The Walt Disney Co. has opted to open Saving Mr Banks on a limited number of screens in the US on December 18, a week before it goes into wide release.
The move is seen as evidence the studio is positioning the film for the awards season; it opens in Australia on Boxing Day. Emma Thompson stars as Mary Poppins’ Australian author P.L Travers, with Tom Hanks as studio head and animation guru Walt Disney.
Disney acquired worldwide rights from the Australian producers Hopscotch Features and Essential Media & Entertainment and the UK’s Ruby Films.
Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) and scripted by Kelly Marcel and Australian writer Sue Smith, the plot chronicles the author’s childhood in rural Queensland and her struggles to bring the novel to the big screen.
The cast includes Colin Farrell as Travers' alcoholic father, Kathy Baker, Rachel Griffiths, Ruth Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Paul Giamatti and Sydney newcomer Annie Buckley as Ginty, the young Travers.
No Disney film has ever won a best picture Oscar. “This positioning suggests they are serious not only about making Mr Banks a hit, but a serious awards contender,” said Thompson on Hollywood’s Anne Thompson . “And they're willing to take on the risk of mixed critical reaction.”
Released in 1964, Mary Poppins won five Oscars including best actress for Julie Andrews.