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Uncle Walt

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We’re still waiting for our Walt Disney bio-pic, but production has finally begun on a movie that focuses on one of the most interesting chapters in Walt’s life, his 20-year courting of P.L. Travers in order to secure the movie rights to her popular novels and the character Mary Poppins, and the testy partnership the upbeat filmmaker develops with the uptight author during the project’s pre-production in 1961. Walt knew he had a good thing there and the success of Mary Poppins allowed the Walt Disney Company to make many more innovations, including financing most of the 1967 expansion at Disneyland and transportation at WDW. This will be the first time Walt Disney has been portrayed in a dramatic movie production.

Two-time Academy Award-winner Tom Hanks (“Philadelphia,” “Forrest Gump”) will portray the legendary Disney alongside fellow double Oscar-winner Emma Thompson (“Howard’s End,” “Sense and Sensibility”) in the role of the prickly novelist. Before actually signing away the book’s rights, Travers’ demands for contractual script and character control circumvent not only Disney’s vision for the film adaptation, but also those of the creative team of screenwriter Don DaGradi and sibling composers Richard and Robert Sherman, whose original score and song (Chim-Chim-Cher-ee) would go on to win Oscars at the 1965 ceremonies (the film won five awards of its thirteen nominations).

“Saving Mr. Banks” will film entirely in the Los Angeles area, with key locations to include Disneyland in Anaheim and the Disney Studios in Burbank. Filming will conclude around Thanksgiving, 2012, with no specific 2013 release date yet set.

When Travers travels from London to Hollywood in 1961 to finally discuss Disney’s desire to bring her beloved character to the motion picture screen (a quest he began in the 1940s as a promise to his two daughters), Disney meets a prim, uncompromising sexagenarian not only suspect of the impresario’s concept for the film, but a woman struggling with her own past. During her stay in California, Travers’ reflects back on her childhood in 1906 Australia, a trying time for her family which not only molded her aspirations to write, but one that also inspired the characters in her 1934 book.