Intellectual Property Saves Mr. Banks

I don’t intend to turn my blog into a movie review site, but I do recommend the film “Saving Mr. Banks.”  I saw it on New Year’s and it is tremendous. It’s the story of Walt Disney’s efforts to make a movie based on the Mary Poppins books by P.L. Travers. Mrs. Travers is not happy with the prospect of how the Disney studio would treat her work. But Walt Disney had made a promise to his daughters that he’d bring Mary Poppins to life and so the drama was on. I did a little research on the movie   and discovered that it did not begin as a Disney project. The screenplay came about as a result of a documentary about Travers called “The Shadow of Mary Poppins.”   

Kelly Marcel, one of the screenplay authors, was a bit like Travers – unwilling to let her work go. And it occurred to me that the law of intellectual property should be considered for a best supporting role here. Travers managed to get significant input into the Mary Poppins script because she simply refused to sign over the rights to her work without that concession. Walt Disney had limited leverage. But, ironically, it would have been nearly impossible (and much less entertaining) to make “Saving Mr. Banks” without using big chunks of Disney’s music and lyrics. So the leverage tables turned a bit in Disney’s favor.

The good news is, from most accounts, the story is pretty accurate and really interesting. And you can thank the law of intellectual property.