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Fact-Checking Saving Mr. Banks


I was finally able to get out and see Saving Mr. Banks over the weekend and very much enjoyed the film (especially the 2nd half). Like many a Disney fan I enjoyed seeing how the film got the little touches right. Like how Walt was known for coughing as he walked down the hallway to give employees a moment to collect themselves and how even before that, if Walt was in the building someone would walk-through announcing “man is in the forest” or something similar to indicate the big boss was around.

Then there were the other details, the ones I knew weren’t exactly right. Mostly because they were filming in 2012 and not 1962 and while you can do a lot to make it look like yesteryear, things like filming in the post-1986 Fantasyland and Main Street’s modern shop configuration, just can’t be avoided.

And, because I know a little of the story about how PL Travers was wooed and finally convinced to turn over the rights for the movie, I loved watching that dramatization of the story. But I knew enough to know that some serious liberties were taken with the story, I just didn’t know exactly where. That’s where Disney historian Jim Korkis comes in. He’s written extensively about just this time period in his book The Vault of Walt: Volume 2, so he’s just the guy to clear a few things up. Thankfully the Orlando Weekly’s Seth Kubersky has a great interview with Korkis where they proceed to do exactly that.

If you read the comments, there is a funny matter of the horse Jingles, who is the lead horse on the King Arthur Carrousel, as indicated by the bells it carries (so other horses may hear and follow). Walt makes a point of setting PL Travers on Jingles in the movie even giving the name of the horse. But would Walt’s have known the horse’s name. There’s some great history with the carrousel horses. While the lead horse with the bells was one of the original horses and has informally been known as Jingles or Mr. Jingles for many years. As Korkis mentions it wasn’t officially dedicated so until 2005. As far as we know, Walt had no reason to call the horse Jingles, however, knowing Walt’s involvement in every detail of Disneyland before its opening in 1955, there is a good possibility he knew the name of every horse on that carrousel. It has also been mentioned as Walt’s favorite horse for many years. So I’m going to chalk this myth up as plausible.

Yes there are some inaccuracies in the movie, but they also got a lot right too. I would point out that dramatic license is an important part of Hollywood films, and just like in Mary Poppins, what’s important is the story. I think that was communicated wonderfully.

6 thoughts on “Fact-Checking Saving Mr. Banks”

  1. John, thanks for the plug for my book and this also gives me a chance to let people know I read your blog everyday and like everyone else am happy that you got through your medical speedbump and will have MANY more years to do this stuff.

    Jingles was never the official name of the horse (until it was dedicated to Julie and they repainted it with some Mary Poppins emblems like an umbrella) but it didn’t make any difference because Walt never took Travers on the carousel.

    Nobody can know everything, certainly not me, and I am always discovering things. The Disney Archives called me yesterday and loved the interview but pointed out one small mistake. Walt never took Travers to Disneyland. He intended to do so, had it in his schedule book, had made arrangements but on the day he was to take her (Easter Sunday 1961) he phoned and said he had a cold. Disney story man Bill Dover who picked her up at the airport and dropped her back off and babysat her took her to Disneyland. Walt had given her access to his apartment above the firehouse, the use of his little electric car, a hostess from Guest Relations but he himself was never there. So people I interviewed over the years must have been “mis-remembering” the epic tour Walt personally gave Julie Andrews and her family of Disneyland as one that Walt gave Travers. By the way, the Disney Archives provided over 250 notes on the original shooting script but the filmmakers were under no obligation to use any of them but they did use quite a lot.

    Anyway, my interview has opened up a lot of new information from reliable sources so I will be doing a follow-up including the fact that Walt sent Travers the final shooting script in Spring 1963 and she made over fourteen pages of corrections including the fact that she didn’t want the fox to speak with a brogue because “after all, he IS an ENGLISH fox”. Will be more than happy to share this further information with you once I get it all organized.

    Your blog is one of my favorites EVERY morning and you cover stuff that others don’t. Continued good health, my friend. You have enriched the world of Disney history by your work. Jim Korkis

    1. Thanks for the reply, the well wishes, and the further clarification. Disney Archives is as close as we come to a time machine for finding out ourselves, I guess. I still maintain it’s plausible that Walt, famous for his attention to detail, would have known the lead horse’s name was Jingles. I believe the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour mentions that Jingles was Walt’s favorite horse, that might even be on the regular tour.

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