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(L-R) Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers in "Saving Mr. Banks." Costume Design by Daniel Orlandi. Photo credit: Walt Disney Pictures.


“Saving Mr. Banks”

January 3, 2014

“Saving Mr. Banks” is based on the real-life collaboration between Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) and Australian author P.L. Travers (played by Emma Thompson), and how they brought her beloved book series heroine, Mary Poppins, to the big screen. The film centers largely on Travers’ visit from London to Los Angeles in 1961, as she begrudgingly joins forces with Disney and songwriting brothers Richard and Robert Sherman (played by Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak, respectively). An altogether prickly character, Travers is reluctant to hand her brainchild over to the studio giant. For all of Disney’s charm and whimsy, she counters him with a dose of steely skepticism. The film also features flashback sequences that give viewers a peek into Travers’ childhood, and the elements of her upbringing that played into the creation and adventures of her beloved nanny heroine.

Costume Designer Daniel Orlandi says great emphasis was put on perfecting the ensemble that Travers wears when she first lands in Los Angeles. “We wanted to show a contrast between what the Disney people thought they would see—some little old woman—and how bowled over they are by her actual appearance,” the designer says.

He outfitted Thompson in a smart tweed suit, sensible shoes and alligator handbag. “It’s almost like her ‘armor’ when she lands in sunny southern California,” Orlandi says of the costume. “She’s not going to give them an inch.”

Nearly all of Thompson’s other costumes follow this reserved British style mantra, until the last quarter of the film, in which she returns home to London (and her wardrobe reflects a more comfortable vibe). Orlandi says he built Thompson’s wardrobe from “beautiful vintage woolens.” The designer immersed himself in a great deal of research (among them biographies on Walt Disney, Travers, Travers’ literary agent, and one of the “Mary Poppins” composers) to put together a massive body of resource material.

During his research, Orlandi learned that Travers always wore a silver bracelet (even while in her pajamas). Georg Jensen lent a suitable silver design for Thompson’s use throughout the film. “We needed it to resonate and look fine but not ostentatious,” Orlandi says. True to Travers’ habits, the ever-present bracelet is featured “in every single scene.”

“Saving Mr. Banks” is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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