Mary Poppins Returns is officially in theaters! But I’ve been listening to the Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack since the day it came out. It’s such an amazing soundtrack – I have so many favorite songs and I’ve been listening to it non-stop. We had the chance to interview Mary Poppins Returns songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and they were a pleasure to talk to. Here’s some things to know about the music of Mary Poppins Returns!
Marc and Scott Worked With Original Composer Richard Sherman
You may have heard of the Sherman brothers – they are known for creating the music of Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks just to name a few! Richard Sherman worked as a consultant on Mary Poppins Returns and Scott shared with us what that was like, “Oh, that was heaven. I mean, that was really heaven. And then last week, we got to spend a whole day with him. We got to ask him all those questions – why’d you write this song and why was it in this key? And what was that chord? And the choices of words. And what was Walt Disney like – I don’t remember his answers.”
Marc added, “But the glorious part of it was that, he loved our movies so much. And that he really felt like it was in good hands. And that in some way, he said to us that, the baton had been passed. It was the greatest compliment we could have ever ever gotten. The way he looked at us. And talked to us and treated us as – I wouldn’t say equals. But worthy at least to be in the room with him.”
Inspiration From The Mary Poppins Books
There are actually 8 Mary Poppins books written by P.L. Travers so there is a lot of material that they were able to pull from. When talking about finding inspiration for the music of Mary Poppins Returns, Scott shared, “Well, I think that we went back to the books. And there were so many more adventures in all the stories. And so some of them just cried out to be sung. Lin said it great. He said, “You know what’s great about it, is our movie rhymes with the first movie.” And that’s a huge compliment, too. But all the material was in the books. And then we had Emily and Lin and we had them right from the beginning.”
The Most Challenging Song
Marc and Scott shared that the most challenging song to write was “Can You Imagine That?” which is the first song that Mary Poppins sings in the movie. Marc told us, “First we try to write songs that were more in the style of the English dance bands. Of the early ‘30s. And we thought it’d be fun if Mary Poppins had a touch of current sound work, for the ‘30s. And it’s like, Hey, I know what the kids are doing. And I’m gonna sing a song in a style that will show that I’m aware, and make the kids maybe be a more interested.”
Working with Emily Blunt
Marc and Scott shared a bit about working with Emily Blunt. Marc shared, “Then there’s Emily who had just done this very intense drama. (Girl on the Train) So her voice was way, was here. (low) So then she started working with a voice teacher, to get it – it’s like a muscle that has to come back. And so by the end of it, we’ve got higher and higher. And it was nice to not go too high. So that she wouldn’t be so compared to Julie Andrews. It’s nice that her voice sits in a slightly different place than Julie Andrews’. And that would be another reason why sometimes people ask, Are the original songs sung in the movie? As you hopefully notice in the score, I made use of them. But it would be unfair to performers to ask them to actually sing a song that Julie Andrews sang, or that Dick Van Dyke sang.”
Ben Whishaw and A Conversation
One of the most emotional songs in Mary Poppins Returns is A Conversation, sung by Ben Whishaw who plays an older Michael Banks. In the movie, Michael has lost his wife and he sings a song to her in the attic. Ben had told us that he had never sang before Mary Poppins Returns and Marc told us a bit of backstory about writing the song, “A little personal note, we have a friend who had lost his wife. And he told us, he wrote about it. And he would say that, when everyone was gone, he would walk around – that she was still, he would converse with her still every night. About the day. But then every now and then, he would say, “Man, where did you go? We asked for his blessing. ‘Cause he also has three kids. And just lost his wife. So we asked for his blessing to music that part of his life that’s very special. And if we could use that in this. So that’s why the song ends that way.”
Don’t forget to download or stream the Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack! You won’t be able to stop listening to it – let me know what your favorite song is!
Make sure to read about my experience at the Mary Poppins Returns premiere!
Mary Poppins Returns in Theaters December 19th
In Disney’s MARY POPPINS RETURNS, an all-new original musical and sequel, Mary Poppins is back to help the next generation of the Banks family find the joy and wonder missing in their lives following a personal loss. Emily Blunt stars as the practically-perfect nanny with unique magical skills who can turn any ordinary task into an unforgettable, fantastic adventure and Lin-Manuel Miranda plays her friend Jack, an optimistic street lamplighter who helps bring light—and life—to the streets of London.
Disclosure: Thanks so much to Disney for bringing me out to California for the event. All thoughts and opinions are my own.