small World (After All).”
The Sherman Brothers maintained a facade of a congenial relationship for their entire career, which is being laid bare only now in this documentary. It is fascinating to watch footage of the two together while they are appearing at numerous Disney events, award shows and being interviewed on camera, knowing what we know about their personal lives because of this excellent, engrossing and heartbreaking work.
The Boys includes some very illuminating bonus features like “Why they’re the Boys,” which explains how the Sherman Brothers became known as ‘the boys” at the Disney Studio in Burbank, as told by many of the actors and filmmakers who are still around that remember when. Also included is a glimpse of the Disney Studios in its golden days called “Disney Studios in the 60s,” as well as a brief look at “Casting Mary Poppins”. An incredible and fantastic surprise included on the DVD is a little featurette called ‘Roy Williams,” about a Disney artist best known for appearing as the “Big Mooseketeer” on the Mickey Mouse Club. Williams had an office located next to the Sherman Brothers, and this piece tells the story of the multitude of cartoons that he slipped under the Shermans’ door daily. Williams’ cartoons were no doubt inspired by the musical sounds he heard through his office wall, and highlight what an intuitive and clever artist he really was.
Another excellent and fun aspect of this disc is a special feature called “Sherman Brothers’ Jukebox,” which allows viewers to sample some of the Boys’ most famous songs in videos which run throughout their long career. Finally, purchasers of this DVD will also receive a nifty and collectible Mary Poppins music sheet.
Most interestingly (in a long list of interesting things about this film), Greg and Jeffrey Sherman made this documentary. Greg is Richard Sherman’s son, and Jeffrey is Robert’s. As this documentary eloquently explains, though the Sherman brothers lived six blocks from one another throughout the 60s and 70s, their children never socialized. It was only at the 2002 opening of the Sherman Brothers’ stage play Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in London where the cousins met, resulting in the creation of this sincere tale of their famous fathers’ careers.
This documentary is a must-have for pop culture aficionados, Disney fans, and anyone else who grew up in a complicated and creative family. It is an astonishing and candid look into the lives of two men who have brought happiness to so many through their magical gift of song, and yet never took part in the joys of each other’s company.