Celebrating 50 Years of ‘Mary Poppins’: Why the Family Classic Still Matters

This Week on DVD/Blu-ray
Julie Andrews in 'Mary Poppins,' 1964
Julie Andrews in 'Mary Poppins,' 1964

A movie will soon arrive on Blu-Ray that combines cutting edge special effects and superior animation with a story about how the divide between the wealthy and the working class impacts one man's relationship with his family.

Of course, that movie was made nearly 50 years ago, and it was called "Mary Poppins."

With the golden anniversary of "Mary Poppins" on the horizon, Disney will be releasing a new Blu-Ray edition of the venerable family classic in December, and the trailer for the upgraded disc goes live today, seen here first on Yahoo! Movies.

Watch 'Mary Poppins' 50th Anniversary Blu-ray Trailer:

For a movie that was in theaters before many folks who will buy it were even born, it's impressive how "Mary Poppins" remains relevant. The groundbreaking 1964 film was hardly the first time Walt Disney (who was still alive and hard at work back then) and his team combined animation and live action on screen. But it was easily Disney's most technically ambitious effort at the time.

All these years later, the fusion of Disney's hand-drawn animation with the dancing of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke is as impressive and engaging as ever. It's all the more impressive considering contemporary green screen technology wasn't even a glimmer in an effects artist's imagination at the time – the Disney artists combined actors with animation using old fashioned matting techniques, but will a skill that still looks dazzling in the 21st Century.

Three-dimensional digital animation may be the state of the art today, but "Mary Poppins" was made at a time when cartoons were still drawn and painted by hand. To watch the film is to see the work of a special breed of artists. Discussing the animated "Peanuts" TV specials, Charles Schulz once said that a good animator was really an actor, and the "performances" Disney's team conjured up for the animated critters who gambol with the actors are funny, exciting, and deliver a genuine sense of wonder. The magic is all the more powerful when you think about how all that visual splendor – not just the animation, but the evocative paintings that created the background images of Olde England — was created with simple pen and paint.

And even though "Mary Poppins" is a classic fantasy, it's one with one foot in the real world, and its messages remain relevant in the present day. Mr. Banks, the emotionally distant father more interested in his work than his children, is a character more than a few kids (and their parents) will recognize from real life, much like the surrogate caregiver who is more understanding than a child's actual family. Mary Poppins isn't exactly a poster girl for the Occupy movement, but her message that there are more important things than money and business, especially for those who are already rich, certainly still rings a bell these days … though most would suggest it will take more than learning to fly a kite to reform our current Wall Street barons.

Oh, and women looking after kids still carry very big purses. That part hasn't changed a bit. And then as now, we can all applaud Van Dyke's singing and acting while wishing he'd spent more time on his cockney accent.

The 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray release of "Mary Poppins" arrives in stores on December 10.