Posted by: jeannineatkins | June 7, 2010

Feed the Birds

My husband and I watched Mary Poppins recently, along with the lengthy and fascinating special features at the end of a new dvd edition. The 1964 movie that we hadn’t seen for many years held up, and we didn’t see a misogynist message some had led us to expect: family is crucial, and at the end while Mr. Banks makes it’s clear he’ll be a better dad, Mrs. Banks never indicates she’ll give up her work as a suffragist. The interviews with Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, and the girl who played Jane made it seem like being on the set was all one jolly holiday. Reverence for Walt Disney was heard from the actors, animators, choreographers, and writers. We heard a lot about the music from the Sherman brothers who collaborated on scores and lyrics, drawing inspiration from Gilbert and Sullivan, we were told, for songs such as “Sister Suffragette” (which first had lyrics, entirely dropped, about the captain’s house next door) and vaudeville for “Supercalafragiliciousexpealadocious.” It was these vaudeville notes, Julie Andrews said, that partly drew her into agreeing to the film, since her parents had raised her on those show tunes. And she was feeling slightly burned from having Audrey Hepburn cast instead of her for the film version of My Fair Lady.

I’d told my husband before we began watching that “Feed the Birds,” was my favorite song, so I felt kind of cool to learn that this was Walt Disney’s favorite song, too, not only in Mary Poppins but among all attached to his name. The nanny first sings this after a reference to people who can’t see beyond their noses, and Jane replies that of course her father sees Saint Paul’s Cathedral, which he passes on the way to his job at the bank. Mary Poppins doesn’t explain that it’s the birds and those who take the time to feed him that evade his notice, but instead sings this song. And later in the film, there’s a touching moment when the birds at last divert the attention of Mr. Banks and we understand he is going to change.

Song-writer Robert Sherman said that as everyone composed, acted, and created dance steps, Walt Disney advised them to come back to “Feed the Birds,” calling its sound, almost a hymn, and message the heart of the movie: small gestures matter. Care about others. Children, of course, are more apt to notice people like an old woman sitting on stones steps, with birds landing on her crushed hat, and it’s the magic of childhood as much as Mary’s tricks that we take away.

Robert Sherman told of Friday afternoon meetings that concluded with Walt walking to a window, saying, “Play it,” and listening to this song. I love the idea of a heart at the center of art, something warm and beating we can go back to as we lose our ways in details and plot. And I love this particular song, which Robert played in front of the Walt Disney statue in Disneyworld on the hundredth anniversary of Walt’s birthday. He said a solitary bird flew over the piano as he dropped his hands from the piano, and he believed that the music had been heard by more than the people gathered around.

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Responses

  1. My favorite song, too. And yes, a “heart at the center of art.” Perfect way to start the week. Thanks, Jeannine!

  2. My favorite song, too. And yes, a “heart at the center of art.” Perfect way to start the week. Thanks, Jeannine!

  3. I first saw Mary Poppins at a drive-in theatre. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Walt Disney tunes, but I cried during this scene, it spoke so pure and true to my heart.

  4. I first saw Mary Poppins at a drive-in theatre. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Walt Disney tunes, but I cried during this scene, it spoke so pure and true to my heart.

  5. It’s my favorite song from that movie, too. And that movie is one of my lifetime favorites. I still remember seeing it for the first time in our local (one-plex!) movie theatre. I will have to get a hold of the new edition and listen to the interviews.

  6. It’s my favorite song from that movie, too. And that movie is one of my lifetime favorites. I still remember seeing it for the first time in our local (one-plex!) movie theatre. I will have to get a hold of the new edition and listen to the interviews.

  7. Another fan of “Feed the Birds” chiming in. It’s been ages since I saw MP, but if Sweetpea’s cousins are anything to go by, I have a feeling it won’t be long before we are seeing it over and over and over again. I’d better keep a lookout for this particular version!

  8. Another fan of “Feed the Birds” chiming in. It’s been ages since I saw MP, but if Sweetpea’s cousins are anything to go by, I have a feeling it won’t be long before we are seeing it over and over and over again. I’d better keep a lookout for this particular version!

  9. It is intriguing to think of some of those working on the film coming back to Feed the Birds, remembering here’s the focus, and moving forward again. Have a great week, Jama!

  10. It is intriguing to think of some of those working on the film coming back to Feed the Birds, remembering here’s the focus, and moving forward again. Have a great week, Jama!

  11. There are strands of this music in the intro, then the song sung, then replayed when Mr. Banks reevaluates its life that do leave a ping at the least. You can feel the love between the woman and the birds.
    Hoping your tears feel like cleansing ones.

  12. There are strands of this music in the intro, then the song sung, then replayed when Mr. Banks reevaluates its life that do leave a ping at the least. You can feel the love between the woman and the birds.

    Hoping your tears feel like cleansing ones.

  13. I don’t know if everyone was waxing nostalgic or being of good cheer for the tape and just great acting, but it sure came across as a labor of love. It is my favorite song, but of course there are other lovely ones, too, and it was interesting to hear a bit about the thinking behind them.

  14. I don’t know if everyone was waxing nostalgic or being of good cheer for the tape and just great acting, but it sure came across as a labor of love. It is my favorite song, but of course there are other lovely ones, too, and it was interesting to hear a bit about the thinking behind them.

  15. I don’t think you’ll escape this one in your house! Those children are so very cute. Though apparently bopping around near the ceiling could get tedious and tricks were devised to get them to laugh again.

  16. I don’t think you’ll escape this one in your house! Those children are so very cute. Though apparently bopping around near the ceiling could get tedious and tricks were devised to get them to laugh again.

  17. Oh what a luscious post! And yes, another hand raised for “Feed the Birds” though I have to add that I was especially proud of learning how to say Supercalafragiliciousexpealadocious backwards!
    What I love about this image of Walt Disney is that it matches with the Walt Disney in my head, the one that I imagined was a story teller at heart and just wanted to share stories with children. Thank you.

  18. Oh what a luscious post! And yes, another hand raised for “Feed the Birds” though I have to add that I was especially proud of learning how to say Supercalafragiliciousexpealadocious backwards!

    What I love about this image of Walt Disney is that it matches with the Walt Disney in my head, the one that I imagined was a story teller at heart and just wanted to share stories with children. Thank you.

  19. I love my bird-feeding friends! And, Susan, how cool were you to say that word backwards!
    I expect Walt Disney was a complicated person, and agree it’s good to feel we can admire the part of him that was dedicated to developing children’s love of stories. Much as he loved developing the theme parks, he believed they’d be just rides, not much, without old and new stories, and he wanted to see those developed under his name.

  20. I love my bird-feeding friends! And, Susan, how cool were you to say that word backwards!

    I expect Walt Disney was a complicated person, and agree it’s good to feel we can admire the part of him that was dedicated to developing children’s love of stories. Much as he loved developing the theme parks, he believed they’d be just rides, not much, without old and new stories, and he wanted to see those developed under his name.

  21. Love this post. And that song, which makes me cry sometimes. But I love to listen to it and/or sing it. And the un-lullabye, too.

  22. Love this post. And that song, which makes me cry sometimes. But I love to listen to it and/or sing it. And the un-lullabye, too.

  23. I love Mary Poppins and that song is my favorite too. Thank you for the posting the video.

  24. I love Mary Poppins and that song is my favorite too. Thank you for the posting the video.

  25. Feed the Birds and more
    Jeannine ~ I can’t tell you how many times Maggie & I watched Mary Poppins when she was growing up. I have 2 favorite songs: Feed the Birds, which really is hymn-like, and Oh, oh oh! Let’s go fly a kite, Up to the highest height! Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring!! Whenever I hear that song, I want to get up and skip around the room ;~)

  26. Feed the Birds and more

    Jeannine ~ I can’t tell you how many times Maggie & I watched Mary Poppins when she was growing up. I have 2 favorite songs: Feed the Birds, which really is hymn-like, and Oh, oh oh! Let’s go fly a kite, Up to the highest height! Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring!! Whenever I hear that song, I want to get up and skip around the room ;~)

  27. Oh, yes: don’t go to sleeeeep. That movie is full of lovely songs.

  28. Thanks! I admit to hitting that arrow a few times and listening…

  29. Re: Feed the Birds and more

    Carol, I think Let’s Go fly a kite is my second favorite. But I stick to swaying, not skipping, around the room.

    Good luck with your move!


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