As many of you probably know, Walt Disney pictures recently released a movie called Saving Mr. Banks. This films tells the story behind the company’s classic, Mary Poppins. Aside from some great songs, good performances and a nice glimpse of early sixties Disneyland, the film explores the relationship between author P.L Travers and the fictional Mary Poppins.
Travers was reluctant to sell the film rights to Walt Disney for many reasons. Her main fear was that the father in the story, Mr. Banks, who we find out resembles her own father, would be misunderstood. She didn’t want him to be portrayed as a heartless and distant figure in the lives of Jane and Michael. It takes a visit from Walt himself to assure Travers that she put her story in the right hands. Even at that point, Travers had reservations about the film. In real life, Travers despised the finished product and refused to work with Disney again.
When I left the film, I thought about my own work and how I would feel if a studio wanted to make it a movie. I don’t think I would be as resistant as Travers, but I would definitely think long and hard before I sell the rights. My stories are my babies. I nursed them, raised them, brought them to life. They are a part of me and I’m not about to hand them over to just anyone.
At the same time, film allows authors to bring their work to a much wider audience. Think about how many people read books after they see the movie. It’s a great opportunity for writers. But for every Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, there is an Ender’s Game. Not every cinematic adaption strikes gold. This usually happens when the movie strays too far from the spirit of the book.
So I’m asking you, my dear reader’s, would you allow your beloved stories to become part of the Hollywood machine? Or would you try to avoid the scene altogether? I think I would let my books become movies if the filmmakers told the story in a new and refreshing way that was still faithful to the source material.