- “Practically perfect in every way.”
- ―Mary Poppins' measurement of herself[src]
Mary Poppins is the titular protagonist of Disney's 1964 musical film of the same name and its sequel. She is a nanny who uses her magical powers to help the Banks family. Since her debut, she has become one of Disney's most iconic and endearing characters. The Disney iteration (as portrayed by Julie Andrews) is regular figure in pop-culture even to this day, receiving many parodies. This notably makes her one of the few live-action Disney characters to gain the critical acclaim of icons such as Mickey Mouse and Tinker Bell.
Though it is never explained where Mary really comes from, it is said that she lives outside of time, meaning that she apparently does not age. She is seen sitting on a cloud above London near the beginning of the film, however.
Mary is described as being "practically perfect in every way." As a nanny, she is fairly stern, but also kind and nurturing. She is shown to possess various magical abilities including the ability to speak to animals and transport herself and others to various places (including sidewalk chalk pictures), as well as flight. However, afterward, she will deny any usage of these powers and her many voyages and adventures, presumably to keep them a secret from the public.
Role in the films
Mary first appears at the beginning of the film, sitting on a cloud fixing her makeup. Later, she responds to Jane and Michael Banks' advertisement for a kind nanny. After all the other nanny candidates are literally blown away by the wind, she quickly takes charge and effectively hires herself, much to the surprise of George Banks. He is especially confused as he had previously torn up the advertisement and tossed it into the fireplace.
Mary goes up to her room and introduces herself to Jane and Michael. While unpacking, she astounds them with her bottomless carpet bag, which contains such items as a hat stand, a mirror, a large plant, and a lamp. She takes out her tape measure and measures Jane and Michael. Michael is said to be extremely stubborn and suspicious, while Jane is inclined to giggle and leave messes. They then ask to measure her, who complies. The tape measure shows a personalized message which says that she is "practically perfect in every way". It also has her name, which is revealed to them.
Next, Mary leads Jane and Michael in a game, which turns out to be tidying up the nursery using magic. Simply by snapping, beds fold themselves, and toys put themselves away. After it is clean, she takes them on an outing. Though they intend to go to the park, they run into Bert, an old friend of hers. He scoffs at the mundane nature of the outing and notes that with her, unusual things happen. He is then able to goad her into transporting them into one of his sidewalk chalk pictures, which is the English countryside.
While Jane and Michael enjoy a nearby fair, Mary and Bert stroll through the countryside and enjoy lunch together. However, their relationship is said to be merely platonic in nature. Later, Mary, Bert, Jane, and Michael ride a carousel, and at Mary's word, the horses jump off. Eventually, she leads them to a horse race, which she wins handily. When asked by reporters for a word to describe her emotions at winning, she reveals her all-purpose word, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". However, a thunderstorm hits and washes off the drawing, forcing her to cut the outing short. That night Jane and Michael ask her to stay forever, but she promises to only do so until the wind changes.
The next day, Mary takes Jane and Michael with her to run errands, but an emergency calls them to other matters: Uncle Albert is floating in the air due to too much laughter and is unable to come down. She attempts to keep everyone calm, as the "disease" is contagious. But after Bert, Jane, and Michael are all affected as well, Mary allows them to have tea while floating in the air. However, everyone is able to come down after being faced with the sad thought that they must go home.
That night, worried by Jane and Michael's recount of the day's events, George tries to fire Mary but is soon manipulated in taking them to the bank where he works. The next day also happens to be Mary's day off, and so when the outing ends in disaster, Winifred Banks is forced to hire Bert to watch Jane and Michael. He allows them to watch as he cleans the chimney. Mary soon appears, warning them of the danger. Both fly up it in rapid succession. Mary and Bert follow, and they take the time to explore the rooftops. They meet up with Bert's chimney sweep friends, and eventually all return to the Banks' home, where everyone parties. George returns from work and demands an explanation, which Mary refuses to give. Later, it is revealed that as a result of what happened during the outing, he has been fired. However, remembering Mary's all-purpose word, he is able to laugh.
The next day, Mary is seen preparing to leave, as the wind has changed. However, during the night, it is revealed that George has had a change of heart and has decided to be a more caring father. This pleases Jane and Michael so much that they forget to say goodbye to Mary. She notes that everything is as it should be and it is implied that she has helped numerous families like the Banks. She then flies off and Bert, noticing her, asks her not to stay away too long.
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary returns in the sequel. After Michael, who is now grown up and with three children of his own, has a personal loss, she comes back into the lives of the Banks family. She is joined by Jack, a street lamplighter, and her eccentric cousin, Topsy.
Mary appears telling John, Georgie, and Annabel to be more careful when flying their kite. Upon arriving, she introduces herself to Jack. As she leads John, Annabel, and Georgie back home, Michael and Jane are happy to see her back. While talking to the family, Mary explains to Michael that she wants her duty back. Just as John, Annabel, and Georgie talk to her in their bedroom, they arrive at the bathroom where she sings the musical number "Can You Imagine That?" just as she transforms the ordinary bathtub into a magical one. They end up in an underwater world sequence alongside her. As they swim along, they encounter a pod of dolphins putting them into bubbles to reach the surface as Mary pops the bubbles so they can stay with her. Just as the pod of dolphins leap across the bathtub, Mary opens the drain plug, causing her, John, Annabel, and Georgie to end up back at their house.
Back at home, Mary tells Georgie to take out the rubbish to which he grabs a drawing of his family while carrying it out. At the nursery, Mary tells John to help out the maid, Ellen, in the kitchen, Annabel to do the laundry, and Georgie to fix the broken kite Michael used to play with. Mary talks to Jack outside where he tells her that he has seen the Banks family ever since to which she notices the argument between John, Annabel, and Georgie fighting over the Royal Doulton bowl, causing it to crack. Mary then spins it, causing her, Jack, John, Annabel, and Georgie to end up in and animated sequence where all the inhabitants are anthropomorphic animals. At Shamus' carriage, Jack, Mary, John, Annabel, and Georgie fix it just as he takes them across the animated sequence.
During the musical number "The Royal Doulton Music Hall", Mary, Jack, John, Annabel, and Georgie stroll across the animated sequence just as Jack encourages Mary to participate on stage. They later perform with all the anthropomorphic animals, including the Penguin Waiters, during the musical number "A Cover is Not the Book" while John, Georgie, and Annabel notice that their plush giraffe, Gillie, is stolen by the Wolf; they manage to save it from him as they end up at the edge of the bowl. Back at home, Mary tells them that they must be having a nightmare during the chase sequence where she sings to them that nothing is lost forever, comforting them and telling them to sleep.
Mary then greets Jane the next day just as she, Jack, John, Annabel, and Georgie leave home while Admiral Boom and Mr. Binnacle fire their cannon to mark the signal just as they arrive at Topotrepolovsky's All Repairs Large and Small Fix-it Shop to fix the broken bowl where they encounters Topsy who refuses to let them in. Barging in, they encounter her again and she refuses to fix the bowl at first because of Second Wednesday. She then introduces them in her shop about everything going topsy-turvy in there. She, however, agrees to accept Mary's request to fix the bowl just as they leave.
Walking across London, Mary, Jack, John, Annabel, and Georgie encounter Jane again and Jack encourages her to ride on his bike just as Mary, John, Annabel, and Georgie arrive at the bank to see William Weatherall Wilkins who would help with the Banks' home. It is later found out that he is identical to the Wolf from the animated sequence who is also an obstacle in both the real world and the animated sequence. They tell Michael about this to which he tells Mary to take them home. On their way to Cherry Tree Lane, they are discussing about Wilkins' true nature.
Encountering Jack again, he performs the musical number "Trip a Little Light Fantastic" just as he shows Mary, John, Annabel, and Georgie across the street encountering a group of lamplighters; Jack and the lamplighters dance together on Cherry Tree Lane just as Mary, John, Annabel, and Georgie return home.
Seeing the Certificate of Shares on the kite patched up by John, Annabel, and Georgie, Michael realizes that this is linked to the bank, having only about seven minutes till midnight to which Mary agrees to help them turn back time with help from Jack to turn back time. She manages to help him stop Big Ben before it strikes midnight to which afterward, she tells him to relight it much to Wilkins' chagrin; later, Michael tells him that John, Annabel, and Georgie are telling the truth just as his uncle, Mr. Dawes Jr., confronts him for his lies and deception to the Banks family, telling the lawyers, Hamilton Gooding and Templeton Frye, to take him away.
With Wilkins gone, John, Annabel, and Georgie retain their home back just as Mary happily watches the Banks family and everyone happily using balloons during the musical number "Nowhere to Go But Up" just as the Balloon Lady gives Mary a balloon. She however, lets it go just as she bids farewell to the Banks family and leaves via her umbrella to mark the end of the film.
Mary makes a cameo appearance at the end of the Oscar-winning short It's Tough to Be a Bird flying over M.C. Bird.
In the musical, like the film, Mary is hired as a nanny after the departure of Katie Nanna. She teaches Jane and Michael valuable lessons in behavior, as they are portrayed as naughtier than in the film and books. She teaches them the value of looking past appearances when she takes them to see Bert. To illustrate the point, she animates the park statues. Later on, she takes Jane and Michael to see George at the bank. Though he is furious at first, the visit helps him realize just how much his values have changed and how much they mean to him. On the way home, she introduces them to the Bird Woman, as well as Mrs. Corry. That night, she warns Jane, who is in a temper after an outburst from George, about controlling herself. As Mary leaves the room, Jane and Michael are put on trial by their toys. When they are found guilty, Mary realizes that the Banks family has a lot to learn. To bring them to their senses, she decides to leave.
In the second act, Mary returns after the Banks family suffers through the tyrannical behavior of Mrs. Andrews, George's former nanny. The two nannies have a face-off, with Mary being victorious. Mary, Jane, and Michael have another adventure with Bert, who introduces them to his chimney sweep friends. Later, when George is called to the bank, Mary follows him with Jane and Michael in tow. At the end with some regret, Mary leaves.
Mary makes a cameo appearance in Disney Infinity as a townsperson. In the 3DS version, when she appears, she will allow the player or the CPU to move to another space as long as there is no other character on it.
Mary is seen at all the Disney Parks around the world as a meetable character, as well as appearing in parades and shows. She is sometimes seen with Bert and/or the Penguin Waiters. She is dressed in her white outfit from the Jolly Holiday musical number (though unlike the outfit from the film, her hat can't be taken off), though she mentions her others from it frequently to guests and does wear her nanny one in the film from time to time, particularly in colder Florida weather.
Mary can be seen alongside Bert in Fantasmic!
- Mary was the namesake of MAPO, the animatronics and vehicle manufacturing unit of Walt Disney Imagineering that operated from the 1960s until 2012. The unit took this name as it was established by using some of the profits from the film.
- Mary was nominated for AFI's 100 Year...100 Hero and Villain list, one of three Disney heroes, along with Peter Pan and Belle. Unfortunately, none of them made the cut.
- Angela Lansbury, Mary Martin, Bette Davis, Jane Wyman, Shirley MacLaine, Maureen O'Hara, Margaret Hamilton, Lauren Bacall, Nancy Olson, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Kay Walsh, Sally Ann Howes, and Audrey Hepburn were all considered for the role of Mary.
- In the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics, Mary was given a tribute performance in which she chased away the evil Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter franchise with thousands of other Marys.
- In the DCOM Lemonade Mouth, when the band is lying down in Olivia White's backyard, a cloud was noticed of "An old lady with a skirt & an umbrella." This may represent Mary, as it shows her comic stance when flying.
- In the Marvel Studios film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Peter Quill/Star-Lord remarks that Yondu Udonta's floating down to the ground makes him look like Mary. Assuming the character to be "cool" (and male), Yondu joyfully shouts, "I'm Mary Poppins, y'all!"