Saving Mr. Banks – Movie Discussion

Walt Disney surely didn’t expect that his promise to his kids to make a movie of their favorite book would turn out to be such a challenge.  It took twenty years simply to get an audience with the author of Mary Poppins, Mrs. Travers.  That should have been his first clue.  He and his team worked hard to win her over with their vision for the story come to the silver screen, but Mrs. Travers was exceedingly difficult.  Saving Mr. Banks isn’t just a movie about how Walt finally won over the sharp witted Mrs. Travers.  It’s bigger than that.  It’s a story about making peace with the past, about healing and about understanding and forgiving each other.  Much like Mary Popppins, itself, Saving Mr. Banks is a bit like a tootsie roll pop—at first glance it’s sweet, funny and enjoyable, but underneath, it’s surprising, has layers and depth to it and gives you something to chew on for a while.

Because it’s a movie with so many layers, there are any number of fascinating dynamics to explore, but I want to focus on the turning point in the movie and the way in which it relates to mankind’s relationship with God.    After warming up and being within an inch of giving consent, Mrs. Travers suddenly shut down the Mary Poppins project on a technicality, accusing Walt of deceiving her, and returned to England.   Walt Disney flew out to visit with her.  He gently confronted her, saying:  “I’ve come because you misjudged me.  You expected me to disappoint you, so you made sure I did.  I think life disappoints you.  Mary Poppins is the only person who doesn’t disappoint you.”

He was right.  When it came down to it, Mrs. Travers had been disappointed by all the adults in her life as a child, and she never got over it.   She was scared to trust anyone in general, but more importantly, she was scared to trust anyone with her story.  Mary Poppins wasn’t just the story she created, but it was also her story, the story of her past.  It was the story she wrote out of the pain of her past, trying to make sense of her past, hoping to redeem those she loved in her past.  And she couldn’t trust Walt to do that well.

Walt began to share with her some of the pain of his own past.  He told her about some of the substantial mistakes his own beloved father made with him.  But after he told the painful story, he talked about change.  “I’m tired of remembering it that way.  Don’t you want to let it all go?  Don’t you want to rewrite the tale and let it all go?  Forgiveness, Mrs. Travers, is what I learned from those books.”  (He’s talking about Mrs. Travers’ books.)  “George Banks will be redeemed.  George Banks and all he stood for will be redeemed, because that’s what we storytellers do…we restore hope.”

Forgiveness.  Redemption.  Taking the hard, the ugly, the pain of the past and making something beautiful of it all—this is what Walt and Mrs. Travers both wanted to do with their stories.  And it’s the very thing God wants to do with ours—God, the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, emphasis added).  The thing is, we are just like Mrs. Travers—we don’t trust God with our stories.  We are desperately trying to find healing and redemption, and God is asking us to trust Him with it.  We don’t think He can understand, but He does.  Jesus came to earth so that He could understand, perfectly.  He has felt our pain; he identifies with our struggles and temptations.  He suffered, and then he rose from the dead.  He took the ultimate pain and suffering and made something brilliant out of it.  And He wants to do the same for us.

He comes in and ever so tenderly he urges us, “Don’t you want to let it all go?  Don’t you want to rewrite the tale and let it all go?  Forgiveness. Redemption.  That’s what I do!  I’m an author you can trust.  I restore hope.  I can take ANYthing and use it for your good (Romans 8:28).  I can take those ashes and turn them into something beautiful.  I can take your despair and turn it into praise.  I can make joy out of your mourning (Isaiah 61).  I can take what is barren and make it fruitful.  Oh bring to me your story.  Trust me with it.  Let me use it to restore hope, yours and others.”

Questions for Discussion:

  • Why didn’t Mrs. Travers want to let Walt Disney make a movie out of her book?
  • Do you think Mrs. Travers wanted her story to have a happy ending, or not?  (Why/why not?)
  • Who do you think you are more like—Mrs. Travers or Walt Disney?
  • Why do you think Mrs. Travers finally trusted Walt with her story?
  • Do you trust God with your story?   Why or why not?
  • What would it take for you to be willing and able to trust God with your story?  Does the fact that Jesus came to earth and can identify with anything you’ve been through help you any?

For more on the concept of trusting God as the author, read the following:

Click here for a collection of quotes from Saving Mr. Banks.