Mary Poppins: The Peculiar Challenge of Animating Her World

LOS ANGELES — “Mary Poppins” was the first film the director Rob Marshall saw as a boy, so when Disney approached him about directing a sequel, the prospect was exciting — and intimidating.

“It was daunting because the film means so much to me,” Marshall said in a recent interview. “But I felt, if anyone’s going to do a sequel, I would like it to be me, so I could protect the spirit of the first film. I asked myself what would I want to see in a sequel. I knew I‘d want an animation/live-action sequence: It’s in the DNA of ‘Mary Poppins.’ And I felt it was vital to hold on to the classic hand-drawn animation from the first film.”

[Read our review of “Mary Poppins Returns.”]

Although Marshall has won many awards for direction and choreography for feature films and television specials, he had never worked in animation. He built a team under the leadership of the veteran Disney/Pixar writer Jim Capobianco. Working with a small group of artists in the Bay Area, Capobianco prepared preliminary storyboards for the sequence.

He presented them to Marshall, the writers David Magee and John DeLuca, the composer Marc Shaiman and others in the Hyperion Bungalow, a relic of the 1930s Disney studio that had been moved to company’s Burbank headquarters. As everyone wanted to recapture the feeling of the original film, it felt right to begin planning the sequence using actual drawings rather than computer images.

“We pulled together a storyboard — pinning sheets of paper onto corkboards, the old Disney way,” Capobianco said. “We met

Keep reading this article on The New York Times Media & Advertising.